Whatever happened to …

… Marc Prensky.

Well, according to his website, Marc is very active and speaking all over the world.  Is there any place that he hasn’t spoken?

In fact, in 2006, we engaged Mr. Prensky to speak at the Western RCAC Conference in London.  He was engaging, humourous, and left the audience talking and thinking.  You couldn’t want more from a speaker.  When you check the list of his past speaking engagements and his future speaking, you’ll see that he remains quite active and influential.

But, it’s not the man that I’m after today.

It was this article from 2001 that I’d like your thoughts about.  It was the first time that I’d read his theories about “Digital Natives” and “Digital Immigrants”.

This was fodder for thought and conversation and you still hear and read references to it today, 15 years later.

Digital Immigrants – Basically that’s us!  People that weren’t born with anything like today’s technology so we landed on the shores and are doing our best to fit in.

Digital Natives – These would be the students of today who know of no other reality than one filled with technology.

Much has been made of that.  You’ve heard that some teachers just don’t bother to try to stay up to date because they haven’t had a good immigrant experience.  Their “accent” is present everywhere they go so why even try?

For others, the comparison was a wakeup call to get better at their game.  Heck, Colin Harris even took it as a Twitter handle – @digitalnative. – very prestigious!  I wish I’d thought of that but I grew up with mail from General Delivery.  It’s all new to me.

I thought that perhaps we’d put all this behind us.  After all, can you name anyone who doesn’t have an email account, some social media connection, and stay connected via phone, tablet, or computer (or all of the above)?  So many schools have looked forward and embraced the reality with Bring Your Own Device strategies and allow anyone in the school system to connect to the network for educational purposes.

But then I read a message from a Computer Science teacher recently that brought me back to reality.

She needed to have a particular application installed for use in her classroom but couldn’t.  Like many districts, her Computer Department locks down the equipment forbidding the installation of software that isn’t on their pre-approved image.  Images may be revised annually, hopefully.  What does that translate to in Digital Native years?  It still sends the message that someone else knows what’s good for you.  “Let’s flex our muscles, beat them down, and keep them on the farm.”  On the other hand, with a limited amount of software, and classes increasingly headed to the internet, it’s important to have technology available 24/7.  Or at least 8/5.

So, my questions for you this Sunday morning.

  1. Do you, or did you ever, embrace Mr. Prensky’s premise of the Digital Native / Digital Immigrant?
  2. Did his work influence your approach to using technology personally or professionally?
  3. If you have children, would you call them “natives” and realize that somehow they embrace things differently that you?
  4. Can you think of staff members that have shunned technology because of their immigrant status?  How are they viewed by students and the school?

Please take a moment to reply and share your thoughts.

2 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I struggle with labels in most instances, and this is definitely one that gives me trouble. It’s the binary, I think, that bothers me (as it usually does). I have two kids born since 2000. Do they use tech differently than I do? Probably in some instances. We use many of the same tools, but we use them in different ways. I respond differently to the technology because it is not the only thing I have ever known, but it doesn’t mean that I don’t bring valuable knowledge to the table. In many cases, for me, my role is to create a space where both groups can bring that knowledge together – may students may have terrific technical knowledge on how to actually create with a particular tool, and I want them to share that. My job may be to get them started thinking about how that tool could move our learning forward in class – is it a great way to share ideas? show learning? lighten our day with a laugh?
    I think we all approach tech differently depending on the unique set of experiences we bring to it – my students who do not have access to the Internet at home may not be as literate as those who do; my students who spend a great deal of their time outside by choice may not know as much about a cool new stop-mo program as those who enjoy computer time – I often think this has less to do with age and more to do with our passions, resilience and mindset.
    And yes, I do know people who do not have e-mail or social media – my husband’s parents. Unplugged time with them (and my mom, who has both, but doesn’t have wifi) is a huge gift for my kids.
    I also work on a staff where I am often the only person taking notes digitally at a staff meeting. Lots of people are on social media, and use e-mail, but may not yet have made the leap to incorporating technology into their day-to-day workflow. It’s a continuum, both for students and staff, and the binary of digital native/immigrant does a disservice to remembering that.

    Stepping off soapbox now.🙂 thanks for the Sunday morning think.

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  2. No – we must work hard to move away from the “myth” of digital native vs digital immigrant.

    It’s too easy to abdicate one’s responsibility to teach youth proper use of technology on the crux that “they know more than I do when it comes to technology”.

    Student agency is important; however, teaching is an art and with the art comes responsibility. Teachers need to instill digital citizenship in all of their students and all educators have a role in teaching the proper leveraging of technology for connecting and learning, not just for social interaction.

    We need to move beyond engagement and move to achievement and for that reason – we must view technology as fluid and “native vs immigrant” in a pragmatic way that changes from one learning activity to the next.

    Here is the original view – http://goo.gl/VeCAGx
    He shares his changing views in this paper – http://goo.gl/tiuiJD and further explored in his 2012 book, “From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom” – http://goo.gl/VWQLrQ

    Thanks for asking! @TDOttawa

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