Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

Posted: October 22, 2010 in Uncategorized

Some of my thoughts on Prensky’s article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”

One of the most compelling reasons for my support of Prensky’s argument is that it connects so closely to my reality and experience. His description of the “immigrants’ accent” was eerily familiar to me. In fact I had to print out his article in order to read it and be able to edit it and add my thoughts and comments: I would have probably happily attempted to edit it on screen except I don’t know how!

I’ve been saying since the early nineties that it’s important to change activities often in the course of a lesson because we were then dealing with the MTV generation that was used to watching and listening to one song at a time, rather than laying back and listening to both sides of a record to get “the full picture” (e.g. Sgt Peppers, Tommy the Who). So with this as the case nearly twenty years ago, it’s hard not to agree with Prensky’s statement that “Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task” or “ they often can’t understand what the immigrants are saying”: do they know what a record is? Why listen to the boring songs in between the good ones? Why not have visual stimulation as well as a an aural experience? They want  information fast, interesting, and varied.

I don’t think Prensky’s arguments are that revolutionary anyway; he suggests that as teachers we (Immigrants) should “keep up” and try to integrate the newest approaches in our practice in order to reach our students (natives). Is this not what good teachers have been doing all along? We constantly strive to make our lesson and unit planning more relevant by using more modern and interesting methods than our predecessors did. The main difference in this case is that the magnitude of the changes are much more important in the case of the N-Gen. Prensky says that they “consitute a singularity…an event which changes things so fundamentally that there is absolutely no going back”. In order to deal with this we more seasoned teachers, with one foot firmly planted in the past, will have “to accept that we don’t know so much about this (their?) new world and take advantage of our students’ knowledge to help them learn and integrate”, and help us to join the more current realities of the changes technology has brought.



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