We hear the term digital native quite a bit and I have to confess, I may have used the term myself. But is there really a significant difference between a generation who was not born digital and one born in the digital era? Is it the case that those born in the digital era adopt and adapt to new technologies more readily?
It was Prensky who introduced the terms digital natives and immigrants ten years ago and it seemed that everybody loved the idea and jumped on the new buzzword bandwagon.
Much more accurate to me is the concept of Visitors and Residents by David White. White suggests that there are residents who live day to day in the digital world and then there are those who just visit. When you happen to have been born is not so relevant.
As a self confessed nerd born somewhere around the time of the pyramids, I'd have to say I'm a resident. My interest in technology started with Mini bricks and Meccano and a Reel to Reel tape recorder in grade three.
As for my students- A small number of my college diploma students are proficient with technology but the rest are not. My students in a Master's program are similar. Some are technologically proficient and the rest are working on proficiency. Certainly at the end of the program they will all be more than proficient. Will they all be residents? I think that depends a lot on who they started out as. Not everybody wants to live digitally every minute.
OK, above is just my anecdotal experience and view. But the evidence against the idea of digital natives and immigrants is mounting .
By bringing this up, I'm certainly not saying we don't have to use technology to facilitate learning. My belief is that if the world our students live in is filled with technology and if they can use technology to learn almost anything they want to learn outside of class, then the least we can do is engage our students in the place they live.
To continue to use the terms digital natives and assume they are proficient, and those of a certain age are not, is just not true or helpful.
A few interesting articles and posts
Steve Wheeler The Natives are Revolting
Tom Whitby Generational Divide in Education
Jones, Chris and Shao The Net Generation and Digital Natives: Implications for Higher Education
Dan Pontefract The Fallacy of Digital Natives