Digital Wanderers

Thursday was “Take your Child to Work” day.  At one point during the day, I sat in a meeting with our school counselor and her adorable son.  He honored me by letting me sit next to him as he slipped on his “Beats” headphones and pulled out his Ipod.  The other teacher sitting at the table with us is interested in flipping her reading class and we’ve discussed piloting some flipped lessons before the school year is over.

We couldn’t even focus on the meeting.  We watched in amazement as he deftly swiped through his games and music and muttered quietly to himself as he worked.  He is so totally a digital native.  Oh, did I mention he’s five years old?

This morning, just before I wrote this post, my 23 year old daughter texted me about some paperwork I need to look at concerning an apartment she’s going to rent.  I’m completely drugged with allergy medication and managed, somehow, to download, check, sign and send back the paperwork to her.  Then I texted her and asked if she received the email.

Yeah, I’m trying to download it to them on my phone right now.  Its taking forever.

Chick… forward the email, will ya?

(I can see her smacking herself against her head)

Oh yeah, duh.

I know I’m a digital immigrant, finding my way, but dang it woman… are you, too?

I laugh at both instances of navigating through the digital maze that is the internet.  The calm collected way my new little friend worked his way through things, explaining to me what he was doing and why, the way my daughter, who at one point in her digital career racked up more than 4000 text messages in one month (I never did figure that one out) who keeps forgetting how simple it can be to send an email.  Then there’s me, wandering aimlessly through it all learning as I go, wanting desperately to be a native one day.

According to Marc Prensky, I never will be.  I can understand his argument for my “accent” and the way I am accustomed to teaching and learning.  Anyone over the age of about 35 probably has the same issue.  Yet, I want to be “naturalized” and fit in without making a lot of mistakes out there.  If I work at it, I just might be able to do it.  

There are schools full of students not learning the way they know how to learn, because the teachers are stuck in the ways of the past.  This is not an indictment of who we are as teachers, as much as a look at why a lot of teachers seem to be ok with that, and don’t WANT to learn how to teach to a new breed of student.  Its a detriment to the students.  We can’t wander forever.

I ended up sending my daughter’s email.  Apparently, she’s more of an immigrant than I thought.  She’ll be teaching preschoolers in the fall.  I suggested quietly that she work on her emailing skills among other things. She laughed and told me how one of the kids in her class taught her how to do something on the computer the other day.  We both sighed.  We’ve a long way to go.  Don’t we all?

Do you consider yourself a digital native, a digital immigrant or someone just wandering around trying to figure it all out?  What have your students taught you?  What can you teach them?

3 Replies to “Digital Wanderers”

  1. As a learner and teacher of languages, I know worrying about accent fluency is a waste of time, even if achievable, is not really that important. Where would the Gabor sisters have been without their Hungarian accents? What really matters is intelligibility and being able to communicate. It’s a hard lesson to get through to learners though.


  2. Prensky is wrong, digital nativity does not exist.
    Young people are not born with some special gifts or skills. They did learn some skills, and did not learn some other yet. Evolution is not that fast, a new generation does not get some special knowledge or skill by birth.
    Why do children need to go to school, why do they need education, if they are natives already?


    1. Prensky never suggested children were born with special gifts of skills. What he means when he speaks of being a digital native is, the ease in which each passing generation adapts to the technology presented to them…It has nothing to do with evolution or special knowledge.

      Here’s an example: Many years ago, after burning out yet another turntable, my cousin and I bought my grandmother a cassette player and told her we’d transfer all of her vinyl to tape. She never did get the hang of using that tape deck. It wasn’t native to her, yet, for my cousin and I, it was just the cool new tool out there. She ended up buying another turntable and continued to play her vinyl. She wasn’t interested in becoming an immigrant in the land of new technology.

      the same thing is happening now and will continue to occur in the future. I have seen 3 year olds with tablets and been amazed. They know what to do with them; they figure it out. Its something “native” to them.


Comments are closed.