I took a sign language course in college. The adjunct walked in the first day and began signing to us. We could tell he was trying to tell us something. He used facial expressions and gestures that clued us in, but ultimately we were all lost. Sure, we all picked up a few things that he kept "saying" but it was very difficult to piece it all together. I sat imagining what it would be like to live in a place where nobody spoke the same language as I did. Imagine how hard it would be to get anything done if your entire life was spent trying to understand the culture and language of everyone around you. A lonely immigrant in a foreign land. Now imagine you, the immigrant, is in charge of teaching the natives. Do you try to teach all of them using your language and cultural beliefs or do attempt to assimilate to theirs?
What if I told you this is what you do every day?
In 2001, Marc Prensky wrote an article titled, "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants". In this article Prensky declares that our students are have changed radically and that our education system is not designed to properly meet their needs. He coined phrases to describe students and the teachers that are attempting to teach them; digital natives and digital immigrants. While his opinions about instructional methods are debated, his description of the players has stuck.
Digital natives are people who have grown up in the digital age. They are confident using technology because they have grown up with it around them. They communicate, collaborate, and assimilate information using technology.
Digital immigrants are individuals that were born before computers and the web became prevalent. This group is by no means uncomfortable using technology and can adapt to new trends with only minimal difficulty.
Since these terms were introduced, new terms were coined to describe individuals that refuse or are unable to adapt to the changing world. They feel that things have always worked the way we have always done them. They feel that technology is for play and not serious work. This group has been called many names; digital refugees, digital aliens, digital dinosaurs.
Where do you stand?
Very few of us could technically be considered true digital natives, therefore you are either an immigrant or a dinosaur. What do you want to be? How hard are you willing to work to connect with your students? What is holding you back?