This post is in response to a prompt located on Virtual Meanderings: Examining Generational Differences
In week two of EDTECH 537 Blogging in the Classroom, I read three articles that presented and responded to the theory of digital natives and the impact of generational differences in instructional design (Prensky, 2001; McKenzie, 2007; and Reeves, 2008).
Initially, I was struck by the negative image of “digital immigrants” that is portrayed by Prensky (2001). Prensky (2001) states, “Digital Immigrants typically have very little appreciation for these new skills that the Natives have acquired and perfected through years of interaction and practice.” I find this statement about both the Natives and the Immigrants to be false. Many teachers are motivated by new technologies and the skills that their students enter the classroom with. They strive to learn more about how students are using technology and to motivate them by integrating technology in a positive way. They are seeking professional development to help in this process and spending extra hours outside of the teaching day to do so.
I also disagree that the Digital Natives have “perfected” the practice and interaction of digital skills. As an online teacher for the past four years, I find this to be a huge misconception. Yes, growing up in this digital age does expose students to a variety of technologies and skills. However, the way students are using these may not necessarily be for educational or research purposes. Therefore, the skills that they have might apply to using Twitter or Instagram for social purposes, but not apply to the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are needed to further engage in and manipulate the technologies.
McKenzie (2007) contradicts Prensky’s statements and outlines the false representations of Digital Natives and Immigrants. Prensky’s main points lack research and are presented in a negative tone (McKenzie, 2007). I appreciated McKenzie’s careful analysis and rebuttal to Prensky, especially his discussion on digital deprivation. As a new mom, I find many articles on the harmful impact of technology and digital devices in the growth and development of children. I think it is important to develop and encourage a healthy balance of technology and non-technology based learning activities in young learners.
Reeves (2008) presents discussion about the research behind generational differences. I was surprised in his findings, as he summarized the weakness in generational difference research. He emphasized the need to focus on the learner as a starting point for instructional design and their specific needs (Reeves, 2008). Instructional design begins with the needs of the learner, not the technology that will be used.
If a colleague brought digital natives into discussion, I would respond by providing them with the resources above as a starting point for discussion. Today’s learners need guidance and direction in developing critical thinking skills and problem solving skills. Having technological skills do not necessarily result in these life long learning skills. I would encourage them to focus on the learners in their classroom or educational setting and analyze the needs that they have without making broad assumptions based on generation.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf