An EFL teacher discovering the whole new universe :)

March 03, 2006

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

I came across Marc Prensky's article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. This text was written five years ago, but still, very interesting assumptions.
He is discussing the difference between youth that was born in this digital world of highly developed technology and those of us who are learning to become part of it. He writes about Digital Natives:
"They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age... It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors... Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

So far I thought that I'm young enough to actually belong to this digital generation. What about you?
Keep reading:)

Prensky argues that Digital Immigrants are different.
"The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their "accent," that is, their foot in the past. The “digital immigrant accent” can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it... There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even “thicker” accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I’m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the “Did you get my email?” phone call."

Ok, where are we now? I do sometimes turn to the Internet second rather than first (e.g., I've just ordered some books via Amazon to get the printed literature - why wasn't I satisfied with the numerous online resources?!). I do read manuals sometimes, although this accent of mine is becoming weaker. Here comes one fresh example from my immigrant life: having wireless internet only for couple of months, I keep forgetting that I can actually grab my laptop, when needed, move to another room and still talk via Skype... Instead, I spent an hour yesterday, talking with my friend via payable landline:( Not much of a digital native :)

So, how can we bridge this divide between "them" and "us"? Digital Natives deffinitely won't "go back". As Prensky states:
"Smart adult immigrants accept that they don’t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in the “old country.”"

Although this article is a bit old and you probably read it years ago, I believe such concepts are worth rethinking


Blogger Sarolta said...

Dear Anita, thank you for sharing this with us. I've come across a number of expressions but I really like this one, the "Digital Immigrants".

I had a good laugh when I realized I was doing the things listed, not all though. But I would add another one which makes my accent a bit more heavy: I just love printed dictionaries: the way they feel when you grab them from the shelf, or when you touch the paper with your finger tips, leaf through, open the dictionary on the exact page you need, its smell,... I've got electronic dictionaries but I use them only when writing materials for my students (e.g. their search facility enables you to find all the words that take a certain suffix). If I had to choose between the two, I'd definitely choose printed dictionaries.

3/3/06 8:49 pm

Blogger anitanita said...

Such "accent" of mine is gone :) My printed dictionaries are dusty and untouched, but they do look nice on the bookshelf :)
At the OUP Reference Books Day in Ljubljana couple of weeks ago, Patrick Goldsmith was asked why don't they sell e-versions of dictionaries seperately. He answered that printing such a book costs almost the same as plastic CD-box. So, why not add the book to the cd? "You can still throw it away," he said jokingly, probably hurting the feelings of some digital immigrants ;)

4/3/06 12:01 am


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