I’m a Digital Immigrant, Raising Digital Natives

My dad used to tell me that when he was young he had to walk to school, up hill both ways, and carry his lunch.  I know, we’ve all heard stories of the good ‘ole days and how hard our parents had it as compared to our own formative years.  However, when I think of the differences between my own childhood and my children today, I think my dad’s generation saw the greatest amount of change.


When my parents grew up, they remember getting the first black and white television set.  I remember clunking away on manual typewriters, praying that I wouldn’t make too many mistakes and have to start all over.  The teachers only allowed so much erased and typed over content.  We shared a party-line telephone with all of our neighbors.  Technology tended to come to us in the north woods a lot slower than to the rest of the world.

My husband and I entered the age of technology together.  I embraced it and he avoided it.  But technology won and he eventually ended up having to adapt (except he still won’t carry a cell phone). I never thought of us as digital immigrants, however, my research over the last several weeks has given me a new perspective on the differences in generations; and it’s more than simply having to walk to school, uphill, both ways. 

My kids are members of the digital native population.  According to Marc Prensky, in his article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants,” digital natives learn, think, and process information differently.  In addition to having a different way of thinking, they also tend to have shorter attention spans and are constantly multi-tasking. It would follow, then, that new teaching tools and methods should be incorporated. A two hour classroom lecture and note-taking will not be effective. 

My 17 year-old son is taking a couple of college level IT classes.  His instructors utilize the “flipped classroom” method.  He is given links and resources to learn on his own.  He watches videos, reads books and articles, contributes to discussions, emails his instructors, researches, and dabbles in the topic of the week prior to attending class.  Once in class, he works on his projects and participates in groups and learning activities.  It’s similar to having the instructor at home with him as he does his homework.  He learns the information on his own (using the resources provided by the instructor) and in class he does the “homework.” 

How many times do students begin homework only to find out they don’t quite understand.  The result is often word done wrong or poorly, handed in, and graded.  With the teacher present while the work is being done, students can find out right away what mistakes they’re making and learn the correct way before completing the work. A teacher once told me that it never made sense to her that we grade students while they learn rather than after they learn (on what they accomplish). 

The flipped classroom is a great way to incorporate social and digital media – which in turn allows the digital immigrant teachers to speak the language of the digital native students.


Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). MCB University Press. Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf.

Posted on December 8, 2016, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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