Digital Native Myth in Teaching
I’m constantly being asked, told, regurgitated, and generally explained that the last couple of generations are “digital natives” and since they were raised in a digital culture, they have a more innate understanding of digital devices and programs.
What’s happened as a result of that sentiment is that assumption is being placed on everyone below the age of 30 or exiting college, that they should be able to easily integrate technology into their existing classrooms. However, when it comes to education technology and the infusion of digital tools into the classroom, I have yet to find a true “digital native”.
Generally, the younger generation has less fear of technology, but that doesn’t necessarily yield educational benefit. Without some sort of training or support, the fact that they can use the tool faster than a digital immigrant is pointless (I’m reminded of the Nature vs. Nurture debates we had in Psychology 101).
When I recently guest-lectured a group of student teachers at the University of Texas, many had no idea about what kind of ed tech apps were out there for them to use. Animoto, BrainPop, and Discovery Streaming were new meaningless words to these students. Facebook, Google, and Skype were terms they were comfortable with and areas they explored and were indeed “natives”.
I think that software and web app companies are becoming keenly aware of the fact that there products need to cohere with what is already readily accepted in most cases. The “Digital Native” is a fickle creature that likes easily usable, social platforms that other Digital Natives use. Throwing a web application like Prezi.com to a teacher, digital native or immigrant, will still take some adoption and adaption. The ultimate goal, infusion and enhancement of learning, with the tool is something that isn’t exclusive to digital natives.
I recently had a co-worker (a digital immigrant for the sake of this argument) dabble into Prezi, and was motivated, excited, and inspired by what different ways she could use this tool for presentations and classroom lessons. The fact that she is not a “digital native” had never influenced her use of this tool. There is no age limit requested when registering for it. The only limits were the imagination and creativity of the user. The same can be said of almost any app or program out there.
With all the innovation that exists in the world of technology, we are still left asking ourselves, “Is this useful” and “Can I infuse this into my teaching life?”
That, my friends, is a question that neither a digital native nor immigrant can answer. Experience and experimentation are the tools used to answer these questions.
And those two items are NOT exclusive to the “Digital Native.”
Sophie and her iPod – A link to my daughter and her ease of use with a device