Who are you calling a digital immigrant?

I was reading Marc Prensky’s Shaping Tech for the Classroom and I’ve got three immediate reactions:

  1. I’m really lucky that the digital barriers do not exist in my classroom (I’m not sure that they don’t exist in my school)
  2. Prensky and  Dr Ruben Puentedura seem to be on the same page
  3. I don’t want to be put in the digital immigrant box.

I don’t come into too much contact with luddites in my day to day work and our internet and student use of tech is about as open as could be (aside for some bandwidth hogging fire sharing sites and adult content sites). I hereby acknowledge that I am lucky to work in a tech progressive school. But part of that tech progressive includes being explicit about using technology and making steps towards effective and authentic technology implementation. I think that this is one area where Prensky’s nine year old article still seems relevant. We are always talking about how we need to be using technology to do “new things in new ways”. I can’t help but notice that the similarities between Prensky’s idea and the SAMR model are pretty significant. At least the final two stages seem very aligned to me. side by side

And in both models I can see how the movement from the third stage to the fourth can be really challenging. And what’s more I think it’s always shifting. Just a bit further out of reach. Here is how my lessons/units/projects or whatever generally plan out:

  • I start doing something new in my class in a completely new way
  • I learn about a new tool/website/platform etc
  • I re-imagine the task again.
  • And again. And again.

And this is where my third reaction comes into play. Is it possible that I am a digital native? My first real teaching job was in 2004 and while we were not in a 1:1 environment and our technology use was an intentional trip to the computer lab, using technology has been a normal and necessary part of my entire career. I recognise, value and encourage digital relationships – I don’t have a “pre-digital” accent. Don’t label me Prensky!

Now, don’t misunderstand this as over-confident. Digital native doesn’t mean that I am some kind of “new things in new ways” or “redefinition” guru. Far far from it. Seriously.

But am I more willing to journey towards it? Are there other teachers out there who aren’t happy with the digital immigrant label?

To be perfectly honest I don’t agree with everything that Prensky has to offer and I’m sure I’ll find a reason to rant about him later. But I will say that there is no denying his closing statement in Shaping Tech for the ClassroomWe need to keep doing this. 

So, let’s not just adopt technology into our schools. Let’s adapt it, push it, pull it, iterate with it, experiment with it, test it, and redo it, until we reach the point where we and our kids truly feel we’ve done our very best. Then, let’s push it and pull it some more. And let’s do it quickly, so the 22nd century doesn’t catch us by surprise with too much of our work undone.

A big effort? Absolutely. But our kids deserve no less. 

3 comments to “Who are you calling a digital immigrant?”
3 comments to “Who are you calling a digital immigrant?”
  1. I feel the same way as you Ange – a digital native although according to the definitions that’s not so. For a long time now, I’ve had a difficult time with Prensky’s “digital native, immigrant” terms – because one doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re able to successfully, meaningfully & authentically integrate technology into learning with your students. (I feel a blog post stewing here ……….). I like how you’ve connected your own thoughts with the reading for this week.

  2. Hi Ange

    In some ways, I’ve been in a bubble reaching for Tech in my teaching without thinking too much about it. I was in a 1:1 school in 2007. We never really talked Technology. We just got on with it.

    After I joined Coetail I was surprised to read about pushback happening in society. It seems that when we assign labels like “digital immigrant, digital native” that we’re making a dividing line and separating people into two camps according to age.

    Sometimes it’s better to talk less and to make less of things but just to get on with it.

    It’s great to know you have so much freedom in your school to do so.


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