As a middle school technology educator, the term digital native often makes its way into discussions with colleagues. Often these discussions lead to assumptions that acquisition of knowledge is much more natural with the use of technology. While the accessibility functions that new technology presents for student learners has dramatically changed the educational landscape, the question does remain, are students more equipped and better off than the methods used in the past? Pensky (2001) defined digital natives as “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet (p. 1). Pensky’s definition of digital natives was over a decade and a half ago, and the term has become relevant, especially with college students. Pensky also defines those outside of the digital native branding as digital immigrants or those born before or without the technologies of natives. Pensky (2001), stated “today’s older folk were “socialized” differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain (p. 2). One can infer that Pensky’s statement characterizes that all learners, including the older ones, may have difficulty with the acquisition of technology skills that digital natives do not. Flawed in Pensky’s assertions is the presentation of evidence to support rather straightforward opinions. While I do agree that there are generations that acquire knowledge and socialize under different methods in the past, this does not mean that digital immigrants are any less equipped. This statement can be pointed at the experiences one may have with the BSU program faculty, which in my experience, all faculty was digital immigrants—and beyond capable in the areas Pensky mentions.
Reeves (2008) defines the digital native generation as the Net Generation, and poses the following question’s “Will members of the Net Generation arrive in the workplace with advanced technology skills and strong information literacy as some have predicted? Or are their technology skills shallow and superficial? Is their information literacy limited in fundamental ways that limits their powers to reflect, reasons, and make decisions?” (p.13). The answer to these questions is undetermined because adequate research has yet to present a unified theory. This does not mean that one cannot make an argument for the longterm benefits of technology, but without adequate research, the debate will continue.
As a technology educator, one should be mindful of the generations and experiences they bring to the learning environment. The assumption that all learners acquire knowledge with the same technologies, at the same pace is flawed How an instructor customizes instruction may lead to a more positive, individualized, and unique learning experience. With caution though, instructors should maintain a steady balance of professional development so that they are up-to-date and more equipped to deploy or be open to using the technologies in a curriculum and classroom setting.
Reeves, T. C., & Oh, E. J. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design?(2008). In Instructional Technology Forum, University of georgia. Accessed on March (Vol. 17, p. 2014).