In ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’ Marc Prensky describes the different ways in which people have adapted themselves to technology. Those of us who are younger have grown up in a world where iPads and smartphones were common, we would be considered Digital Natives, however, those who were born a few generations before we were, have more trouble understanding this technology, they are Digital Immigrants. Prensky also suggests how younger people, those considered to be digital natives, learn and retain information differently than digital immigrants. Because we have been born into a world where technology plays a big role in our lives, we learn through technology. As Prensky suggests, those teachers who were born into a world with less developed technology and learned differently might need to change their teaching style to get their young students to learn and enjoy the lessons.

I don’t fully agree with everything Prensky suggests. While I do understand that younger people have grown in a world with technology, I don’t believe that all of us should be considered digital natives. Take for example a young kid who lives in a remote village in Africa. They haven’t grown with the Internet or technology and if you gave them a smartphone now, they would probably be as confused as those older people were when the first smartphone came out. They might be of a young generation, but they aren’t necessarily digital natives. Not everyone who was born in an older generating is a digital immigrant. After all, it was someone in those generations who designed the first smartphone, laptop, or iPad. They know and understand this technology way better than we do. While it is true that most students nowadays concentrate better when watching videos and playing games, it is also easier to learn information when you’re writing it down or highlighting it from a book.

There have been projects aimed at bringing technology to remote areas. iPads have been taken to these places and little kids have played around with them. When they first see it, they are in absolute shock, they have got an object which can do anything when they move their finger around and press buttons. They don’t understand what they’re doing, they’re just playing around with it trying to discover the magic of this device. While they have grown in a world where technology is important, they know nothing about it and don’t understand the use of an iPad, at first they are as lost as an older person would be when the first iPad came out.

There’s also the fact that someone who might be considered a digital immigrant, is actually more of a native than we are. Take Steve Jobs for example. In 2020 it has been calculated that over 44% of smartphone users in the US have an iPhone. All those young people who we would consider to be digital natives don’t know and understand as much about the phone as Steve Jobs would have had because they’re just using it, while he helped design it and actually knows what it is about.

When it comes to studying at school, it might be true that students don’t focus as much anymore, if they were to listen to a long lecture which just consists of the professor speaking, they would probably switch off and not pay much attention. They will be more interested in watching a video and playing a game as Prensky suggests. However, when the time comes when they need to take a test, they are not going to save the most important parts of the video, they need physical notes, a book to highlight, and class notes were taken by them. While a video or a game of Kahoot might be fun every once in a while, it is also important to have those notes and lectures every now and then, because that is a better way to remember and understand what you are doing, and makes it easier for you to prepare for the exam.

I believe that at my school you have teachers on both ends of the spectrum and some who are around the middle. You have teachers who will just explain something on the board and then give you a set of exercises to do on some paper and mark by the end of the lesson, these could be considered to be digital immigrants. You have teachers who will show you videos and might also give you exercises but everything will be done online and saved to the cloud, these teachers could be considered to be the digital natives of the school. And you have teachers, who in my personal opinion do it best, that will change the lessons every now and then. One day you might watch a video to learn about something, the next they will go through some PowerPoint slides and ask you to take notes. After learning the theory aspects they ask you to do exercises on your book or play a game against the class online. I believe this is the best way of teaching because the students are engaged but you also have all those notes that will help you when you need to revise after some months.

My grandparents grew up in a world without the advanced technology we have now, I remember when the iPhone 6 came out, which was a very anticipated event, he was one of the first people I know to buy it. He also has an iPad which he brings around to read the newspaper rather than buying it every day. Because of his age, people would consider him to be a digital immigrant, but he is now very confident when using all this technology and has never had any issues when working with it. While he might not text as fast as I can, he has a very deep understating of how new technology works.

What are the social impacts and ethical issues regarding our modern-day technology?

I think that someone who might be considered a digital immigrant because they’d prefer working on paper rather than online, might not truly be confident in the reliability of the hardware and software of a device, and because for most of their life they have been using this paper, they feel more confident using this and won’t learn new ways.

A big social issue that this question of digital native or immigrant tackles would be globalization and cultural diversity. This would bring us back to the iPad in Africa. While these children are growing up in a world where technology is very important, they know little to nothing about it because of their geographical boundaries. This should change because everyone has a right to access the Internet.

This issue also links to digital divide and equality of access, the growth of technology and IT systems has led to disparities in the use of, and access to, information technologies. A ‘digital divide’ is created by factors such as cost, availability of hardware and software, and access to the Internet.

At schools (and also in bigger and more important cases) there have been cases of plagiarizing. Some teachers would rather have their students write essays on paper and by hand rather than online because they are afraid this will happen. This refers to the issue of intellectual property. This intellectual property includes ideas, discoveries, writings, works of art and collections, and presentations of data. This intellectual property can be protected by copyrights, trademarks, and patents.

Another big issue would be people and machines. It is true that technology is available 24/7 and is very useful and important in our lives. This availability of technology can also have very negative impacts on our lives. There are social issues such as Internet addiction, not only for children and teens but also for adults. As Prensky suggests, the average college grad today has spent less than 5,000 hours of their life reading, but over 10,000 playing video games and 20,000 watching TV. These statistics are almost scary, and something should be done about the relationship between people and their devices.

How much do I agree with Prensky’s theory?

While I believe that Prensky makes some valid and interesting points, I don’t fully agree with all he has to say. I believe that we shouldn’t qualify someone as a digital immigrant or native because of when they were born and grew up. I think this is a very abstract decision to make. Someone born a few generations ago might have (and probably does) a much deeper understanding of how technology works than someone who always had an iPad by their side when they grew up.

I agree with Prensky when it comes to the way that teens and children learn these days. Our attention span is shorter and we concentrate more when we are involved or have something to watch. However, I also think that it is important for us to learn the traditional way every now and then.

 

Here is the original article by Marc Prensky

https://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!