Foundations of Education and Instructional Assessment/Technology/Digital Natives
Teaching Digital Natives
by Lindsay K Simmons
Experience with Technology
As a typical 80's child, I understand better than most how to find almost anything, on the Internet. Many people throughout the world have even resorted to Christmas and grocery shopping via the World Wide Web. I check my personal email more than ten times a day. Like many other employees today, my work depends on email communication. Not only are office based businesses accessing their email multiple times throughout the work day, educators are using email for accessing information involving students, parents and school activities on a regular basis. As a parent you can now communicate directly with your child’s teacher in two or three clicks of your mouse. Each teacher has their own website, which includes homework assignments, the class schedule, syllabus, test dates and other pertinent information. Parents and students can now sign up to receive school updates via the text message feature on their personal cell phone. At the college level, students are required to sign up for this service in case of emergencies, i.e., school closings or in extreme cases a shooting.
An example of our generation’s transformation into "digital natives" is the news coverage of the 2007 Virginia Tech Shootings. Local news agencies used student video footage from their cell phones to update viewers with the events. One student caught others fleeing from a building via his cell phone and others took pictures of themselves and classmates while waiting inside the building. This is just one example of where technology has taken us. Another more obvious example is we are writing the curriculum for our class, i.e., articles etc. via Wikibooks, an online technology newly developed in the last couple of years.
In elementary school, my generation gained the ability to learn fractions and multiplication through computer programs like Mathblaster. Mathblaster ran on the now obsolete MS-DOS system, the Microsoft operating system used in the 80's. In middle school, my parents signed up for the infamous dial-up Internet connectivity, which didn't allow us to use the Internet and the phone at the same time. In high school, my generation gained the ability to go wireless. We used the computer for all of our library research, began communicating with friends in the same classroom, sitting in the seat next to you via chat rooms. Librarians informed us about popular search engines like Yahoo, Google and Dogpile to find sources for our papers. College professors suddenly started giving lectures about how to find "legitimate" information on the Internet for research purposes. They anticipated our use of the Internet as a source, but there was always a maximum placed on the amount that could be found from there. I strongly believe educators are worried students will not be able to do "normal" research without the aid of the Internet. Many of our jobs now depend on the Internet for communication and knowledge. One large field that has resorted to a wide amount of Internet use is journalism and other media related fields. In journalism, the Internet is used to find information on previous articles concerning topics, statistics on government, test scores on school websites and general background information on sources before an interview. It's now an understood requirement for journalists to understand how to blog and use the web for distributing their stories. Not only are they printed in a newspaper, but they are also posted online, which brings along the necessity of pictures and video.
Are You a Digital Immigrant?
- If you answer yes to any of these questions then you are a digital immigrant:
- Do you remember when telephones had a dial on them (after all, we still “dial” a phone number don’t we?) and were actually connected to the wall by a wire?
- Do you remember TV test patterns and antennas on the roof?
- Do you remember the electric typewriter?
- Do you remember carbon paper?
- Do you remember the Apple II, The TRS 80?
- Do you remember the IBM PC and the black and white Macintosh?
- Do you remember America Online, The Source, CompuServe or other online services, i.e., Mosaic or Netscape?
- Do you remember getting broadband in your home?
- Do you remember the Compact Disc (CD)? (Riedl, 2007)
Defining "Digital Native"
A “digital native” is typically categorized as someone from Generation Y, a person born between the late 70's and early 90's. They are considered “native speakers” of common technological advances like the computer, IPod, cell phone, computer programs like Adobe Photoshop and gaming systems like Xbox 360, (Prensky, 2001). Blogs like MySpace and Facebook and video sites like YouTube are the digital natives’ best friend and common means of gathering and disseminating information. Additionally, digital natives are more in tune with web resources such as scholarly articles, academic journals, an a host of information search engines, which include Google, Yahoo, AskJeeves, EBSCO Host, Dogpile, and MasUltra. The other common categorization for someone in tune with the digital world is the term “digital immigrant”. A digital immigrant is someone who is familiar with everyday technology, but they weren’t born in the 1980’s, an example would be parents and grandparents who are tech savvy, (Prensky, 2001). Prensky clarifies the difference between the digital native and the digital immigrant by referring to the “digital immigrant accent,” which basically informs us that a digital immigrant will hold onto their past way of doing things, (2001).
|"They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. 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." (Marc Prensky, 2001)|
“The 'digital immigrant accent' can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today’s older folk were 'socialized' differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language,” (Prensky 2001). Today, teenagers, children and even adults have resorted to other means of entertainment, technological means specifically. Elementary age children are now indoors playing Halo with a foe from Australia or China on their new Xbox 360 through an international network called Xbox Live. My church uses video footage from YouTube to relate to younger attendees. I can update all of my friends and family with pictures of my daughter via email and Facebook with a click. The ability to Photoshop a person or object into a photo and modify it to make it look like a photo someone took is a piece of cake for my younger brother. In the article, What makes a digital native different, Marta Strickland said, "The digital natives of today have been born into an always-on culture. For many children that are growing up with early adopters for parents, they have never known a time without cell phones, they have never known a time without wireless internet buzzing through the walls of their home. Connectivity flows in the air." This statement is true of all of us in the digital era. What would we do without our technological advances? Apple education, Digital tools for digital students states:
- Digital students are hypercommunicators: they are in contact with their peers and technological world via multiple venues
- Digital students are multitaskers: it's not unusual for a digital student to watch TV, surf the internet, talk on their cell phone, complete homework and download music onto their MP3 player all at the same time
- Digital students are goal oriented: with the aid of their multitasking, they complete multiple tasking with no issue, they want to succeed and they expect to. (http://www.apple.com, 2008)
Issues & Problems involving Education
One of the largest issues teachers and instructors are coming in contact with in the classroom is plagiarism and cheating. The digital native is so comfortable with the "copy and paste" function that the amount of plagiarism cases in schools and universities has gone up noticeably, (McNeely, 2005). "Plagiarism is the academic infraction of choice. How can it not be, though? Information is easily available from the Internet, especially from sites like Wikipedia [and] old term papers are being sold online," (McNeely, 2005). Another issue that education will be facing in the very near future coincides with how digital native's learn; "interactivity" in the classroom between the student and the teacher (McNeely 2005). Another large issue schools are facing today is a miscommunication in translation between teachers, the digital immigrants and students, the digital natives. “Our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language” (Prensky, 2001).
|"Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.," (Prensky, 2001)|
Ben McNeely, a contributing author in the book, Educating the Net Generation, tells us that the digital native generation learns differently than past generations, i.e., through, social interaction, teamwork, peer engagement and action and visual aids, (2005). "Traditional lectures are not fulfilling the learning potential of typical students today. Distance education and online courses don’t work well with Net Geners—the social component of learning is required," (McNeely, 2005). Along with evolving technology comes how students learn, which in this generation is through contact and social interaction. The overall environment in the classroom will need to adapt to this onslaught of new learning and reasoning. Technology is going so far that it’s designing children’s toys that mimic advance everyday technology, such as the cell phone. Texting made easy for your tot: At least new LeapFrog toy will keep 'em off your cell!, said, “Toddlers can soon obsessively text and type like their parents on a pint-sized personal digital assistant made by LeapFrog,” (Melago, 2009). As disturbing as this is, it’s true. I’m constantly pulling my cell phone out of the hands of my sixteen-month-old toddler. Not only is the education industry starting to cater to the digital native, but even the toy industry. Two large, intertwining issues that have an effect on technology in the classroom are computer access and available funds. Access to the Internet coincides directly with funding. Not everyone can afford a computer or the monthly bill to obtain Internet access. The classroom teacher I am currently observing informed his students that if they needed to stay after class to type their business letter on his computer, they could do it that afternoon. "The inability to move between platforms—and the lack of accelerated fundamental skills—is a major hindrance to learning technology" (McNeely 2005).
Technology in the classroom will always be growing and changing. Educators and students alike will need the ability to adjust to current and future changes in the digital world. The digital native population is growing every year, along with the digital immigrant population. Working together to move forward in this ever changing relationship and environment will not only aid the student, but education as a whole. Digital natives are now integrating into the school systems, so another change will happen soon. Original digital natives will educate the new generation of the "digital native". As an original digital native, I will be educating new digital natives; students that understand information and technology that I am currently adjusting to. It's a never-ending circle that requires finesse, understanding, and the willingness to learn.
Multiple Choice Questions
1. What is one main difference between the digital native and the digital immigrant?
2. What is a common everyday tool used by the digital native?
3. Two large issues education will be facing in the future?
4. How many hours have today's average college grad spent reading?
Apple - Education - Digital tools for digital students, 2008. "Apple Pty Ltd" 
McNeely, Ben, (2005). Chapter 4: Using Technology as a Learning Tool, Not Just the Cool New Thing. "Educating the Net Generation". (2005).
Melago, Carrie, (2009). Texting made easy for your tot: At least new LeapFrog toy will keep 'em off your cell! "New York Daily News, Money" 
Prensky, Marc, (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. "On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001," 1-2.
Riedl, Richard E., (2007). Educating Digital Natives in Analog Schools part I: on being a digital immigrant. "The Newsletter of Western Center for Microcomputers in Special Education, Inc," 1-3.Strickland, Marta, (2008). The Definition: What Makes A "Digital Native" Different?