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Friday, September 14, 2007

Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants - Is Our Thinking Wrong?



I am loving Classroom 2.0 right now.  This post is inspired by a discussion happening right now on the main page - go there and join up and jump in!

It's about Digital Natives/Digital Immigrants, an idea a lot of us have repeated after hearing and reading Marc Prensky - he came up with this conception that today's kids are, to quote him directly, "... all 'native speakers' of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet." And he continues  by saying that the rest of us are "digital immigrants" and retain "one foot in the past" as we try to interact with technology.   Go here for the exact article being quoted, found on Marc Prensky's site marcprensky.com and downloaded 9/14/07.

What is being said on Classroom 2.0 is that this idea of being a digital immigrant is used by some as a "cop out", e.g., "I'm just a digital immigrant, I can't figure this stuff out." Additionally teachers are saying some colleagues are also making assumptions about kids, e.g., "they know all about this technology stuff, we don't need to teach them anything" that becomes a double cop out.  (Dating myself by saying cop out most likely!) Also, they've said that the "digital native" label was more for middle class males and left out a lot of others. 

Well, big wow for me!  Because I've been using this term to try to explain something - about today's kids, and how we have to reach them and not hold back.  And maybe some people heard the "digital immigrant" label and took a pass (although I hope not.)  

The idea of "these kids know all about this" is something heard since, well, forever, as a way to let them go learn technology without us.  Once I heard this from an administrator (not where I've ever taught or worked!): "these kids know all this stuff" as a reason for not teaching any computer classes whatsoever.  While kids are natural explorers, and many of we adults are not (probably not an intrinsic trait but probably because we were taught to "sit still, don't touch anything, and wait for instructions") - being an explorer does not mean you find the good stuff. Because unless your exploration is planned -- random exploration results in random understanding and learning.  You could be dropped off in Paris and be unafraid to explore and spend a lot of time there but if you didn't know there was something called "The Louvre" and didn't happen upon it - you missed it.

We do have to teach about technology, model technology use, question technology, jump in with kids while they're learning, challenge their assumptions and beliefs, challenge our assumptions and beliefs.  

And if a label no longer fits we should give it up.  

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