Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Digital Natives: Fact Or Fiction?

When Prensky first published his paper on Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, it seemed to capture peoples imagination. Certainly, the name and the concept spread quickly thrugh the education community and the phrase (and explanation) was widely quoted.

"G" is for Geeked Out
Originally uploaded by DefMo
Other people expounded similar ideas with different names, e.g. the Net Generation, Homo Zappiens and Generation C, however, the term Digital Native seemed to spread with extraordinary rapidity and to take hold widely.

Yet now there seems to be a backlash. People are questionning the concept, including some of the people who helped spread the word in the first place. However, it seems to me, that there must have been something in the idea in the first place for it to have captured people's attention and imagination so effectively.

It struck me that our PGDE(S) course might be a good place to look for evidence to support or undermine the Digital Native thesis as it is a large course (currently over 400 students) with a wide spread of ages. Also, I have six years worth of questionnaire data on students' ICT skills and their attitude to ICT in education. I am therefore trying to write an dissertation on Digital Natives: Fact Or Fiction using evidence from the PGDE(S) course and background reading and student interview.

I would welcome any comments you have or suggestions for what I should read to inform my thinking. All thoughts, facts, wild speculation or considered opinion welcome.


Mr Jones said...

Any generalisation about a whole generation will always be only partially true. But that doesn't make it valueless. Many of my colleagues in their 50's are still fundamentally afraid of computers - worried that they will break them if they hit the wrong button. None of the probationers I have met in the last few years have been like that. Not sure what that says about the digital natives/immigrants narrative.

Kenneth... said...

I've never liked the analogy or the terminology of Prensky on this topic. I have always felt that it was border-line racism and was never happy with the binary nature of the classification (don't get me started on left and right brain nonsense).

I still remember the SETT presentation that Derek Robertson did about using i-toy cameras and dance mats. At one point as he was trying to demo the dance mat he was unable to calibrate it and a young man in the audience explained he needed to be off the mat to calibrate it successfully. At that point the majority of the audience made a mocking noise towards the techno-informed young man for knowing this fact. An example of the digitally-ignorant mocking the digitallly-informed.

jim henderson said...

David at an inset with 60 probationer teachers last year in Highland I asked how many had social media profiles. Over 40 of them used SMS regularly. However when I opened up the discussion about using similar types of technology in learning and teaching, this mostly drew a blank. While new entries to the teaching profession might be familiar with new technology and mobile devices. Their experience of this are still within a personal and social realm. Maybe that is a conversation you are already having with your students. I would also add a rider here, in that some of the most enthusiastic and effective users of ICT that I come across in schools is being used and promoted by our more "mature" teachers.