The term “digital immigrants” and “digital natives” is almost as annoying as the fights are about the terminology. These terms are often credited to Marc Prensky, and from when I have had the opportunity to have heard him speak, he doesn’t believe that kids have an innate ability to use technology over adults. They have not known a world with anything different. It made sense to me when I thought of my parents who came to Canada as immigrants. They knew one life and then thrust themselves into another. Where growing up in Canada, I have not known anything but what it is like to live in that country. It doesn’t mean that one group has the ability over another, but their past experiences do shape a lot of what their future looks like. Although my parents were immigrants to Canada, I saw them as less traditional than many people who lived here their entire life.
So then why do we continue to say things like, “Kids are sooooo much better with technology than adults are”? Yes, many kids have never known anything BUT a world with iPhones and YouTube, but the same adults have lived in that world the same amount of time kids have, and sometimes, even more. Add the years of experience in other parts of life; there is no reason that kids should be better at technology than adults.
The difference between kids that are deemed better than adults with technology is not some innate ability; it is their willingness to push buttons. To see what happens. To act on their curiosity. That’s it.
I was working with a group recently and showing them how to “embed” media from different sites. Since the “embed” button is in different places on all sites, I gave them a strategy for finding it, no matter where they go. I told them, “Press buttons until you find it.” That’s it. Nothing is going to break unless you push the “break computer” button (still looking for it).
So instead of saying, “Those kids are so much better than technology than I am”, why not say, “Those kids are so much more willing to push the buttons and act on their curiosity than I am.” If you think about it, which statement seems to be truer?
Yes, things are not going to work right away. Yes, you might even mess some things up. But that willingness to look and overcome adversity, with technology and in life, are skills that we should not only encourage in our students but embody ourselves.