Understanding Digital Natives

I was raised during a very exciting, and yet peculiar time. A true 80’s baby, I was born in 1980, I was of age during the crest of the “Digital Revolution”. I remember taping songs off the radio when WGCI had their daily nine at nine. I also remember waiting for the families Apple laptop and internet connection to load up so I could look at the infectious diseases webpage I was so obsessed with. It was a time of duality that I didn’t fully grasp the significance of, all I knew was I had to take typing and computer class, and I could call my mother whenever I wanted on her brick-like cell phone. I’m so grateful that I got to experience my life without being inundated with so much digital technology like kids today, because it allows me to appreciate it more, and to advocate and translate new mediums to older generations.

Although I did and presently partake in many digital conveniences, I would not be considered a digital native. Digital Native is a term that was coined by Mark Prensky in 2001. It conveys the idea that the current generation of students are “native speakers” of the digital language, meaning they would be fluent in understanding digital technology because its all they have been exposed to(2001).

In “The current state of digitalization: Digital Native, Digital Immigrant and Digital Settler” Adile Kurt, Selim GÜNÜÇ, Mehmet Ersoy, discuss the characteristics of digital natives, digital immigrants, and digital settlers, and how this impacts their learning and teaching experiences (2013). It is further explains the significance of digital natives speaking the digital language of the internet, computers, and video games, and this has changed their way of learning. Where as most of the educators of digital natives were taught with text based tools, digital natives are quite familiar with technology being used in the education process. The article concludes that todays world is requiring that individuals be trained to process information efficiently, so learners expect current technology to be utilized in the learning process. The researchers also suggested that because of the outdated material of which the definition of a digital native was based on, the term digital native should be redefined to include broader characteristics.

In “The Net Generation and Digital Natives: Implications for Higher Education”, Dr. Christopher Jones and Binhui Shao discuss the plethora of terms that have increased to describe the young people that have grown up in a “digitally rich environment”, including Millinials, Net Generation, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrant, and Generation Y(2013). This literature points out particularly how as new innovation emerge, how society defines the impact has changed. I found the explanation of Prensky’s “digital wisdom” term particularly interesting. Prensky, who proposed the terms digital natives and digital immigrants, later explained those distinctions to be not as relevant because “digital wisdom” is accessible to everyone. Prensky describes digital wisdom as “the ability to find practical, creative, contextually appropriate, and emotionally satisfying solutions to complicated human problems” (Prensky,2009).

This and other factors have created a schism in our current digital reality that theorist refer to as the digital divide. According to Aleph Molinari, “The digital divide is the gap between individuals and communities that have access to information technologies and those that don’t”(Molinari, 2012). Molinari further expounds that the three main reasons why we have a digital divide are because of a lack of access due to affordability, a lack of knowledge on how to use the technology, and or a lack of knowledge of the benefits of the technology(Molinari, 2012). David Buckingham, a professor at London University, describes another aspect of the digital divide in The real digital divide, where he discusses how communication competency plays a role in utilizing technology.

Some would consider me to be a digital immigrant, one who had to learn and adapt to using digital innovations, as opposed to those technologies already having been a part of the world that revolved around me(Jones,Shao,2011). Many older generations do not understand to convenience of utilizing todays digital mediums and I get it. Many older people have spent a lifetime doing the same things, the same way, and don’t feel there is a reason to change especially with the feeling that they’re closer to crossing over to the other side as opposed to the digital divide.

Jones,C.,Shao,B.(2011).The Net Generation and Digital Natives: Implications for Higher Education. Higher Education Academy.

Kurt,A.A.,& GÜNÜÇ,S.,Ersoy,M.(2013).The current state of digitalization: Digital Native, Digital Immigrant, Digital Settler Journal of Faculty of Educational Sciences,46(1),1-22.

Molinari, Aleph.(2012).TED. Let’s Bridge the digital divide. Retrieved from

Prensky, M.(2001).Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.

Prensky, M.(2009).H.Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom. Journal of Online Education, 5(3).

Mitchinson,J.(janemitchinson).(2013,July 11). David Buckingham discusses the real digital divide (video file). Retrieved from David Buckingham YouTube


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