This is the first post of two, where I will write about ICT in society and work life. The posts areparts of a course in ICT and learning. Both posts will be about the termdigitalnatives.The firstpost will focus on the term digital natives in society, the second will be about digital natives,learning and education.Digital natives is a term and concept Marc Prenskyfirstcameupwith.Similar terms could bedigitalchildren,neo-millenialsor 21stcenturylearners. They try to explain how the 21st centuryis changing how humans think, act and learn. The change in society also brings change inhumans. I have chosen to use the term digital natives, because it clearly helps us to think aboutthe difference between age, cultures and the digital revolution. As more and more people becomeaccustomed to these changes, it may be better to use the term 21st century learners, or digitalwisdom(there are some challenges with the term digital natives which I’ll come back to). But inmy opinion, digital natives is very usable for talking about some of the concepts of the 21stcentury and learning. The concept of digital natives is also easy to grasp, even if there may besome problems in looking at a concept for how children are.When we talk about digital natives it is common to compare them to digital immgrants. Digitalimmigrants are all of us born before 1982. We were raised in a world with TV, radio andcomputers with worse graphics than today’s mobiles. The media were low-tech compared totoday’s media, and we didn’t have the rang of different media offers like today. Most of the timewe played outside and inside, using our imagination in real spaces. Learning was physical andanalog. We learnt by talking and reading magazines and books. When reading we got used to alot of linear text. One claims that digital immigrants are used to text over graphics and sound, butgrowing up with cartoons and eventually computer games (I am 36 and still fairly young, even Ifeel old writing this) I am not certain about this. Information from media was controlled andlimited compared to the many multimedia sources of information today. Basically it came fromTV, radio and newspapers besides teachers, friends and family. The information was usuallytransmissioned frominformationcentresto the public. That was basically the world digitalimmigrants grew up in. But what about the digital natives?My seven year old daughter is becoming a digital native. When she watches TV she has severalchannels to choose from. She can play on one of the two computers and two iPhones and use theDVD in the living room or in her room. We haven’t got a console yet, but that’s just a matter of time (we’re thinking about buying Wii after the summer). Digital natives are used to andsurrounded by different kinds of media and communication tools. Compared to digitalimmigrants they live in a high-tech world with different media opportunities like Internet andhigh-tech games. They like to work fast (Prensky calls it twitch-speed”) and multi-task, for example by watching TV, texting a message on their mobile and checking Facebook on their computers at the same time.Digital natives spend many hours each week online where they may
communicate, collaborate, produce, remix and create. They prefer being“theactors” insteadof “theaudience”. Digital natives prefer getting instant access to their information when they needit (“just in time”). The information may be non-linear, they may jump from website to website onthe Internet with their “hypertext minds”. Digital immigrants grew up with informationpreliminarily coming from information centres, but digital natives also get information fast fromother individual users (for example blogs) and collectives (for example wikis). They also prefer images, sounds and videos before text.An important part of the concept of the digital natives is that digital natives speak the “language”of the 21st century. They are natives in this world, and can cope with many of the newchallenges. A digital immigrant may adjust to being a native, but most immigrants will alwayshave an “accent”, which may result to problems adjusting to the new life, and in understandingthe digital natives. A challenge in schools may be that the digital immigrants are teaching thedigital natives, without really understanding the “language”.There are some problems with the concept of the digital natives, and I would like to name a fewof them in this post:For a start, all children are different. We know that both multiple intelligences and socioculturalinfluence is important for a child’s development. All kids do not fit the digital natives’ concept.Some are good at using digital media, and some aren’t even that interested. The digital kidsconcept shouldn’t develop into a “one shoe fits all”. We can’t and shouldn’t expect kids to beequal in how they think, act and learn.Another problem is that many of us who are born before 1982, are very accustomed to usingmedia. It doesn’t feel like another language, and in my opinion it isn’t either. We have grown upin a different time, but that doesn’t make us automatically worse at speaking the “new language”.A final problem is that the concept of the digital native may lure us into thinking that the kids arebetter using digital media than they really are. They may be very good at communicating andtexting fast, playing games and creating short videos, but that is not all there is to it. An exampleis that being good at using digital media means accessing and evaluating information on theInternet. In my experience this may be difficult for many children. They may also have the needfor help in using content-related use of digital media, and we can help them here even if wereally are digital immigrants.Even if there are some problems in the concept of the digital natives, I think the concept is easyto grasp and tells me more about today’s children and how they think, act and learn.Finally, a short video on digital natives:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18bDUFQoIpUThat was my first post. The next post will be about the digital natives, learning and eucation.How may the concept influence what we do in school?