The Digital Natives / Digital Immigrants Distinction Is Dead, Or At Least Dying

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:

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:

Update February 2014 – fixed couple of broken links, and added:

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Posted in children, edtech, education, technology
2 comments on “The Digital Natives / Digital Immigrants Distinction Is Dead, Or At Least Dying
  1. Bill Bass says:

    Thanks for addressing this. I was reading an article the other day in an elearning magazine (I don’t remember the name unfortunately) and the author made a reference to Digital Immigrants/Natives and it made me cringe. While I understand the reasoning behind it when it was created 10 years ago, I also think that there are giant holes in the distinction. I appreciate this list of resources.

  2. Tom says:

    That’s on the money for sure. This false distinction always infuriates me and has never matched what I saw going on at the University and k12 level. Using facebook and and IM does not a computer genius make.

Comments are closed.

Doug Holton

Doug Holton

Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

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