Are You A Digital Immigrant Or A Digital Native?

I would describe myself as someone who finds technology both exciting and somewhat scary. I love my Apple Mac and my new iPad and would be lost without them. I’m useless with my mobile phone, either leaving it at home or forgetting to switch it on. I’ve got a Twitter account which I use mainly to follow-up other people’s fascinating links. I’ve tried Face Book but can’t quite get my head round it. As a retired educationalist I think that technology is the way forward if we want to make teaching and learning relevant in the 21st Century. A chap called Marc Prensky has coined the terms ‘Digital Natives’ & ‘Digital Immigrants’ these groups are defined as:

Digital technology has been the norm, part of everyday life, for many years now, so logically there’s a whole generation of individuals for whom concepts such as the Internet and wireless technology are just humdrum, because they’ve never lived in a world where they didn’t exist. These are the so-called digital natives, generally anyone born from 1980 onwards. Digital immigrants are their antithesis, being the folks born earlier who, either reluctantly or enthusiastically, have adapted to the digital world and incorporated its tools into their lives.

We undoubtedly live in a digital age but there are still many who don’t want to fully accept this. Did you know that:

  • In February 2010 Twitter were reporting that they were having 50 million tweets per day, that’s 600 per second! I find this exciting – the thought that so many people, across the globe, can have access to such instantaneous networking.
  • At the same time Face Book were reporting 60 million status updates per day, that’s 700 per second. Whatever my thoughts on Face Book that’s a heck of a lot of people ‘talking’ to one another.
  • Google had 34,000 searches per second, that’s 121 million per hour, 3 billion per day! I use Google all the time if I want information, but you need to stop and think, “Who did we ask before Google?”

In my 21st Century Learning blog I wrote about my 5-year-old nephew and the difference he faced between learning at school and learning with technology. Next week I’m off to a big Handheld Learning Conference in London & then the BETT Show  (BETT is the largest education technology exhibition in the world.) I know I will come away both excited and having had my mind blown to pieces. (I will blog more about the experiences next week.)

My present technological dilemma is whether or not to embrace ebooks? I’ve downloaded some on to my iPad and they are great, but …… do I prefer reading a ‘real’ book or an electronic one? At the moment I’m torn between the two. I know that there are people who will say that there is nothing better than the feel and the smell of real books and, to an extent I agree. But times are changing. I use a dishwasher at home, because it is easier, I never say that I would rather wash up by hand because, “I like the touch and the  smell of the soap suds and the feel of the dirty dishes between my fingers.” Whether we like it or not more and more people are switching to ebooks and to reading the newspaper on their computer, iPad, mobile phone, etc.

My next problem is – ‘paper & pencil’ or ‘iPad’? Should I get rid of my various journals, throw away my pens and pencils and use my iPad all the time to scribble down my notes. It will allow me to easily sort my notes, have as many different journals as I want, save these notes to the ‘cloud’ so that I could then access them anywhere from any computer. But ….. I like the feel of a pencil or pen, there is something therapeutic about making intelligible marks on paper, I can cross out and doodle and there is a strange sense of achievement when you look back at the number of pages you have filled in a writing session. For now I think I will stick with both.

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7 Responses to Are You A Digital Immigrant Or A Digital Native?

  1. JennyD says:

    I’m an immigrant. No surprise there being that I’m old and gray but there was a question you asked that really caught me. You asked who did we ask before google. I sat here and thought and thought and came up with a wide eyed I don’t know. I can’t even remember what I asked. Now I can’t decide if we didn’t ask too much of anything because we were caught up in our own regular worlds and used to it, or is it that we ask LOTS now because we have the access to an entire world’s resources. Great question.
    As to the books, I have both and love both, but as to keeping notes electronically, well….I’m giving second thoughts to that now because the other day I was writing a card to a friend in the hospital when all of a sudden I looked at what I’d written and wondered who in God’s name wrote in such a scribble. I ‘used’ to have this very nice handwriting and now after typing for so long, I can hardly believe it’s mine. Yuck.
    Mike, I am very looking forward to hearing about the conference. Sounds fascinating.
    Have a good trip and be safe 😀

    • Mike says:

      Hi Jenny.
      Like you I found the Google question fascinating the first time I heard it.
      When I was younger I suppose things were, in some ways, much easier. If your teacher said he wanted you to go home & find out ……..? (Which didn’t happen very often.) You would either ask your parents or extended family who lived close by or, as a last resort, search through the old set of children’s encyclopedias which had been handed down from an older uncle. Another accepted font of all knowledge was, of course, your teacher. I now realize that in fact they probably knew very little but always acted as if they knew everything.
      More importantly, as children, we asked lots of questions & then went out on mini adventures to see if we could find the answers. What happens if you hit a wasps nest with a stick? If you fall out of a tree will you break your arm? If you put your finger in an electric socket will it make you jump? Do angry dogs bite? Is kissing girls nice? (I found that question took a long time & lots of practice to get to an answer!)
      Asking Google is nice & quick – but nowhere near as much fun.

  2. penpusherpen says:

    hands up to being and immigrant… and I just love all this technology, I think I read or heard somewhere that there’s no new inventions to be found only upgrades of old ideas now?.. or something on those lines.
    I have embraced Twitter, can’t abide Facebook, but do understand that all these social networking sites fill a need we never knew we had as a society? 🙂
    I am a GOOGLE girl, and you made me think really hard ( ouch!!) about where I found answers before, and I suppose books?… Encyclopedias, dictionaries and the like, although asking what’s JohnnY Depp doing next isn’t listed in any book I know about, so magazines giving almost outdated info, rather than instant satisfaction from a question typed in and answered immediately…
    Like you I think I’ll stick with both options to high tech, you never know, what about sudden loss of power to our wonder machines? back to the drawing board eh?..,
    Great blog Mike… xPenx

    • Mike says:

      Thanks for your comments Pen.
      I really must take a leaf out of your book and have another look at Twitter.
      My eldest son (31 years old going on 12!) not quite a Digital Native, but very close, has just got Kinect for Christmas. He tweeted that he couldn’t understand how it worked so assumed it was ‘magic’! I’ve just had a go & he’s right, it is magic.
      I love technology.

  3. SethPopowich says:

    Well ::cough::, I guess that makes me a ‘Digital Immigrant’. Never less, I have embraced the advancement of technology, but I do prefer to keep it simple. I do not run out and buy the latest gadgets or download the latest applications. I do understand that with the development of technology, the speed at which we can achieve our goals is greatly increased. Connecting with people all over the world is by far more achievable with the development of the humble telephone, fax, cellphone and the Internet. Apps such as Email, VoIP, and Instant Messaging have made things so much easier.
    The developments in technology in the home and at work have made our lives much more comfortable, and enable us to have things from light and heat… to watching the latest movies or shopping from home. Traveling has become more efficient and more pleasurable as airliners have in-flight entertainment. If we dont like what they’re showing, we can always plug ourselves into our mp3 player or other mobile device.

    • SethPopowich says:

      Technology is something that one has to embrace, because it will only become more and more prominent in our lives. If you don’t start to embrace technology, then it will eventually take over your life even though you don’t want it too…and that is a bad introduction to tech.

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