The Myth of the Digital Native

Attention, Administrators:

"Yes?"
“Yes?”

I have some news.

The term “Digital Native”, while creative, isn’t an accurate representation of young students.

Because I liked being included as a “Digital Immigrant” (an equally cute term), I bought into the idea, but I’ve been less and less convinced lately.

Partly because of the description: A digital native is a person born into today’s digital culture, who takes to it naturally, as a duck to water.

Network Management
Network Configuration

Even hearing it phrased like that begs the question: Do students actually take to technology easier, faster, or more often than their aged counterparts?

"Oh, I just use it to text and hammer nails."
“Oh, I just use it to text and hammer nails.”

Nope.

Not even a little.

Sure, my younger sisters can text like it’s their job, and my students are really good at Minecraft,

Like, really, suspiciously good at Minecraft.
Like, really, suspiciously good at Minecraft.

but when it comes to tackling foreign territory, they are just as confused and lost as everybody else. Often, more so; they lack the reasoning skills to seek the likely solution to their problem.

This week, my Pad students were floored when I showed them satellite view in Google Maps. It took us 20 minutes to get walking directions from their house to the school. Setting up new iPads takes two hours at the beginning of the year.

Teachers, however, are more likely to realize that after they’ve joined a wireless network, they can click DONE to move on to the next screen. No less than 15 students ask me “Now what do I do?” during iPad setup.

YOU JUS... hmm... Just click where it says "Done".
YOU JUS… hmm… Just click where it says “Done”.

So, Administrators: if you use the term “digital native” with a teacher who deals with young people and technology, they’ll likely raise an eyebrow.

UPDATE 10 FEBRUARY 2015: Today, I was talking with a teacher about this very thing, we decided that a child born near the beach doesn’t necessarily learn how to swim quicker, but is more likely to be exposed to the water.

~Matt “Dual Citizenship” Vaudrey

2 thoughts on “The Myth of the Digital Native”

  1. My 80-year-old dad is on his third iPhone and uses it all the time. I think he’s closer to being a digital native than I am. Then again, he bought his first computer (an Apple ][ Plus) in 1980.

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