Monday, October 13, 2014

Entry 13 IDT1415 Reflections on Prensky's Digital Natives or Immigrants?

Prensky (2001) claims that our students think and learn differently from their teachers because while the former are digital language native speakers the latter have, at best, learnt their digital language as a foreign language. Thus, while our students have native speaker intuition, teachers do not. 

As a language teacher, what is your reaction to the language learning/acquisition analogy made by Prensky?

Key words and concepts from Prensky's article:

Ss' radical change, singularity, different thinking and processing, N-gen and D-gen, 'accent', different socialisation experiences, parallel process and multi-task, graphics before text, random access (hypertext), networked, accept the change, reconsider methodology and content, legacy and future content, pc games to do the job, CAD example, digital native methodology, gaming, students to guide this methodology. 

My reflections on this article...

While I find Prensky's analogy interesting and I particularly agree with Henry that the bottom line is the need to keep on learning and training with the implication that it is as if we are constantly required to keep up with the times, I personally find this native/immigrant distinction a little discomforting because of the social implications behind these same words. It's true that it all depends on the stance one takes, but I cannot help thinking that this dichotomy means a disparity in terms of rights. When does one become a native or an immigrant? My first PC was also my older brother's PC, an Osborne processor in 1984 when I was 13 and which I used to do mechanical things like entering data for my brother's assignments and since then I have always been interested in and comfortable with all kinds of technology. Does that mean I am an immigrant? Does that matter?

Again, while I agree that my early experiences above must have marked my way of approaching technology, I refuse to believe that people have to be one thing or the other as this pigeonholing denies the belief  anyone can learn anything they want. It was until recently and thanks to MRI technology and developments in neuroscience in the last 20 years that the myth that people were right or left brained was dispelled as it is now known that different parts of the brain work in tandem (TeachersTV 2006). Along the same lines, I would argue that beyond either label what really matters are the facts and needs stated by Prensky (2001:1, 3) namely: students are simply differently wired now and this demands from us that we reconsider how we teach what we teach. I like Prensky's idea of Legacy and Future content and firmly believe that the solution is as he pointed out to 'Just Do it!'. Oliver (2012) in his CNN interview of Prensky reports his invitation to adapt - we are instinctively good at adapting, so this is what is required of us - we need to adapt to the ever changing teaching environment and accept the fact that for some we will be natives and for others immigrants without forgetting that what really matters is the difference we make in the classroom when we make informed decisions regarding tech implementation!


Joy, Oliver. 2012. What does it mean to be a digital native? [online] CNN Edition: International. 8 Dec 2012. Last accessed 13 Oct 2014 at:

Prensky, M. 2001. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. In: On the Horizon, MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001. Online at: [accessed: October 13, 2014] 

The Learning Brain. 2007. [online] TeachersTV March 2007. Last accessed Oct 13, 2014 at:

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