Digital Native my …….!!#@%

If you want to get some ‘tech minded’ teachers stirred up… all you have to do is talk about today’s students being digital natives!

The term, ‘Digital Native’ was invented in 2001, (wikipedia) and was used to describe a generation of people who have grown up with technology and are comfortable in that environment.  In educational circles it’s often used at conferences by speakers trying to convince an audience to use elearning and web 2.0 tools in the way they teach.

Last night I had another great chat about the idea with some teachers on Twitter.  Here’s the argument:

 – Today’s students aren’t really digital natives cause most who don’t know about html and rss.  If you challenge them with something that’s digital and time consuming they run a mile. 

I replied with the possibility that this could be a developmental problem, not a generational one – they’re just being teenagers and naturally averse to any form of hard work.  I don’t think the phrase ever tried to describe D.N.s as experts with technology, just familiar with it but is there any truth in it – sure.  How many teenagers and children have to show their parents and grandparents how to set the DVD recorder?  How ever you roll, I think a lot of educators are realising that generations can’t be put completely into boxes.  There will always be exceptions but the basic tenant can’t be ignored.

The phrase I heard at this year’s ulearn10 conference was ‘Digital Learners’.  I like this concept because it puts the learner at the center and the focus of the idea back onto the pedagogy – how will we teach this generation differently to the last?  Here’s my brief and not exhaustive list of implications of D.Ls in our schools;

1.  Students immersed in a digital world shouldn’t have to leave it behind when they enter our classrooms (described as, ‘powering down’)

2.  Digital tools can lead to motivated and engaged learners who otherwise would be unfocused and disruptive.

3.  Technology allows student to develop their creativity and collaborative skills for a digital world that demands these dispositions.

Don’t you think we are morally bound and professionally inept if we don’t provide opportunities for these digital learners?

(Photo by Creative Commons – posted by  mharrsch –

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2 thoughts on “Digital Native my …….!!#@%

  1. Like the idea of a transition from 'Digital Native' to 'Digital Learner' as not only does it shift the focus toward the student rather than the technology but also emphasizes the potential of the digital world – as you point out, education should never be treated as a passive activity.
    Each new medium has traditionally been treated with skepticism at best and hostility at worst (the printing press was perceived by many as undoubtedly dangerous as it placed text's in the hands of the layman … who was ironically not seen as well educated enough to 'properly' interpret those texts) so it's encouraging to see teachers such as yourself taking such a positive yet thoughtful attitude to new technology.


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