Monday, September 9, 2013

Digital Natives Controversy

  On the topic of Prensky's concept of Digital Natives, when forced to pick a side I am against it. Although I can see both sides points. 

As a quick overview of Prensky's concepts here are the basic. Marc Prensky coined the terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants  What he meant by these terms is that in the new generation of technology and the digital explosion the general ability of the user is dependent on what generation one is apart of either Digital Immigrants (entering the realm of technology, older generation) or Digital Natives (which is being born into the era of technology). For additional information on Marc Prensky. For a quick explanation of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants, posted here is a dry but informative educational video on it (kind of ironic considering they want to promote this use of technology but their use of video is basic).

Video credit rgdinsda

Why I see both sides of the debate which is interesting because both hold valid points, for instance, this video is a great explanation of why 21st century generation likes technology, because they like immediate answers and not be bound by traditional education practices. This video is for Digital Natives.

Video credit Blackboard Inc.

By being against the idea that there is Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants as Prensky coined, I am taking the stance that there is no such thing. I think that digital fluency is more effected by interest, availability and many more points than simply ones generation.

1.) Prensky's first article is not based on fact, proof nor evidence. Marc "Prensky’s original article is merely an opinion piece" (Handley). He is writing an article not a research paper with peer review and data. He is expressing his opinions. Not to mention that he published a second article where "even Prensky himself has modified his position" (Handley) on clear sections of Native or Immigrants is not necessarily 100% true.  

2.) First off my initial thinking is who created technology in the first place? The older generation. Who teaches the current students (or the so called "Digital Natives") how to use technology in the first place. The older generation teachers. Think of all the technology class that are in schools today, starting in elementary school with computers being an enhancement  middle school and typing class, high school with digital movie making or drafting all the way to college levels with computer engineering. These classes are all taught by a person of the older generation (or the so called "Digital Immigrates"). To me it makes since that Digital Native-ness does not exist. 

Photo credit Mrmaxenglish
3.) More thoughts on this subject is how could birth timing of a whole generation create such a massive revolution? Did all of our mothers decide to take a pill that inserted knowledge about technology into their unborn child so that the whole generation could speak Digital Native without an accent. I know that is sassy but it creates a more obvious answer that generation does not dictate what people know. 
For an example think about women. The classic women is the home-keeper and knows how to cook, right? Now just because the person is a woman does not mean she has the recipes encoded on her DNA. The classic women is a lady that took the time to learn how to cook from her mother and respected ladies in the community. Parallel this example to Digital Natives. 
Photo credit
Just because someone was born after 1980 and grew up with technology around them, that does not mean that they have technology knowledge encoding in their DNA. It had to be learned from an elder who most likely was a person of the older generation. 

4.) This also bring up the point that although the younger generation grew up with technology around them, does not mean that universally each child born after 1980 had technology available to them. Availability is a key factor to digital fluency. A child may live in rural areas where the spread of technology took longer than in urbanized places. A second child may live with one parent and finances are tight and no money to buy technology. These children compared to the child that may have a parents who is interested, have money to and do buy the digital gadgets for themselves and therefore that child has early exposure to technology. These three children could have been born in the same year and had different lives when it came to technology as well as the variable initial interest. The first may not care in the least bit, the second could envoy that technology the is available but out of their reach and the third child could be oblivious. This is all just thinking within the bounds of developed nations. This shows that their are many different factors that accumulate and show that Digital Natives could not possibly exist.
5.) This also junctures to the thought of under-developed countries. Do the children that are born in third world countries have the same technology understanding as those in first world countries? According to Prensky, the Digital Natives are those who were born after 1980, there is no stipulation as to what  country one was born into or raised. This makes me think that it is not true. For more in depth statistic about internet usage and the digital divide in different age groups and locations here is Pondering the Digital Divide Across the Globe. Also in the graph below is a graph of cell phone subscribers in developed nations verses developing nations verse the world as a whole. As show, the distribution of purely mobile phones is not equal so how could technology be universal enough to have Digital Natives across the world? I do not think there can be. 

Photo Credit

6.)  Not to mention how the families that have technology uses technology. In "some families computers are seen as valuable educational tools and parents actively engage their children in their use, in others computers are only used for the purposes of entertainment and parents restrict their use" (Handley). This shows that technology usage can be different for different families in different places. In thinking that factors of geographic location, affluence to afford modern technology, opinion and family values come into play with technology fluency as well as many others. 

7.) Another point is interest  If someone is interested in learning anything, that is the drive that pushes personal learning forward. If a young person is not interested in technology, to them it may seem too much of a hassle to update their technology, they will not have a strong pursuit to learn about technology and integrate it into their lives. Same as the case for the older generation in reversed. If an adult wants to learn about technology the can and will. Some of the masters of technology are from the older generation. Such as famous master like Steve Jobs (CEO of Apple Inc), born in 1955, Bill Gates (founder of Microsoft), born in 1955 as well, and Larry Page (co-founder of Google Inc.) was born in 1973. All of these innovative, well-known men are supposedly labeled a Digital Immigrates by Prensky when many people would argue that these people are the masters of technology not the younger generation of Digital Natives.
Photo credit                                                                 Photo credit Masaru Kamikura                       Photo credit

8.) This point melds into personal interest as well as job positions. Some adults have needed to integrate technology to improve their job or company in some way, an example teachers, or the new flood of new jobs that are technology based, such as the computer technicians at any business. These select adults are considered the professionals in technology but that is based on interest and job placement and not a generational issue.  

Here are eight points that I use in the discussion about Marc Prensky's model of Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants to prove the point that they do not exist in society.

Handley Zoe. (2011) Digital Natives: Fact or Fiction? Oxford University Press

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