4662 Week 1: Digital Native or Digital Immigrant?

Being a digital immigrant has been a blessing as well as a curse. As a teen, I was writing school reports with the help of actual encyclopedias when I wasn't trying to beat Mike Tyson on the original Nintendo game system. In my early 20's, the internet was just entering the mainstream as my classmates and I finished our undergrads.

As hybrids, I believe our immigrant status bridges a divide between detached users that aren't haven't adapted to a digital environment and members of N-Gen that grew up immersed in one. Marc Prensky's article points to a divide created by lack of natural segue from analog to digital over an inadequate period of time. He states that teachers don't share common technological ground with students thus leaving the students ill-prepared for a digital job market. One student quoted by Prensky claimed he quit an advanced technological school because the teachers were reading from textbooks. While that may be a dramatic example, it brings to light the need for crossover in order to prepare students for the market. The immigrant status allows us to act as a conduit between the two groups telling one about the advantages of social networking and electronic interface while explaining to the other the benefits of a face-to-face sales call instead of an email campaign.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project shows that the number of teens utilizing digital technology is overwhelming for teachers trying to communicate and "keep up" with students that complain of having to "power down" when they get to school. With this and Prensky's argument in mind, the question becomes "is the educational approach effective when the technological recipient may be unavailable to the "analog" provider?"

The NPR podcast How Multitasking Affects Human Learning discusses a research project comparing studying with minimal distractions to studying while actively multi-tasking via texting or social networking. The focus was on brain activity in the two separate scenarios followed by testing on the studying material. The results pointed to a far more effective environment when multi-tasking was not involved.

With these results, and the Pew's findings that most digital age students do not consider texting and instant messaging the same as writing, it seems the solution to communication between the immigrant and native remains somewhere in between. There will always be some people unadapted to technology. However, they will increasingly need the services of the digital user and vice-versa. This is where the digital immigrant, cursed with wanting to move more thoughtfully (slower), but blessed with pre-digital wisdom, helps to bridge the gap.

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This page contains a single entry by published on January 25, 2010 6:59 AM.

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