Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

Since reading Prensky’s article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” (2001), in the second week of this course I have been hesitant to write about it in my blog. Prensky’s large generalisations seemed unsupported and even offensive to me. Sharing my thoughts on the forums finally motivated me to write a blog post about the article.

Prensky seems to claim that people can be classified into two groups, they are either “digital natives” or “digital immigrants” (2001). However, this thinking seems too simplistic. We can not place people in ‘boxes’. Prensky claims that today’s students “have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cams, cell phones and all the other toys and tools of the digital age” (2001, p. 1). Prensky does not acknowledge the students who may have little or no access to these new technologies, such as students from low socio-economic backgrounds.

Prensky also suggests that “those of us who were not born into the digital world... are and will always be compared to them, Digital Immigrants” (2001, p. 2). Prensky seems to claim that digital immigrants will forever be struggling to accommodate the new technology. He suggests that digital immigrants turn to a book before the internet and speak “... an outdated language” (2001, p. 2). Prensky is ignoring the computer geniuses who may not have grown up “surrounded” by new technologies. I am sure that each of us knows someone who is from an older generation who knows more about technology and can use technology more efficiently than the “digital generation”.

Prensky portrays anyone who is not part of the digital generation, or ‘digital immigrants’, as old ‘fuddy-duddies’ who are determined to block technology out of their lives. Bennett, Maton and Kervin suggest that rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the claims about ‘digital natives’, can be likened to a form of a moral panic (2008, p. 1). Bennett, et al. (2008, p. 4) also claim that “there appears to be a significant proportion of young people who do not have levels of access to technology or technology skills predicted by proponents of the digital native idea”. Prensky’s dangerous generalisations about whole generations of people ignore the complexity of contemporary society.

The only positive comment that I can make about Prensky’s article is that it was somewhat engaging. Perhaps some people do fall into his rather narrow categories. However, I think the most important question that educators need to ask is, ‘How can I help a student who has little or no access to technology gain technological skills?’.


Post a Comment

Join me on a journey through technology, education and innovation.
Copyright 2009 Learning Journey All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates created by Deluxe Templates
Wordpress Theme by EZwpthemes