Why “digital natives” don’t exist

Digital natives

There are no digital natives.

There, I said it. I feel better. Not that I haven’t said it before. In fact, it’s been a battle I’ve been having for nearly a decade since the term first appeared in Marc Prensky’s 1991 piece Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, which makes an interesting theoretical argument about modern students.

(One that has been dis-proven to be an accurate portrayal of college students and their studying/learning habits. The reasons are great, but the “dis-proven” nature of the argument doesn’t mean that the general theory of modern education is wrong. In fact, both can – and in this case, do – exist. I have built much of my teaching scholarship on this.)

Unfortunately, this idea – and make no mistake, this is simply a theoretical construct – was taken as reality by those in the consulting world, those who believe a 6-page paper could be translated into sellable activities.

King goes on to explain that he’s been teaching a college class on “social media” that covers setting up a WordPress blog, using Flickr, RSS, etc. He ran into static at first because, supposedly, college kids are already supposed to know these things. But of course once the class was up and running it was apparent that they didn’t already know how to do these things. “Like the rest of us, they struggle.”

My generation – the first of the so-called Digital Natives – had computers that did nothing. We hacked and kludged our way through the devices, learning to code using the tools the Digital Pioneers (like the metaphors!) created for us. This machine is simply a tool, a digital hammer, that I will use how I want.

Not for the modern student. Today’s children see this box and the software as the masters. The tools that are created dictate how and what they do.

Brad King: Shut Your Digital Native Piehole

See also my essay on generational differences.

(Photo credit: Cristóbal Cobo Romaní / CC)

1 Comment

  1. Thanks for the re-post 🙂

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