Digital Natives?

Children 2-5 and technology

(image obtained from:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

(This post was written in response to the article referenced above. The article discusses the generational traits of learners in the digital age.)

Technology is now a fundamental part of kids’ lives. I found the image above at Venturebeat. com. These statistics were gathered by an Internet security company. These statistics demonstrate how technologically savvy children are at a very young age.  Because of technological changes that have occurred over the past twenty or so years, this generation has been exposed to technology since they were born. One article that I read referred to this generation as “Digital Natives”. I thought that this was very fitting.  This generation interacts, and learns, with new technology very seamlessly. I know that older people, such as myself, struggle with learning new technology. I am still trying to figure out my new phone J

As I looked at the statistics in the image above, I thought about how times have changed since I was a child. We had one television, one phone, and a slide projector. We played outside with the other neighborhood children. My parents encouraged us to do things outside. In today’s society, it is not as safe for children to play outside. Children are encouraged to find things to do inside. Most children have computers, phones, computer games, DVD players, and many other types of technology. It is no surprise that more children can open a web browser than swim. Also, when I was growing up, there was always one parent that did not work. Someone stayed home and took care of the kids. These days it takes two incomes to survive. Children have had to become much more independent. They have to learn to do things with less supervision. 

Today’s generation has greater access to information. When I was growing up, we had one, or two, news stations. We also depended on “rabbit ear” antennae for reception for the television. Today’s generation has access to a wealth of information.  This information can be obtained instantly. They do not have to go to the library and search through an antiquated index card filing system to find information to complete a research project. All of this information is now available in a click of a button.

At school, we all sat in desks, read textbooks, and listened as the teacher relayed information. Today’s generation has access to computers, online textbooks, video demonstrations, virtual labs, online learning, as well as many other educational tools. Education, in a since, has come to life. The focus is now on the learner, rather than the teacher. The teacher is a facilitator.

When I was growing up my family sat down together to have dinner each night.  We had conversations about our day and current events. Today’s generation often relies on technology for socializing and conversing. Kids are constantly on their phones texting and conversing. This seems to have taken the place of much of the face to face communication of the past. It seems to have had an impact on interpersonal skills.

Today’s generation prefers learning that is useful, instant, and fun. I currently teach second grade. I have noticed quite a shift in the attention level of my students over the past ten years. You can no longer hold their attention by merely standing in front of the room and speaking to them. They sometimes act like they are in a catatonic state J  In my opinion, they have become so used to being visually stimulated that they lose focus very easily. Their brains are wired differently. Fortunately, I work in a very technologically advanced school system. We have access to wonderful technology. I try to make sure that I have vivid flipcharts to use on the Promethean board as an instructional aid. This does seem to keep their attention.

As technology evolves, I feel that our learners also evolve. It is crucial to keep up with these changes. We must realize that the needs of our learners are changing as the digital landscape changes.


4 thoughts on “Digital Natives?

  1. It is amazing how times have changed, but with the changes that happen over any given time period, there is always an adjustment needed from the older generation. I laugh to myself because one of my 12-year-old students dropped the “When I was a kid…” line just the other day. My head jerked in response because they are already noticing a gap!

    Nonetheless, with teaching this generation of learners, it is important to understand who they are, but at the same time, not to lose sight of methodologies that have worked regardless of the time period. When used as an accent to the classroom (or when its use is integrated in a way that is meaningful to instruction), technology is a fantastic tool. But teachers need to know the tool and how it fits into the curriculum to be effective. I agree with you when you say that it is crucial to keep up with these changes and the changes that happen in the lives of our students. We as educators should be wary of putting devices into the classroom and expecting them to work miracles.

  2. As I was reading your post, I was thinking to myself the difference between myself and my children. We were raised so differently! With that said, I find that it is important as both an educator and a mother, to find balance for my children. Sure, my daughter has a laptop, Kindle, iPod Touch, cable in her bedroom, Nintendo DS and probably a bunch of other things that I can’t think of, but I also give her time with the family, real life experiences instead of virtual, and the ability to have a real life conversation with another person. Teachers do indeed need to stay with the times and incorporate technology into their lesson plans, but at the same time, we need to give these children the ability to live in a world without the Internet and instant gratification. After Hurricane Charley in 2004, I found out quickly that I needed to be able to function without my cell phone or the Internet because nothing worked! Cell towers were down and the power was out! It took some thinking and reminiscing back to my childhood, but I figured out that I could make a phone call outside of the neighborhood with, get this, a pay phone, haha!! Anyway, my point is that technology is great and we should use it to the best of our ability, but we also need to teach the children about the “old fashioned” way. They may never HAVE to use it, but I suppose it could be kept in the back of their brain for a “just in case.”

  3. It is great that you have access to so much technology and are willing to put in the time to adapt to their needs. I have coworkers who, admittedly, are close to retirement, and just simply aren’t willing to do anything any different than 15 years ago. The kids don’t respond well to them. I had a methods teacher that told me “you have to meet the kids where they’re at”, and I think it’s a great statement. Part of being a teacher is understanding that your job is to teach the kids, and that means adapting and changing as they do.

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