Digital Natives:

During the past twenty years as the IT (information technology) revolution boomed, a debate has developed over the effect of the new and improving Information Communication Technologies (ICT) on educational processes – in particular focusing on the ‘Digital Natives’ and their technological skills learned as a result of maturing and experiences technology and its advancements in everyday life.

As S. Bennet, L. Kervi and K. Maton (2008) explain, the debate focuses on the claim that the Digital Natives are so adapt at using technology that they are so differentiated ‘…from previous generations of students and from their teachers, and that the differences are so significant that the nature of education itself must be fundamentally changed to accommodate the skills and interests of these digital natives’ (pg. 775-776).

Problems for Digital Immigrants

The debate:

Before I go on, the term ‘Digital Native’ and its counter part ‘Digital Immigrant’, have to be explored in order to have a better understanding on the topic. ‘Digital Natives’, coined by Marc Prensky (2001) and further explained by him are all the people who were raised surrounded by the technologies which the late 20th and early 21st century had to offer, who are as he quotes, “…’native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. (p. 1)” Thus the opposing term of “digital immigrants” focuses on the older generations, who had not grown up with such technologies and were forced to adapt to a changing environment. In many circumstances these immigrants even today have chosen not to adapt or learn to use new technologies – I’m sure enough to say that everyone with old enough parents were forced at one point or another to help or explain to them how to Text-Message, or how to use the Internet. Here is a mind map explores the differences between the Natives and Immigrants:

Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants

Prensky (2001) puts great emphasis between the two generations as he claims the older generations – the ‘digital immigrants’, who are teaching the younger, more technically savvy natives, are ‘…struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language. (p. 2)”. It is this argument to which  Bennet, Kervi and Maton debate against. The trio argue that yes, the use of technology in younger people is very high along with their ability to multi task between them also very high. However, they argue that only a small percentage of the digital natives are actually adapt in educational ICT’s (p. 778). From their survey of 4374 students from 13 different educational institutions, only 21% of the students maintained an educational blog, and 21.5% downloaded educational podcasts and materials. Again, I am sure when I say that many of us who made these blogs for our ICT assessments, or any of our previous assessments in that matter, did not use or create the ICT before – which reinforce their data.

Bennet, Kervi, and Maton also raise another point which Prensky failed to comment on – socio economic and cultural differences affect the younger generations in a manner which sees them at a far lower level in technological skills (p.778). Not having the money to afford technological luxuries will seriously hinder a person’s skill in ICT no matter their age. Same goes for schools or educational institutions that a based on lower income areas – the less funding they receive, the less technology will be used in them no matter if a digital native or immigrant is teaching them.

Just by briefly looking at both sides of the debate, its clear that Prensky had in a sense assumed too much and did not factor in account other variables such as socio-economic and cultural differences. To further weaken his arguement, he hardly backs up his work at all unlike the trio who refer to surveys and other scholarly work. It is true that yes, we younger generations do know how to use a lot of the new technology that we come across in everyday life, and we do on the whole know how to operate them better than the older generations. However, it does not mean we necessarily know how to use ICT in educational circumstances -we all know how to Facebook, email, YouTube and download, but how many of us can confidently blog? By looking at this debate I can say that the answer is most likely the minority of us. By Prensky’s arguement every one of us are more adapt at ICT than our teachers, which I can personally say is not true as the majority of the people i know, including  myself are not.

References:

Bennet S., Kervin L., & Maton K. (2008). British Journal of Education: The ‘Digital Native’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. Vol. 30 (5) Blackwell Publishing, Oxford, UK. Retrieved from Blachboard (april 2011)

Prensky M. (2001) On the Horizon: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Vol 9 (5) Retrieved from http://www.twitchspeed.com/site/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm (april 2011)