My children are digital natives…and I’m a digital immigrant

In 2003, Marc Prensky coined the terms Digital Native (a person who grew up with technology) and Digital immigrant (the rest of us). In his study, he suggests that digital natives want instant gratification. They are used to receiving lots of information fast, and understand graphics more than they understand text. They can be watching TV, listening to music, texting, and studying, all at the same time. I know this will only get worse as the boys grow older, but even at a young age, it’s very apparent that they just “know” how to use technology. I try to stay current on trends, but there is still a learning curve for me, which is not evident with the preschooler-kindergartner crowd.

The following observations are just a few that coincide with Prensky’s findings…that my children (born in the 2000s) are digital natives, and I (born in the 1970s) am a digital immigrant:

Adam and Zach insist on “seeing” the picture I take immediately after I take it on my digital camera. They were appalled when I told them that some time ago, people had to WAIT to see their pictures. And then, you were stuck the photo. There was no way to eliminate red eye, or crop the picture to make it better.

They never have to wait to watch a certain television show, or run to the kitchen for a snack during a commercial. They have never been excited for Saturday morning cartoons, because on our cable package, they can choose from hundreds of kids show and cartoons any time they want to, with the touch of a button. And when they watch a “live” TV show, they always ask us to fast forward through the commercials.

Adam knows how to use the universal remote, and navigate through several tiers of menu’s to find his show on our cable On Demand system.

I did not know what a “DS” was. It’s short for Nintendo DS, for those of you who did not know.

Adam asked me how many friends I had on Facebook.

We watched Santa Claus on YouTube and follow him on twitter.

Both of the boys know how to use a computer mouse, and play games on the computer. They do not know what a typewriter is, and probably have never seen one.

They give Scott strategy tips for BrickBreaker, one of the games on his BlackBerry phone. And I think Adam has now surpassed Scott in the number of levels he has completed.

They do not know what a rotary phone is, or have really seen a phone attached to the wall with a long cord.

I had to call my 12-year old niece to tell me how to turn off my iPod.

The boys don’t get that before cell phones, you actually went places and people could not get a hold of you. Or that you couldn’t leave a message on someone’s answering machine or voicemail. They do not know what a “busy signal” is.

They think my job is to send e-mails.

My Kindergartner has four computers in his classroom, and a Smartboard. No more chalkboard, white board or overhead projector. And watching a filmstrip? They wouldn’t know what to think.

They will never make a “report card cover” for their report cards, because a child’s grade card can be viewed by logging in to the school districts website.

As long as they can remember, music has come on CD’s and the car radio has told you what radio station you are listening to.

As far as the boys know, we have always had a desktop computer and a laptop in the house, at least two television sets, cordless phones, answering machine, music CDs, movie DVDs, a video camera and digital camera, cell phones, DVR, TiVo and cable, and a minivan with automatic doors.


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