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Of Digital Immigrants and 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.



I think technology has influenced our children in many ways. This new generation of kids see and interpret things in total different way. Everything they do, see, read and play is more sophisticated.

I remembered that I did not had any of those high tech toys or anything compared to what kids have now. But, I had so much fun and feel as I learned many things through experiementing and hands-on activities. Nowadays, children do not require to use much imagination, everything is a close as a push of a button. I think that what we had we earned and todays kids have everything without doing much. I think lots of our values have being lost due to the developement of technology goodies that had made things easier for the human race.

Technology is good, but sometimes I wonder, how much is good?

My opinion is that technology has revolutionized our society and because of it, we need to change our education systems as well. Technology has made many aspects of our lives easier so that there is less need for traditional education and more need for students to know how to be logical and innovative. I believe technology has essentially rewired our brains. I believe teachers need to prepare our children for futures where they will be using technology. I do not believe we are doing our students a disservice for bringing more technology to them.

Technology is a new “language” and like learning any new language, synapses are being formed and connections being made to experiences that do seem to change the brain. I am not an expert in neurology but I do know that as children grow and experience things their brains create “memories” by creating new “wirings” within their brains. The same is true for my mother with Multiple Sclerosis. Each day she has to retrain her brain and essentially create new synapses because over night they have degenerated due to the nature of her disease. Her doctors have specifically prescribed certain brain games for her to play using technology. According the article by Prensky, “the brain constantly reorganizes itself all our child and adult lives, a phenomenon technically known as neuroplasticity.”

According to the book, Outliers; The Story of Success by Malcom Gladwell people who spend over 10,000 hours doing something basically become experts at it. It makes sense to me that our children who are growing up watching hours of TV and spending exuberant hours playing video games are becoming “experts” in a form of passive learning with technology. It makes sense to me that these students are rewiring their brains to react to this type of stimulus. It would be wise of teachers to take advantage of the desire to be involved in technology and use it to teach. Personally, I want to grab my students attention while I still can and fill it with as much excitement and learning as possible. Technology seems to be the way to get it all in there.

In my fairly short lifetime I’ve seen so many changes and I do not see the changes slowing down anytime soon. I believe it is imperative that we give our students the most exposure and training with technology because the possibilities are endless. We do not know what jobs there will be in the future but we can hope to give our students a step in the right direction. I forget which article it was but I remember reading “we are preparing our students for jobs that don’t exist yet.” I couldn’t agree more.

Students today are spoiled in that there is instant gratification through technology. When you want information you can get it with a few clicks on the keyboard. I don’t think it is a disadvantage however, If anything we need to embrace the fact that information is at our fingertips and us it to catapult our students into higher levels of thinking. A student no longer needs to memorize all the names and dates of the presidents before they can write a paper comparing and contrasting the effects that those presidents had on our society. I love that as a teacher I can send my students in the right direction for information and can then skip to the “nitty-gritty” part of my job and have them synthesize and form opinions on the information. According to Prensky, “the reason we memorized so many of there things in the past was only because there was no handy/speedy way to look them up.” I can think of so many more valuable ways to use that brain “space” besides random fact keeping. Attention spans may be shortend, but only because the brain realizes valuable information when it needs to now. I feel our “brains” no longer feel the need to hold onto useless facts because it is better able to categorize and interpret information.

I am looking forward to reading everyone else’s’ opinions on this, as I find it truly fascinating discourse and food for thought.

I agree and disagree with Prensky. I agree that today’s students are “Digital Natives, they are not just comfortable with technology, it is a part of them. They interact with each other more comfortably through technology then they do face-to-face. They have never known a world where the answers to every question they have is not at their fingertips. They don’t need to memorize much of anything any more. The world is fast moving and they are at ease with all of it.

I agree that the rest of us or “Digital Immigrants” we have varying levels of comfort many of us have only a slight accent, but others of us maybe eager learners of this new language but we speak with a heavy accent. We find today’s world chaotic and stressful. We love our few minutes of quiet book reading. But I’m not certain we are truly that different.

I agree that as educators we need to change our strategies and lessons to make them more appealing to these Digital Natives. I think that all great educators have been those teachers that found ways to make material relevant to their audience. They tapped into the interests of their students; they brought their subject into the world of their students. I don’t think anything has really changed other than technology is the key link between the two worlds. Students in their basic make-up are still the same as they always have been. The cliques in high school are still the same. The struggle with popularity is still the same. Students fall in love and suffer from broken hearts all the same. The difference is how all of this is communicated. I think that students are more open and comfortable with exposing themselves and their thoughts through mass communication.

This new generation is once again using the written word much more that my generation. We spoke on the phone, watched TV and had sleepovers. I am much more comfortable expressing my thoughts orally. Today’s students text, blog, tweet, facebook, and instant message each other. Much of their communication is abbreviated but it is still the use of the written word. They are more comfortable expressing themselves in writing. As a result their oral communication skills are suffering. I agree that we need to introduce technology into our classrooms and into all new teachers pedagogy’s but we also need to help our students acquire new skills. Students need to be able to concentrate on one thing for a period of time; we need all of our future surgeons to have this skill. They need to learn to block out the outside world and concentrate. I have observed in my current job that most young people have trouble communicating orally in formal settings. Environments where these skills are needed may be diminishing but they still exist and we need to help our students develop these skills.

What I have found is that students don’t think deeply about most of what they are learning. As they have so much information at their disposal they seem less analytical, reflective. Prensky touch on this topic as well. I thought his point about instructor debriefing was brilliant. I think that if we incorporate Digital Game-Based learning in our lessons it is vital to walk our students through the process of reflecting on their learning. This is a skill that we need to help them develop so that our society is progressive and always improving. The role of the teacher is no longer to disseminate information, which our students can get with a click of a button; it is now our job to help them learn how to use this information to improve themselves and the world around them.

In reading both articles, Digital Natives, Digital Immigragants Parts I & II by Mark Prensky, I reflected on both, my Special Ed. students and the students I work with in the general education setting. How do these students differ when it comes to technology? Do Special Education students have a harder time with technology than their peers who are not labeled, and does this cause them to not enjoy technology as much as their peers within the general ed classrooms? Based on my own observation that all students learn differently and have different modes that are effective for them, especially special ed. students, I would say no. All of my students, regardless of being special ed. or not have a very strong attraction to computers, the internet, video games, and any new technology that comes their way. When working in the special education classroom I notice that students will work extra hard to earn the ten minutes of free time they get on the computer at the end of their session, as such when asking students within the school what their favorite class is, almost all reply computers. This leads me to believe that many of the points that Mark Prensky makes in his articles are true.
Prensky argues that there is a divide between students and teachers due to technology. Students are, what he calls, “Digital Natives,” that is they are born and raised in what is called the technology era and teachers are, what he calls “Digital Immigrants,” because we may be living in the digital era now, but we were not born into it, therefore our brains are not wired for learning in the same manner as our students. So since our students are so accustom to technology and we are not, are we teaching students using methods that worked for us and not for them? Prensky would say yes.
I would have to agree with Pensky’s findings. There is somewhat of a divide between us, the “Digital Immigrants” and our students, the “Digital Natives.” Our students are growing in a culture that we have to learn to adapt to. This doesn’t mean it’s not possible, but we have to be open to it. Prensky writes, “Research by social psychologists shows that people who grow up in different cultures do not just think about different things, they actually think differently. The environment and culture in which people are raised affects and even determines many of their thought processes.”
This means that since our students are being raised in a culture surrounded by technology, then the only way to get to them is to learn the culture too. I remember when I was in high school in 1997, we learned to type on type writers even though computers were already in most of our households and we used them to type our school papers. I was frustrated and wondering why teachers can get with the new days. That must be how are students are feeling now. They are growing more and more accustom to using technology in every aspect of their lives, but when they are at school they use minimal technology. I can say for the special education classroom that I work in, we don’t really use any technology. All day our students come in for individualized instruction and after they get their lesson they do worksheet after worksheet to try and drill it into their brains, and every day I hear, “this is boring” or “I am so bored.” After reading the articles by Prensky, all I could think was, I would be bored too if I were them.
Prensky also argues that through extensive research on the brain we have learned that our brains continue to grow and reorganize throughout our lifetimes. However to reorganize our brains it takes hours of continuously doing the same thing to produce that change. “Scientific Learning’s Fast ForWard program requires students to spend 100 minutes a day, 5 days a week, for 5 to 10 weeks to create desired changes, because it takes sharply focused attention to rewire a brain.” This is exactly what our students have done and why their brains work differently. They have reorganized their brains through the use of technology by spending hours a day using technology one way or another; computer games, video games, or surfing the internet. They are used to this lifestyle, yet as teachers we are not using this to our benefit. We have this great teaching tool right in front of us, we know that students would respond and pay attention for much longer, so all we need to do now is use technology in our classrooms.

Today’s learners are not very different then those of the past as far as the way they learn. I don’t believe “our students have changed radically” (Prensky, 2001) Sure the world in which our students are learning is ever changing, but I wouldn’t go as far as to say that they learn differently. Today’s digital technologies are a huge influence on our students’; however I can’t see how they can physically alter the human brain. I see these influences as being more of change in etiquette as far as what has been deemed expectable in society rather then a shift in learning styles and learning. I believe students are influenced by digital technologies in terms of accessing data and information. These advances provide instant gratification as today’s learners are able to access a plethora of information from an array of resources, which learners of the past were not able to access. I think our students today still face the same issues as those of the past but are exposed to such issues at a much quicker and younger rate. I do feel technology has helped enhance the experience of students in terms of allowing students to venture out and find information in terms of their personal areas of interests and allowed students to enhance their learning.
Today’s learners are faced with so much more information at a much younger age; however I do not believe today’s students, “think and process information fundamentally differently form their predecessors.” (Prensky, 2001) I do feel technology has altered thinking and the rate of processing information as students are again accustomed to instant information at their disposal and any given time. I feel technology has given students and excuse to be impatient. The matter and speed to which these new generation of students are receiving the information is ever changing. But how they process the information I feel still reminds the same.
I do feel that day’s learners “choose not to pay attention” with so much technology to divert to why would they? I don’t believe that they have “short attention spans-for the old ways of learning” (Prensky, 2001) as one professor has stated, I believe the students are no longer held accountable for their own learning. I believe all the responsibility is now falling on the teacher, not only to provide test scores, but to also keep the students entertained while learning.

Although Prensky makes some accurate points about students in the 21st century, some of his ideas are also hard to adopt 100%. I think it is true that this generation is far more “fluent” than older generations in the language of technology. It does affect their everyday culture and how they approach learning. If today’s educators, the “immigrants” learned to exploit these use of technology for educational purposes we may again engage our students in lesson. However, I think one of Prensky’s best questions is “Is it that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, or that they choose not to?” Compared to much of what today’s youth experiences through films, television and video games, the classroom may seem boring; but it doesn’t have to be. Teachers can enhance the classroom content with use of technology. Ultimately, I feel there needs to be a happy medium (no pun intended) that brings in the best of both extremes, the old school pencil and paper with the new keyboard and internet.

* I accidently only posted my first paragraph

Another great question Prensky evokes is "Should the Digital Native students learn the old ways, or should their Digital Immigrant educators learn the new?" Well, both should happen right? The traditional school model has worked for some time now, and although some practices are outdated and could use an upgrade, the methodology behind it works. There is some good in simply sitting down and focusing your attention on a solitary non-technological task. At the same time, integrating interactive educationally based activities that use technology is just as beneficial. I think presentation and approach is what matters most. Today’s students feel comfortable utilizing digital tools, I think it is a matter of making today’s educators feel confident as well. Personally, I become intimidated with technology at times, especially when I’m in front of a group of students.