Sunday, June 5, 2011
Reflection: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
Today‟s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives. -Prensky
After reading this article, I thought of my sister and me. I am part of the generation dubbed generation x. There were lots of things that were changing as I was growing up. Many of my friends had computers in their households, some of my friends had pagers, and my dad had a company car complete with a car phone. We took computer classes in school and learned how to use DOS. But we still learned how to type on typewriters and the most advanced game system during my teens were the Nintendo 64 and the Play Station.
My sister was born about 10 years after I was and grew up using computers in elementary school. We also had a home personal computer that she learned to use. By the time she got to high school, course work was also offered online, most of the students used AIM, and lots of them had cell phones. They had Play Station 2, Xbox, and advanced games for the PC. You could say she is what Prensky would call a digital native.
I on the other hand would fit quite nicely into the stereotype of the digital immigrant. Some of my faults could be found in "needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I‟m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the “Did you get my email?” phone call. Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our “accent.”
It's sort of funny but strange when I think of it. Most of my learning in school has been quite traditional including my college career. But it's scares me as well, especially when I think of what the future hold and how I will be able to find better employment than I have now. If we assume that the purpose of education is to prepare you to be a worker at some point, than there should be a requirement to use technology in the classroom. I think Prensky would agree with me and would even suggest social sciences courses using much more diverse forms of technology.
While my sister was in college, many of her courses used varying forms of technology in order to teach the classes. She was an education major and graduated college thinking of all these great technological advancements she could use in the classroom to help students learn all sorts of things. She had planned her lessons around these forms of technology. When she walked into her first school, she realized that the equipment that they had been using were not reality in most public schools. All of the sudden she had to go from being tech-savvy to traditional-not something she has enjoyed.
In my sister's case and other folks' cases, I think Prensky would encourage the development of technology for everyone. Although it is not mentioned in the article, I believe such a divide will further separate/divide the class structure in the United States. If the comfortable and well to do are the only ones with this sort of access from an early age, it will leave others seemingly labeled digital immigrants-they will always be attempting to catch up or forced to use technology as a form of communication not as a means of employment. I don't believe it is a nefarious plot but I also don't see people taking it serious and Prensky points to the problem that lack of technological progress has in the long run. He suggests using gaming as a way to teach and mentions the success CAD engineers in using gaming as a way to learn auto-CAD programs.
I believe strongly that due to these changes in technology, students who are wanting to continue with their studies will look to more tech savvy ways in teaching. Courses that mix both traditional learning with other forms of learning will probably have greater outcomes due to the students comfort in being digital natives. We digital immigrants need to adapt to the changes and realize it's for our own good.