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Digital Natives and the Concept of Nature or Nurture

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When Marc Prensky ( wrote about Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants in his 2001 work, he provided people with a nomenclature to categorize users of technology by both perspective and adoption willingness in a socially acceptable way.  Some might say that he actually provided us with language that describes/d the generation gap that has become increasingly evident with the speed in which technology and the world changes.

In a video entitled, “Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner” by the MacArthur Foundation (2010), Nichole Pinkard, who was then a visiting associate professor at DePaul University, said, “I don’t think any kid is born digitally native.  I think kids are born consuming media, but I don’t think kids are born producing media.”  Producing media would be one of the characteristics, though certainly not the only, of a digital native.  Pinkard brings up an interesting point in which schools need to consider carefully.  Just because the students we teach are part of a generation that is considered Digital Native, we must be careful to assume:

(1) that every student is a Digital Native

(2) that every student has experienced the same exposure and practice of Digital Native skills

Because the nomenclature provides us an easy classification in which to group people (either Digital Native or Digital Immigrant), it is easy for us to assume the those we classify one way or the other, have very similar skills.  On the contrary, a student may be an avid consumer of digital media, yet this does not mean that they are strong producers of digital media.

It is important for us to remember that our students, even in the area of technology, come to us with a wide spectrum of skills development.  Though we may hear from a variety of sources that children today are born with a technology skills, it is not actually true.  These skills are developed, over time, through a variety of experiences.

Rethinking Learning: The 21st Century Learner (2010): MacArthur Foundation.

Marc, P. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816