Written on June 11, 2008 – 4:05 am
| by Ed Warkentin
OK, I’m finally blogging about this article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, by Marc Prensky. Get it here from the author.
It’s been around since 2001, and has been talked about and referred to at almost every Educational Technology conference I’ve been to since that time. The terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” are now thrown around so frequently that it doesn’t even need to be explained any more.
Prensky’s thinking about effective ways to reach today’s students continues to evolve. He continues to work to apply some of his thoughts from this, his most famous article, to different contexts.
I highly recommend checking out his website. I have just perused it a bit, and really wish I had more time to read more of his stuff right now, but I really must get to sleep soon.
Some of the books and articles that I have also read, or at least are on my list to read are the following (he really chooses great titles, doesn’t he?):
Engage Me or Enrage Me
Don’t Bother Me, Mom — I’m Learning! (his latest book)
…there are many more… I sometimes just love to look at the titles of articles and books, and get an extremely brief version of the main thought of the writing. This is one reason I love to hang out in bookstores so much.
His writing is full of eye-opening quotes, not from philosophers or theologians, but simple statements from these Natives that he has provided such clarity about.
Why am I finally getting around to responding to this article? This week I’m going through SB 472 training, which is a California “thing” (SB meaning Senate Bill) where we get a week of training on our new textbook, in this case, Math. This article was assigned as homework one of the days.
OK, so what do I think of the article itself? Here are the specific points that I found particularly striking, amusing, etc.:
•The phone call asking “DId you get my email?” has happened at my school. We’ve talked about reducing the interruptions to the classroom (silent emails being much less disruptive than a phone call), but viewing this not as annoying defeating the purpose, Prensky has reminded me that the office personnel is probably “speaking with an accent” here
•I was amazed at how proficient my students were at playing certain games they showed me on the internet during the last few days of school, one being Club Penguin. TypeRacer is another example that was spontaneously very successful. Ever since becoming familiar with Prensky’s thinking, and other progressive, forward-thinking experts in educational technology, I have had a passion for trying to figure out how to “get rid of my accent”, and how to best use the “language” of my students, the digital natives, to reach them. I want to figure out how to use games to make learning more engaging, since this is what I am, in fact, competing with. I will be seen as boring and irrelevant if I don’t learn to speak their “language.” We must “engage them or enrage them.” This is more than pithy, clever sayings. This is for real. This is why I get grouchy about those that insist on our students learning the culture of the Digital Immigrants:
“We need to educate our children for their future, not our past.”
—Arthur C. Clark
•It’s very tempting to conclude, as Prensky “quotes”, My students just don’t ___ like they used to,” etc. What we need to do is to recognize that they ARE DIFFERENT THAN US. We need to change and adapt. We need to learn from them, as well as them learning from us.
•”‘Future’ content includes the ethics, politics, sociology, languages, and other things that go with the software, hardware, etc.” This is one reason I would like to see a more loose policy on cell phones at school. We need to teach them how to appropriately use them (or, in most cases, NOT use them) I experimented with having my students use their cell phones as calculators, but ran into some problems with some very valid issues that administration brought up. Even so, it saddened me that we couldn’t bring some of the technology that they see as absolutely relevant in their lives into the classroom learning experience. I saw many of my students kind of “come alive” when I validated some of their “native” culture. It’s a sticky one…very interesting…
•He mentions games to teach concepts like classical philosophy, the Holocaust, etc. This renewed my enthusiasm to try and find game to help teach concepts to my students. He acknowledges that many of the attempts at this have been pretty bad (edutainment), but that we must continue to improve, because WE CAN FIGURE THIS OUT! One game that has been successful “in” my 6th grade classroom has been Civilization. Since I teach Ancient Civilizations, this is an IDEAL application. No, I can’t use class time for it. But I can offer a copy or two for checkout to my students. I can refer to it when we’re discussing content from our textbook. I can encourage students to get together in the classroom after school, or at each other’s houses , to play it together. I can affirm the expert in my room who knew about it before I even mentioned it, and had a more advanced version than I did; I can ask him to share with the class what the game taught him about ____ (filling in the concept that we were studying that day).
I’m far from figuring out how to apply Prensky’s thoughts to my own classroom practice, but I feel good about how I’ve started to experiment…
PS – David Thornburg and Hall Davidson have both written recently about Prensky’s thoughts. Thornburg expressed some reasons that Prensky’s thesis is incomplete, inadequate, and/or inaccurate. Davidson sided with Prensky, and did a great job of expressing why. This discussion took place in the OnCUE Journal, published by CUE, Computer Using Educators, with Thornburg writing an article, then Davidson and Thornburg both writing a letter to the editor, continuing the conversation. This will really be something to watch. These guys are both such great thinkers and leaders, I’m not sure I know which one I agree with!! I guess I’ll live in the tension…