***Apologies for this being late. I flew from SF to Orlando today and had a supremely fun (not really) 4 hour delay that screwed up my publishing plans. Better late than never 🙂 ***
This week’s Edtech 537 Masters class assignment got me thinking about what I’d consider my generation, or at the least, the generation(s) after me, and how they interact with technology. Some of the important voices in the educational technology world have begun classifying people into two camps:
- Digital natives, or those who have grown up with technology around them.
- Digital immigrants, or those who didn’t grow up with technology and have actively had to learn how to use the technology.
Looking through some of the articles in this class that have focused around those idea, the “big three” seem to come to an incomplete conclusion. Marc Prensky probably set the tone with his controversial “Digital natives, digital immigrants… Do they really think differently?”. In it, he makes the case that students today have just totally different brains than the old guard, that they value images over text, movement over static, interaction over spoon-feeding. He goes on to say that teachers need to change our minds to find new ways to use technology, especially games, to help our students better make connections.
In response to this, Jamie McKenzie wrote a pretty scathing response where he attacked Prensky’s sources , his selection (or non-selection) of journal information, his interest in video games for education, and even his non-academic tone! I was surprised to read something in the academic realm that really was so aggressive, and truthfully, regardless of its truth or validity, the whole piece rubbed me the wrong way.
Finally, the third piece came from Thomas C. Reeve, who really seemed, more than the other two sources, to best analyze research and dissect what information we know about the different generations and how they think. It was a pretty long-and-winding piece that sometimes seemed to lose its way, but by the end of it, it was pretty clear that what we knew for sure was just that the current generation of students is much more narcissistic than their predecessors.
So what do I think? Truthfully, this is tough, being that I understand that the statistical and research information is almost nil, so it’s hard to base my opinion on much more than an opinion, but for me, most definitely I think that the current generation is a lot more at ease and, frankly, better at technology than those so-called “digital immigrants”. I buy that there are these different classes of people, and I feel like I can point to circumstantial and personally-experienced evidence to support that.
But here’s the thing—that’s not the right question to ask. The real question is “So what?” Does it matter if there is one group or another? I personally don’t think it does, so long as the two groups can find ways to coexist and work with each other, and as the adults in the relationship, I feel like my duty as a teacher dictates that I go to where my students are and help them the best way I can, and I truly feel building my courses around my students’ skill sets is the best thing I can do.
- Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
- McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
- Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf