I am starting to wonder how many of my kids are really "digital natives." It seems to me that an awful lot of them really don't know what's on the Internet (besides myspace) and they don't really know how to transfer skills in one program or website to another. My kids were totally confused by blogger. Is this normal? I sort of overestimated their ability to figure out how to use a site because I thought they'd spent their lives on the computer so.... I'm just curious. Is this something the rest of you see often? Kids who fit into that "digital native" category, but really aren't digitally native? I'm almost wondering if it's something adults are pushing onto the kids because we can see what's out there to use. Thoughts?

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Holy moly! I get busy for a few weeks and look at all of this! Wow. I guess I hit on somethin' eh? Thank you everyone for such a thoughtful discussion. :-) I just got about 4 computers in my class for student use. That should help some with the one-on-one teaching of computer stuff for the not-so-native students I have. (And curb some of the "I can't do this because _____" excuses I have been getting.) It also helps that my state has revised standards for Language Arts and one of the new standards is that the students "routinely" use technology for communication, publication and productivity. :-) Nice backup, Florida DOE.

Thanks David for mentioning me on your blog! Coolness.
It is true that the student of today spend most of their life on the computer. In this respect they are "digital natives" when comparing them to earlier generations. Students today are comfortable and willing to use the internet, however, their area of expertise may be limited. Students are motivated to engage in activities that interest them such as instant messaging, and myspace where ownership is evident. Other areas of computer use needs exposure.
I think it is all in how we define being digitally native. I think most of today's kids could be considered digitally native on the surface. By that I mean they know how to operate most pieces of technology with relative ease, and do so frequently. Some have questioned students'/children's ability to probelm solve issues with their technology. If we factor that aspect into being digitally native, I would have to say that most of them are not. We live in such a throw away society that children do not have become involved with their technology equipment beyond surface use. If it breaks, they throw it away and buy a new one (usually a higher end or more up-to-date version). In my opinion, to be considered digitally native to one should be able to operate their equipemnt with ease and do so with frequency as well as be able to troubleshoot some issues with the equipment.
I guess the next question is - does it matter? Perhaps the social world of the digital natives needs to be left at the door of the content-full educational world, and the tools that exist are used to shape and explore the world of meaning-making differently than creating large (and shallow imho) social networks. A very different skillset than the natives are used to. (And this despite the new paperback of Daniel Goleman on Social Intelligence!)
I disagree with your final definition. To be a native is "to be born into and belong to a place". As a group have said before it is about purpose. I think the most relevant factor is the ease and comfort with the 'language', customs and social morays of technological world. As Prenscky said, 'it is no longer geeky to know about and use technology but normative' (paraphrased). It is this familiarly that is important in the use of native. The throw awayness is also often a function of the providers of the technology rather than the users, either because of design or redundancy due to version replacement, but on this point look at the way in which the 'natives' are much more likely to accessorise their mobile device with skins, ringtones and other accessories than us (?) older sorts!
Just to come back to the starting point (in order to start a red herring, perhaps). At a recent gathering of Australasian computer studies teachers, we got involved in discussions making the distinction between producers and consumers, or perhaps users and developers - where we were heading was that - in computer studies, we were expecting and facilitating our students to build tools to achieve a purpose, in areas where the aim was as users or consumers, the aim was to find tools to mount a work or display some kind of knowledge artefact.
It's still not a perfect distinction, but I suspect it has some power.
The concept of producers and consumers reminds me of Edbauer's discussion of the control of production and distribution of writing and thereby knowledge. In brief, whoever controls that production and distribution controls the knowledge. By placing that "production" into the hands of students, we empower them to create their own knowledge, making them (hopefully) more responsible for the achievement.
This weekend I installed drawer and cabinet latches in my our kitchen to keep our in 1 year old daughter from doing what she loves best - exploring and investigating everything especially potentially pointy or sharp objects. Anyway, after installing about 3 of them, I realized the power drill I was using just wasn't the best tool for the screws. A good ol' fashioned screw driver was the best tool for the job. I think in principal this applies to digital natives, a term that I'm somewhat uncomfortable with using.

Digital natives, I think, are just more likely to use technology, are better familiar with it, have more time, and exposed to more of it. I'm not entirely convinced they can troubleshoot it better or even maximize it's use as a tool (though they all have a great deal of potential). I'm of the opinion that technology is a tool that we use to accomplish a task. Whether the task is collaboration, problem-solving, information retrieval, knowledge creation, or knowledge presentation, technology is a tool to accomplish these goals.

Our job as teachers (computer and subject-area) is to guide students in selecting the best tool, using the tool efficiently and effectively, and evaluating the outcome. I think it's akin to the "shop" teachers (wood, metal, auto, etc.) in American high schools. Students, digital natives, are more likely to use the tools but they aren't always tradesman-like proficient with them. It's like watching a wood shop student and then a cabinet maker. Both are familiar with the tools, but the cabinet maker uses his/her tool more transparently yet deeply to achieve their goal. That's our job as teachers, I think, to help build that level of proficiency with selecting and using tools. I view us somewhat as the modern-day shop teachers.

As a sidebar, this why I'm a dubious of judging folks too quickly who aren't knee-deep in tech or ed tech. I for one don't have a myspace page or don't regularly all the communication tools. I do use a wiki since that fits my needs. Time right now is a big factor for me in not using them, but I communicate just fine with friends, family, and colleagues. They don't enhance my life that I'm aware- in fact, right now they may detract from it since time is at such a premium. Can I see value in these tools? Sure, but not right now and not for the sake of just using them because they're new or cool. To quote one of my favorite undergrad Language and Literacy Professors when I excitedly was asking if he saw the latest exchange of something language/literacy related between two scholars in whatever journal I was referencing (I was a L&L geek), "No, but I know where to look if I need to find it". Now, I know what he means.
Yes! The challenge to me is now not to use this wisdom to excuse a lack of innovation on my part because of my own cringes!
Over the weekend, I was taking a break from grading student essays by watching a little television. During the hour long program that I watched, the same commercial appeared a couple of times. While I usually don't give much thought to what I see on TV, this commercial did relate to our discussion of digital natives/immigrants.

In the commercial, a mom and dad are seated in a classroom for what seems to be a parent/ teacher conference. The teacher (looming over them because they are seated) states emphatically that she wants little Johnny (or maybe it was Henry) to play his video games more. Of course the games she is referring to are the V-Tech brand of educational games.

The thought that arose after this is that perhaps we are not yet teaching the digital natives. My students are college freshmen, and though they have lots of experience with technology, they don't really know how to work with it. They can program DVD players, cell phones, and watches without reading the instructions. They are comfortable pushing buttons (literally and figuratively). But for them, technology is still a toy, a place to meet friends and a way to communicate. They have not made the jump to seeing technology as a tool.

Perhaps when little Johnny and Henry grow up, they will really be digital natives, accustomed to both playing and learning with technology. In the meantime, are we expecting too much of the current crop of students?

I sometimes feel that the assignments that I design with these digital natives in mind, utilizing the technology they should enjoy, are beyond their comprehension. Perhaps we as teachers have moved beyond our students and need to slow down to allow them to catch up. It is natural for us to see the broader applications of technology. It is both a part of our teaching mentality and the work we do. But should we push them to utilize the potential we see or just wait for them to catch on to the possibilities?

All that from a television commercial! Who would have thought it possible?
As a business education/technology teacher, I find that it's often left to teachers in my department to teach any technology tools. This is a VERY broad generalization and I'm speaking from very little experience as I'm a new teacher, but bear with me. It seems to me that many teachers want to use the tools with the students but lack the skills to actually TEACH the technology (again, broad generalization, obviously not members of this community!). Compare it to every teacher using reading in their classroom but every district having reading specialists because special skills/resources are needed to best teach the material. Anyway, unless the supposedly digital natives come across one of us (2.0 enthusiasts), who would have taught them the skills? Parents certainly aren't doing it, especially in the increasingly scary world of online predators, etc - I think parents seem to be letting kids use computers LESS than they did before, especially the internet. Another issue would be the access to computers/internet at home. Many of the students in my classes don't have computers at home, and if they do, they're not allowed to spend much time on them. Their only other option is to go to the public library, but that depends on parent transportation. I'm working on creating student blogs with my 6th graders, but since I have them for only 10 days at a time, I expect that they'll be working on them at home. Not so! Some of the kids are able to, and do, but many of the other kids are never given the opportunity elsewhere in school or at home to work on the project.
Again, I'm weighing in from a new-teacher-in-a-rural-area's perspective!
Wow, I forgot about this conversation until two added comments came to my mail this evening.

I have moved to the idea of 'Digital Exposure' rather than Native/Immigrant.

I'm impressed with this conversation, it has sparked the same kind of thoughtful reflection that we would like to see in our students!



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