Sunday, March 29, 2009

R.I.P. Digital Native/Immigrant Tags

I have been thinking about this for a while and have discussed it with a few people, including the amazingly wise Sylvia Martinez. In fact, Sylvia has a great blog post here on this very subject. My favorite line is this, "“digital immigrant' creates the same problem in reverse by providing a convenient excuse for teachers who don’t want to learn something new."

I would like to never hear the digital native/immigrant titles again. They are not accurate and they might even create some problems.

First, let me make my case for the elimination of the "native" tag. Earlier this year, I watched the high school media master help a kid do a search. The kid was required by the teacher to research his own family name. The media specialist recommended that he search for 'heritage' and his last name. I could tell the new freshman was getting very frustrated. I went over to see if I might give him some additional help. I noticed that he was typing his last name into the address bar. When I suggested that he start with Google, I noticed that he had typed [sic]. That explained why he wasn't getting results. I sat with him and suggested put genealogy and origin in the search box with his last name This same scene is portrayed all the time with different players and subjects...results are the same. My wife, who is a high school English teacher can attest that no matter how much we think the kids are technologically savvy, they lack some very important skills in searching and evaluating.

So, who is hurt by the label?? In the past, I have recommended to teachers that WE ALL are responsible for teaching kids good information and Internet skills. A response I have heard several times, "The kids know more that we do anyway." No, they don't. They are not afraid of technology and they USE technology, but oddly, we prohibit their familiar tools (like cell phones and social networks) when they get inside the school building. But this post is not about that. 

I am comfortable with the title Social Navigation Experts, but I don't think that really helps us out a lot. We can not assume that the kids know more than us or that they have superior knowledge. In fact, I have read lot of studies and observations that kids (and college students) never go past the first page of a Google search. Others have said that students don't scroll at all. If we just assume their vast knowledge, we may miss a great opportunity to teach ethical use of technology.

I wholeheartedly agree with Sylvia's assertion that calling adults Digital immigrants is 'providing a convenient excuse for teachers who don’t want to learn something new.' I have noticed it is with a bit of relief that teachers use the 'kids know more than us anyway' line. Even if you believe that the kids have far superior knowledge, it is a necessity to teach kids to be more responsible and better ways of doing educational endeavors.

We are educators...We must not hide behind cliches as excuses. We have studied pedagogy and we must use it to best instruct our students.  

We Will Create Change!  So long trite titles that allow bad teachers to climb under excuses and bury their heads.... Hello students, we are your teachers and we will teach you.


Monika King said...

Why do we have to have any type of label?

K. Shelton said...

Could not agree with you more. Technology has always been around and rather than universally tag large groups of people, I prefer to simply break into three categories: those that know, those that want to know, and those that need to know.

kellywchris said...

TJ you are sooooo right. I've been saying this since I first heard the labels. It pains me when, for no reason, someone brings these terms up at a conference and describes themselves that way. "I just read about digital natives and immigrants. It is so true. The kids know so much more than I do....." What a load! You're right, we're teachers and our mandate is to learn so that we can teach. As for the whole "These kids have grown up knowing nothing but technolgoy" is like saying we've grown up with electricity so we all know electricity or plumbing or whatever. It was, and is, a marketing ploy for the author to sell his ideas. Just for the record, I've never looked at a manual or book before I plug in a game, start a new program or download something new. I can push software farther than most and can, intuitively, still, figure out how things work without having to look at a tutorial or video or ....! Don't label anyone. Period. Let's work at moving ourselves along the knowledge continuum and forget about labelling anyone.

Carol Broos said...

I totally agree with post. I dislike the native/immigrant tags. It says that the younger generation will ALWAYS be native and the older generation is considered immigrant. Since I am a music teacher, I put it in my music experiences. There is a point where all musicians practice enough and become native to their art form. It is all about practice, not about age.