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Digital Immigrants? Digital Natives?



This week we opened our class by looking at Marc Prensky's metaphor of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." Prensky argues that young people today are fundamentally different than they were ten, twenty, fifty, of five hundred years ago. But is this true?

Take some time to reflect on the students in your classroom currently. To what extent have digital technologies influenced them to the point that they are different than when you were in school? To what extent are your students the same as when you were their age? Do you agree with Prensky? Disagree? How? Why?

Please explain yourself fluently and insightfully in approximately 700, and pepper your comments with some quotes taken from the articles handed out in class.

This blogsite posting will come due at the beginning of our next class meeting on April 26th, 2010.



My goals for 2010 and Marc Prensky’s article
Being a physical education teacher and also a science major I was a little nervous going into this class because let’s just say I can have some difficulty with technology. I thought about perusing this masters program because it was going to be a challenge that I wanted to conquer, it would make me look more diverse as a teacher, and also it could help me incorporate some technology into my classroom. Some students do not like physical education for one reason or another and it is hard to come up with new ideas or lesson plans to get every kid excited. My physical education classroom is different compared to most because we do not play kick ball or hand ball, but instead we focus on the strength and conditioning of each student. My students are learning to do Olympic based lifts and learning how to incorporate lifting in their lives to become not only better athletes, but healthier individuals. With lifting comes some difficulty because what most people do not realize is that it is not just about how strong you are, but your brain needs to make neurological connections in your brain to be able to complete an Olympic lift.
Marc Prensky makes a good point when he says, “the brain constantly reorganizes itself all our child and adult lives, a phenomenon technically known as neuroplasticity.” This is very true because our brain can be molded like silly putty and made into a brain full of knowledge or a brain full of confusion. And this is were I come in as a teacher because it is my job to ensure my students have a clear understand on how to do a lift correctly and find ways to help their neurological pathways make a connection with their bodies. Students become frustrated when learning the new lifts because they feel they are not getting it because they are not strong enough, but that is not the case. What needs to happen is that their neurological pathways need to make that connection with their body parts to complete the lift properly. My goal is to use technology to show my students the way their brain is working during a lifting exercise or find information that can help me explain to them why it may take them longer than others to learn an Olympic lift. I think if I was able to visually show my students what their brain is doing during athletic events then they would not become so frustrated with themselves and also learn something about the human brain.
Marc Prensky also makes a great point when he says, “social psychology also provides strong evidence that one’s thinking patterns change depending on one’s experience.” And I completely agree with that statement because I know as a student and athlete I have always learn more when the environment I was learning in was that positive, welcomed exploration, strict, and was encouraging. My goal is to create such an environment, but also an environment where any kind of student can learn.
The children today have become overwhelmed with everything technology weather it is facebook, their iPod, or MySpace. But even though technology seems to being running our lives and the lives of our students I feel that this could be used to our advantage. My goal is to find a balance with technology and physical education. During my undergraduate program I was fortunate to use something called dwarfish and also force plates. I was assisted by my professors when using them and was never able to use them by myself. My goal is with the help of this class become more comfortable with technology so in the future I could get a grant to get a dwarfish or force plates so that my students can also see the biomechanics and exercise physiology portion of working out and not just learn how to do the lift. I want my students to understand what is happening to their bodies when they lift and why it is important to stay in shape. I also want to be able to set bench marks for my students. Both of these technologies will help me show my students what they have improved on since being in the weight room and areas that they still may need to improve on. Overall, my goal for this class is to become more confident in my technology skills and to be able to incorporate this confidence into my classroom.

Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants
Having grown up in the in between space of the Digital Immigrants and the Digital Natives, I have advantages and disadvantages to be able to teach the future generations of students. While I have a pretty adapt knowledge of the Internet, gaming, social networking, software, and can use my cell phone to do just about anything my computer could, I am still light years behind my students. The entire reason that I chose to go through with the EdTech MA at APU was just that. I want to keep up and find ways to engage my students that seem to have the limited attention span that everyone in education is talking about.

I graduated from high school only seven years ago, just about when Marc Prensky was composing his writings Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (DN,DI), parts one and two. Looking back, I had a combination of teachers; some which rose to the tech challenge, and some that did not. I am fortunate that I substitute at my high school and am able to see the progress that has been made. Not much. Not that there are not attempts, the school purchased 9 Promethean SmartBoards with a grant, but they cannot afford to train teachers to use them or afford the upkeep to replace projector bulbs and update software. In the small attempts made to create trainings, no one shows up. Why? Because they cannot afford to take time to learn this new material when they are struggling to stay afloat in the flurry of standardized testing. The new teachers with the energy and passion to teach themselves this information in order teach their Digital Native students more effectively are fighting for their jobs or are unemployed.

Ok with that said, onto the issue of these Digital Natives and how we should teach them. In Part 1 of DN,DI, Prensky states that “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” And quoting Dr. Bruce D. Perry, Prensky says, “Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures.” That statement alone is inarguable to me. The idea that students learn differently now and education will continue to evolve is as black and white as the idea that technology has advanced over the last 200 years. We function different than we used to and therefore need to learn to function differently. “Digital Immigrants don’t believe their students can learn successfully learn while watching TV or listening to music, because they (the Immigrants) can’t.” Why should education be the only industry in the world exempt from technological advances, just because those working now did not “grow up” with technology? When in fact, they DID grow up with technology; it was just different than video games, texting, the Internet and recordable television. We need to cater to the capabilities of our students, not ourselves. The invention of the pencil or the slide-rule, were technologies of their times, and schools adapted to using them. We type assignments now thanks to the introduction of the typewriter way back when, because of its efficiency and ease. However, learning how to type was a process that took time, effort and the drive to advance, for both the students and the teachers. Part 2 of DN, DI states,

“Digital Native accustomed to the twitch-speed, multi-tasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and the Internet are bored by most of today’s education, well meaning as it may be. But worse, the many skills that new technologies have actually enhanced (e.g., parallel processing, graphics awareness, and random access)—which have profound implications for their learning—are almost totally ignored by educators.”

I guess what I do not understand about the technology struggle today, is WHY NOT? Why wouldn’t we want to create an environment that has proven to increase comprehension, skill level and educational capability? Technology is ever evolving and is going to continue to change and advance, with generations after generations that will be the new Natives to the new technologies. With learners so different today, and so different tomorrow, the balance of the “legacy” content (writing, reading, arithmetic, logical thinking, understanding the writings and ideas of the past, etc—all of the traditional curriculum) and the “future” content (digital and technological—software, hardware, robotics, nanotechnology, genomics, ethics, politics, sociology, languages) is the crucial element to make education current, productive and successful. If we need to use video games to make that happen, so be it, and teachers should be eager to oblige if it gets across the important stuff.

I grew up in the in-between stages of the Digital Immigrants/Natives. Two years ago, before I started teaching I would tell you that I am a Digital Native. After being around my high school students I realized I am not up to speed at all. I mean, why do they always have to be stimulated by their ipods whenever they have to go to the bathroom. How can they listen to me with one ear while listening to music in another? Is that even possible? I tried it and it was actually hard. These last two years has really opened my eyes as to how much stimulus with technology our kids are getting each day. I mean, I have friends who I once in a while will play video games for a few hours straight, but I feel wiped out when I am done. My students can play for longer hours while texting, face booking, tweeting, listening to ipods, and doing their homework all at the same time. Well maybe not the homework part.

Prensky’s first article was interesting, but I heard it before. His second article I found very interesting because it had facts! There are actually studies that prove that our student’s brains are different than ours because of the technology they grew up with. “Children raised with the computer ‘think differently from the rest of us. They develop hypertext minds. They leap around. It’s as though their cognitive structures were parallel, not sequential.’” I like how he touched on the fact that attention spans are getting shorter and shorter, but it is due to the environment of the classroom. They are bored!

“The cognitive differences of the Digital Natives cry out for new approaches to education with a better fit.” Prensky then goes on to discuss how educators should try game-based teaching. I totally agree with this approach, but I feel that this game-based learning style is still in the hiding. I have no clue as to what company even makes “quality” games for a math class. If I did, I would have bought it the day I started teaching. I agree with everything that Prensky talks about in his articles, but I don’t think change will happen fast until the companies who make the games really try to market themselves to all teachers. They could do free demos at schools nation wide of what you can do in the classroom to get the Digital Immigrants to get on board with this new wave of learning. They need to get their product in the hands of the struggling educators.

Digital what??
Technology has become a vital part of our modern world and has influenced all aspects of our daily lives. Marc Prensky breaks the world down into two different groups, the digital natives and the digital immigrants. I think my generation is somewhere in between the two of these groups. We did not grow up and go through our early years with most of the current technology however we were exposed to it and used it regularly once we entered college and in the workforce. Although I am not a digital native I feel I have adapted quickly to this new environment that technology has created.
In Prensky’s article he states that “Digital immigrants think learning can’t (or shouldn’t) be fun”. I have experienced this point of view in the school I teach and among my fellow teachers. I am not sure that I agree with this opinion but I am also not sure that I disagree either. To a certain extent I think learning should be fun especially at an early age, however going to college requires hard work and the sooner students adjust to that regime the more successful they will become in college. After all we are supposed to be preparing them for their futures and not all aspects of any job are enjoyable.
All teachers young and old should learn how to communicate with their students regardless of how fun they make their curriculum. “Today’s teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students.” Digital natives have their own language that is continually changing with each new technology or resource created. Teachers need to tap into this language to help create a relationship with their students.
The real question however is if education needs to change with the way students have changed? I think education is no different then any other industry and does not exist in a bubble and so therefore must change and adapt. More and more education programs are starting to include technology in their curriculum to prepare teachers for this new generation of students. What really needs to happen however to see any major changes is a re-education of the teachers who have been teaching for years and are considered to be the “digital immigrants”.
In my department there is a teacher who has been teaching for more then 20 years and does not use technology on a regular basis. He was come under fire by the administration for not using more technology and not updating his teaching techniques. I understand the administrations position however training must be provided to him in order for him to truly embrace the technology at his disposal and he must be trained enough to feel confident using it. It is simply not enough for schools and districts to require the use of technology they must also provide good training to the digital immigrants that will be using it. Prensky says this about the digital immigrants “They will succeed in the long run – and their successes will come that much sooner if their administrators support them.”
It is no mystery to me that the brains of digital natives are different then those of their predecessors. I do believe however that fundamentally students do not change much and still struggle with the same issues of previous generations. Although their thought process might be different the problems they face and struggle with are the same. Any parent who has dealt with discipline can tell you that what works for one child doesn’t always work for another child. So the task educators have does not change because of technology. A good teacher gets to know their students’ individual needs and styles and then adjusts to them.
Education cannot afford to ignore the changing environment but must embrace the changes and provide training and support to the teachers in the classroom. Students will continue to change and technology will continue to advance to better cater to these digital natives. The sooner education catches up the better for students and for society at large.

Technology has become part of our daily lives in and will continue to be for years to come. We now live in the digital age where children and technology have become so close, education has now become more digital because computers are available in every school to students and teachers. There are still teachers who still remain traditional in their educating, meaning they don’t use computers or any technology at all. The problem with this is that student’s attention span is now even shorter meaning that it’s up to the teacher to associate something that students can relate to keep them focused on what they are learning. This is where technology comes in because now we have the capability of incorporating videos, media, and other technologies into the classroom. Now we have online classes and it’s only a matter of time when students can attend all their classes online.
Technology is constantly changing and improving so it is only common sense that educators need to do the same. Yes, there are teachers that tend to be scared away by technology but the reality is that technology is part of our lives whether we like it or not and if we want to keep up with the rest of the world we have to make sure that we are incorporating as much technology in our education as much as we can. On a personal note I have never been a technology person, I only know how to do basic assignments on basic computer programs but I tend to get scared away from new software. This is why I wanted to do the technology program here at APU because I know this program will give me the knowledge and skills that I need in technology and how to apply it in the classroom. –Jesus H.