I like the analogy of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. In his 2001 article, Marc Prensky labels those of us born before the start of the digital revolution as Digital Immigrants and everyone else a Digital Natives. The analogy expresses the notion that the native knows no other way than what they have been born into and the immigrant brings predetermined experiences and ideas to new territory. Pensky’s article has been criticized for its lack of academic foundation, unsubstantiated claims, and even fictitious sources. The article is overstated and shifts focus into a justification for game-based learning, but to me it is successful in broadly addressing an important generational issue in education.
The digital immigrant educator, according to Prensky, may strive to adapt to their new surroundings, but will always retain “…an accent that is, their foot in the past.” This “accent” may cause a language barrier between teacher and student. The language analogy is reinforced when one considers that, “Kids born into any new culture learn that language easily, and forcefully resist using the old.” This divide goes beyond communication and language, however to include methodology. Digital Immigrant educators must include careful consideration of what is relevant and meaningful to the Digital Native when constructing learning strategies that engage the learner.
Whether or not students have been physiologically changed due to digital experiences remains unproven, but I have always told my students that they are who they are right now because of genetics and the accumulation of experience, digital experiences included.
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