Tuesday, October 21, 2008

The digital native/digital immigrant debate: A matter of information literacy

The next portion of my blog will focus on how learners approach ICT - concentrating on the debate within research literature on the divide between digital immigrants and digital natives. This initial distinction, although helpful in discussion, is somewhat inaccurate, but helpful in defining information literacy. As I have begun to define the differences between the groups and factors that prove or disprove them, a more productive and less binary distinction considers the discussion on information literacy.

The main point being that instructional design within educational technology needs to design and assess ways to improve information literacy, moving beyond the debate.

To briefly summarize, the notions of digital immigrants/digital natives were first postulated by Marc Prensky (2001), who divided learners based on their access to information technologies from a certain age. Because digital natives have grown up with the culture of new technologies such as the internet and video games, Prensky theorizes that their cognitive functions are different from the older generation of digital immigrants. The native and immigrant metaphors represent, in a way, how this debate is a matter of cultural differences between the groups and also a generation gap.

Here are a few characteristics of digital natives and digital immigrants:

Digital native

Digital immigrants

  • [N]et generation/[D] generation
  • Immersed in technology
  • Prefers fast information stimulus
  • Multitaskers
  • Visual appeal over textual
  • Non-linear learning with random information access
  • Has a learning preference different from traditional education
  • Assumed to have better technology skills than what education offers them
  • Belief that the world is the same, only more technologized
  • Digitally accented
  • Seeks information from traditional sources first, internet second
  • Reads manuals to learn software
  • Prints emails
  • Uses pen and paper for editing (not computer)
  • Linear learner – raised under traditional education system
  • Belief that the world is very different because of technology

As intuitive as these distinctions might be, the divide is not so clear and certain. Next week I will introduce the inconsistencies. For now, it is important to note how these distinctions are useful in discussing implementations and the beliefs each group brings (Lankshear & Bigum 1999).

However different these learners might be, the debate should consider what it means to be digitally literate, which is best defined outside of the debate.

A definition of information literacy should consider:

  • Steeped in the native/immigrant debate – how each group views access and control, but really should be about change
  • Certain skills are needed to process information and be ‘digitally literate’ within more of a native perspective
  • Developing objectives beyond the traditional definition of literacy
  • How individuals use technology to “create, communicate, design and self-actualize” (Jones-Kavalier & Flannigan, 2006, p 8).
  • Going beyond the glitz of the internet of Facebook and youtube
  • How individuals develop critical thinking skills

Jones-Kavalier, B.R., & Flannigan, S. L. (2006). Connecting the digital dots: Literacy of the 21st century. Educause Quarterly, 2, 8-10.

Lankshear, C., & Bigum, C. (1999). Literacies and new technologies in school settings. Curriculum Studies, 7(3), 445-465.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved October 20, 2008 from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

1 comment:

Yan Huang said...

Seen from your list, I am the one between native and immigrant. Like you said, not clear.