Archive - May 5, 2008

More about Digital Natives

Recently a member of the Second Life Educators list asked the question,

What advantages or disadvantages do you see for your students born between 1980-2000 ("digital natives") who use Second Life compared to the rest of us?

This has prompted an interesting discussion, where many people debunk the idea of ‘digital natives’ saying that they have many students who are not technologically proficient.

All of this brings focus on what ‘digital native’ means. The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland have set up digitalnative.org. The Digital Native website says,

Digital natives share a common global culture that is defined not by age, strictly, but by certain attributes and experiences related to how they interact with information technologies, information itself, one another, and other people and institutions.

Yet with all of this, it seems like ‘digital native’ remains a fairly ambiguous term, perhaps even worse than Web 2.0. So, I’ve been thinking about how I would define a digital native.

Perhaps the first thing is based on the old saying about the sixties, Woodstock or other counter-culture phenomena. The old joke is that if you remember Woodstock, then you probably weren’t there. The same probably applies to digital natives. If you call yourself a digital native, or even use the phrase, let alone simply recognize it, you’re probably not a digital native.

The closest a digital native might come to that phrase would be taking a quiz online, “Are you a digital native?” It might have questions like:

How do you communicate with most people?
1 IM
2 email
3 telephone
4 face to face
5 smoke signals
6 Me? Communicate with other people?

When you hear “IM”, what is the first thing that comes to mind?
1 Neil Diamond singing “"I am," I cried "I am," said I And I am lost, and I can't even say why”
2 I think, therefore …
3 Instant Message
4 OMG! I need to IM my BFF!

How are pictures stored?
1 24 or 36 exposures on film
2 Well, they show up on the back of the camera when you take a picture.
3 So, I’m talking on my cellphone and I see something really cool, so I take a picture of it.
4 Oil paint on canvas, in a museum.

What about videos?
1 YouTube
2 MTV
3 8mm
4 huh?

I don’t know if this really helps define ‘digital native’, but I hope it dances around the topic in an interesting and amusing way.

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