Saturday, March 21, 2009

Are They Really Natives?

So yesterday in English World Literature class I was watching a senior struggle with playing a DVD on the computer – a pretty basic task I would think and a question came to my mind: Are these students really Digital Natives?

Digital Natives is a term that Marc Prensky coined to label all students that grew up with digital technology in their lives. Watching this student, who I know had grown up with lots of technology, struggle with a DVD player really made me consider whether or not he is a digital Native. This student was not the first though, I have had students in other classes have trouble with presenting a PowerPoint to the class and still others that do not know how to effectively navigate the Internet or turn on the wireless feature on their computers. It is interesting to me how Un-Native these supposedly Native students can be.

So in the spirit of Prensky I have determined that there are varying degrees of “Native-ness.” I understand that this is not a word, nor even a term that many are familiar with; however, I do believe that it is true. Some are very Native and blow me out of the water time and time again with their knowledge, although others struggle with the simple functions of a computer even though they are familiar with the concept. I think that these students have grown up with the technology around them, yes, but they do not all know how to work it effectively, or better yet, make it work for them effectively. So then I struggle with where my students really are at on the continuum. It is a challenge then to assume that they all know how to use a computer, probably, but then anything like creating an Adobe PDF document or altering a picture using Photoshop are out of the question. So what do I need to teach and what can I assume that they know already to use? I guess I need to poll them and figure it out.

So I encourage you all to also figure out the “Native-ness” of your students or yourself, because I am finding really quickly that some are highly advanced and others struggle with the basic function of a DVD player on the computer.