I guess I never blogged this before, but I keep seeing references to the 10 year old distinction between digital natives vs. digital immigrants as it relates to educational technology. This is the idea that “kids today” are born in a digital world and have their brains wired differently than us old fogeys. The “single biggest problem facing education today” is that teachers, being digital immigrants, don’t know how to teach digital native kids, who want nothing but video games and so forth.
Quite a lot has been written about how this idea isn’t really substantiated. At the very least, the distinction is quickly growing irrelevant. Unfortunately, the idea is still uncritically accepted even in some journal articles, and perhaps used as an excuse or crutch too often for poor or ineffective teaching practices. The result may be a self-fulfilling prophecy, but for teachers, not students. We currently teach pre-service and in-service teachers less technology skills than we do middle schoolers and high schoolers, perhaps because of an implicit belief that adults can’t handle anything more than powerpoint or a basic HTML page.
Anyway, here are some references to criticisms of the idea you can point people to if it ever comes up:
- Digital Nativism, Digital Delusions, and Digital Deprivation – by Jamie McKenzie – the most scathing criticism
- Net Gen Skeptic – a whole blog devoted to the topic
- Some blog posts expressing disagreement with the distinction:
- Some journal/conference papers:
- The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence – “the debate can be likened to an academic form of a ‘moral panic’.”
- Immigrants and natives: Investigating differences between staff and students’ use of technology – “These findings support a growing evidence base that, while some differences exist, the ‘digital divide’ between students and staff is not nearly as large as some commentators would have us believe.”
- The ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’: a dangerous opposition – “empirical data is emerging which questions some of the blanket claims made in the growing body of literature which takes the native/immigrant binary as its starting point.”
- Is There a Net Gener in the House? Dispelling a Mystification – “This essay represents both a critical analysis of such allegations and assumptions.” Here is a longer version of this essay by Rolf Schulmeister in German: http://www.zhw.uni-hamburg.de/uploads/schulmeister_net-generation_v3.pdf
- Is there a Net generation coming to university? – “making use of new technologies but in ways that did not fully correspond with many of the expectations built into the Net generation and Digital Natives theses.”
- [update] Digital natives: where is the evidence? - “generation is only one of the predictors of advanced interaction with the Internet. Breadth of use, experience, gender and educational levels are also important, indeed in some cases more important than generational differences”
- [update] Guo, R. X., Dobson, T. & Petrina, S. (2008). Digital natives, digital immigrants: An analysis of age and ICT competency in teacher education. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 38(3), 235-254. “Findings from this study show that there was not a statistically significant difference with respect to ICT competence among different age groups for either pre-program or post-program surveys. This study implies that the digital divide thought to exist between “native” and “immigrant” users may be misleading, distracting education researchers from more careful consideration of the diversity of ICT users and the nuances of their ICT competencies.”
Even Marc Prensky, who came up with the digital natives / immigrants distinction, wrote last year that it is at the very least growing less relevant. [thanks to Antonella Esposito for two of the refs]
Update December 2010 – some new references:
- College Students on the Web – Jakob Nielsen, usability guru, debunks myths about students’ use of technology
- Learning, the Net Generation and Digital Natives – special issue of the journal Learning, Media, and Technology
- Deconstructing Digital Natives: Young People, Technology, and the New Literacies – a book on the topic forthcoming in 2011
So it’s not so surprising that there are now even some programming environments starting to emerge that you can run and develop from inside your browser. These are websites where you can edit code, run your application, and sometimes even instantly share your application for others to try. This is much more convenient than the typical process of downloading and installing a huge IDE such as Eclipse or Netbeans, and then compiling and packaging and distributing/hosting an application on your own. Browser-based environments are also nice for students at schools, because they typically are not given permission to download and install software on their own, but can run these tools in the browser, as long as they aren’t blocked by IT. I imagine it won’t be too long before we start seeing kid-friendly browser-based IDEs start to appear.
UPDATED LIST (December, 2011)
- HTML5 animation design tools (with a timeline like the flash designer)
- https://www.mugeda.com/ – recently announced
- http://mozillapopcorn.org/ - supplement videos with events on a timeline
- (desktop app, preview version is free) http://labs.adobe.com/technologies/edge/
- (desktop app, $199) http://www.sencha.com/products/animator
- (mac only app, $30) http://tumultco.com/hype/
- visual designers for websites
- http://eenox.net/home - design mobile-friendly websites
- http://www.drupalgardens.com/ - lets you visually edit all the css/style properties
- http://maqetta.org/ - visual studio-like IDE for dojo user interfaces
- programming / IDEs
- http://c9.io/ - Cloud 9
- html5 game programming
- http://www.playmycode.com/ (uses a language based on Ruby called Quby)
- http://pixieengine.com/ (coffeescript)
- (desktop app) http://www.scirra.com/construct2
- mobile app creation
- web page development – edit HTML/CSS/JS files on a server
- I switched from Kodingen to DropBox for sharing web pages (including saved Adobe Edge projects): http://www.dropbox.com/help/16
- animation programming – processingjs.org
- see also the jswiki: https://github.com/bebraw/jswiki
- announced but not available yet
Here are some browser-based coding environments I know about. All are free and most are open source.
- [Some updates in July 2011, over a year since this was originally posted:]
- Kodingen – edit php/html/css/etc. files on the server via the browser (I used this in my web development class)
- Maqetta – visual HTML5 editor, builds on the dojo toolkit
- SketchPad.cc – etherpad + processing.js (I used this in my html5 class)
- browser-based game development sites: Pixie (coffeescript), Play My Code (uses a ruby-like language called quby)
- Bespin – [replaced by Ace editor, used in cloud9 IDE listed above] an editor from Mozilla that you can use either on their site, or embed into your own site.
- CodeRun – Develop ASP.NET, php and Ajax applications in your browser. Not open source.
- App Inventor for Android – This is unique in that it has a visual designer, along with a visual blocks-based language for creating applications (similar to that in Lego Mindstorms and Scratch). From this description it does appear to be web-based, although you use it to develop applications that run on an Android cell phone, not the browser. Here’s a course that used the tool last fall, along with the beginnings of a textbook. Unfortunately, it’s still only in private testing and not available to the public. I’ve signed up to use it with students in my multimedia development course this fall. If that works out I’ll post all the resources and videos online, just like all my courses.
- There are also many programming command line interpreters (repls – read-eval-print loop) that work in the browser, such as Lord of the REPLs (lotrepls), which lets you try many different languages out.
- Some other browser-based IDEs: Ares (Palm WebOS development), Zembly (discontinued when Sun was bought out by Oracle), Yahoo Application Platform and Yahoo Pipes, Glowday Google widget designer…