Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants

While reading this article, the analogy that younger generations are part of the Digital Natives and the older generations are part of the Digital Immigrants is supposed to describe society’s present situation. I recall over winter break, I helped three middle aged people set up Instagram accounts. Two of these Instagram accounts were for my bosses at work, and the other for my mom. Frequently when I went to work over break, my boss would tell me that she wanted to post something on the Instagram page later in the day and that she needed my help with it. I was always so confused about why she needed my help because it only takes less than a minute to post a picture. But since she has not grown up with this new technology, she needed more time to figure out different settings, how you manage your page, and how you follow other Instagram pages. While I am sure I am not the only one to have an experience like this, I think that Prensky is very narrow minded in his thinking and created a very stereotypical portrayal of the generations.

The statement in the beginning of the reading which says “Today’s students are no longer the people our education system was designed to teach” is very interesting. While it is true that a lot of students today like to check in with their friends and family very frequently on social media, I think that todays students still have the same thirst for knowledge as previous generations. However, I will agree that our ways of learning have changed through new, online education tools.

This article focuses mainly on how the teacher-student relationship is changing with new technology. While there have been a lot of useful education tools as a result of these new communication technologies (like D2L, Quizlet, etc.) I do not necessarily agree with the fact that Digital Immigrants need to do everything in their power to please the Digital Natives. While the integration of new communication technologies in class usually is beneficial, there is more than one way to learn. The article almost makes it sound as if the younger generations are incapable of adapting to different circumstances. There is more than one way to get students interested in learning. While I do think that it is good that educators are trying to adapt to their students, I think students also need to be willing to adapt to their educators.

I am curious about what will happen as the Digital Natives get older. Will we still be up to date with the latest in technology? Will we become a new generation of Digital Immigrants who rely on the new Digital Natives to teach us about new communication technologies that we do not understand? Answering this question in my own opinion, I think the Digital Natives will become the Digital Immigrants. When the new generation of Digital Natives roles around, they will come up with simpler, faster ways of doing things, but we will still want to do them in the ways that we always have because to us that will seem easier. This is why I think it is important that the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants try to work together instead of having one conform to the other. The different generations should be trying to learn from each other, not morph into one.

After I read Jamie McKenzie’s response to Prensky’s article, I felt better knowing that I wasn’t the only one feeling slightly iffy about Prensky’s observations. McKenzie references very specific moments in Prensky’s work that are problematic. In the beginning of the article, McKenzie states that Prensky’s word choices are very harsh. He points out that American natives sometimes hated immigrants, so the fact that he uses this terminology suggests that the younger generations must hate the older generations because they are not as technologically aware. This also creates a generational divide and suggests that generations are intolerant of other generations.

Prensky is also basing the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants entirely off of stereotypes. He puts people into these two different groups on the sole basis of age. Prensky fails to understand that people of a younger age do look up to people of an older age, and thus inherit some of their characteristics.

Also, there are some versions of Prensky’s article in which he spells Dr. Bruce D. Perry’s name wrong. This is a slight indication that Prensky may not be the most reliable source. If he is this careless about grammatical mistakes, he is probably just as careless about his research. He is also, as stated previously, careless about his audience. Another way he insults his audience is by saying “Digital Immigrants think learning can’t (or shouldn’t) be fun. Why should they – they didn’t spend their formative years learning with Sesame Street.” McKenzie criticizes this statement as well by bringing up influential educators who have always advocated for learning to be creative and imaginative. Just because one isn’t learning via Sesame Street, doesn’t automatically mean their education is boring.

One of the last points McKenzie mentions is Prensky’s problematic assumption that integrating video games into learning is a good idea. Given all the evidence that suggests video games leads to violence, we can clearly see how this is problematic. Prensky is literally saying that it is okay to encourage violence so long as students find it a fun way to learn. As mentioned before, there are plenty of ways to learn, and not every student is going to learn the same way. Since not every student would benefit from this style of learning anyway, why would you want to utilize something so violent in a school setting?

In conclusion, we can see how Prensky’s article is quite problematic in terms of his minimalistic and simplistic ways of thinking. Human’s are not just something that can be categorized into boxes. Each person is unique, regardless of what technology they use or what age they are. We all have the capabilities of learning from each other.

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