Digital Native-Digital Immigrant…Or somewhere in-between?

This week we were encouraged to begin to look at technology and its impacts on different generations. The video ‘Do “Digital Natives” exist” gave an overview of what the terms digital natives and digital immigrants mean.  I haven’t taken the time before to consider this let alone begin to consider where on this spectrum I fall, but based on this video it states that anyone born after 1980 is considered to be a digital native.

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Although I am considered a digital native I still remember life before the internet, getting our first computer in our home, dial-up internet, the bag cell phone that didn’t leave the car, using a pay phone, going to the library to sign out books for a research project  and many more pre-technologies that make me consider how I could also be a digital immigrant.

The video suggests that some believe digital natives are native speakers of the digital language of computers and that because they are digital natives that they may not need to be taught how to use computers as they will just navigate and learn on their own. This, of course, could be compared to a child learning their native language in that they learn it by being immersed in it and through immersion and practice that they will, in turn, learn their language. Children who are immersed in technology will eventually find their way with it but like a child learning anything, there needs to be guidance within the learning.

I feel that obviously, most children nowadays are digital natives and if given the privilege and accessibility to access technology they will be able to teach themselves how to use a computer. There is no doubt that children need to be skillful in the use of technology but they also need to understand beyond just the using of technology. Although it seems natural for children to be able to use these tools and learn to navigate them independently there still is and always will be a need for education.  This should not excuse parents and teachers to step away and let children navigate this on their own even if the parent is a digital immigrant and feels less comfortable with technology than their child.

This is where digital natives and digital immigrants must work together and learn from one another. The divide between natives and immigrants will no doubt become narrower over the years as more immigrants are beginning to immerse themselves in the digital world. This is where parents and educators must work with children and students to learn from them about technology so they can in turn help educate children and students on the importance of being a good digital citizen. This I feel is similar to a teenager learning to drive a car. As a parent, we wouldn’t throw over the keys to our 16-year-old child as if to say have at it. We would ensure that we take the appropriate steps to teach them the rules of the road, understand the consequences and help them practice until they are able to drive responsibly and safely on their own.


Photo Credit: Zits Comics

Teachers, parents, and students need to find a way to collaborate and learn from one another in the world of technology. Parents and teachers need to become interested in what students use technology for and push themselves out of their comfort zones in order to meet the student’s interests and needs. Working with kids opens one’s eyes to the importance of listening to what they are doing online in order to educate yourself so you can help educate them. It is our responsibility to teach them how to be safe online. There is no doubt that they may understand how to use the apps and tools better than we do at this time, but I can assure you that outside of that we have many lessons that will teach them how to be safe in using them by educating them on digital citizenship that will transfer over into their ever-expanding world online. We can not just assume that because they were born in an age where technology is present that they will be good contributors to the online world. They are not born with that skill set, they need to be taught that. As teachers and parents, we need to make it our goal to become as literate in the digital world so that we can teach children and teens to be contributing, positive digital citizens.








About cdegelman

Grade 3/4 teacher at Douglas Park School in Regina, Saskatchewan
This entry was posted in EC&I 832 and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Digital Native-Digital Immigrant…Or somewhere in-between?

  1. Great post Channing! I totally agree with your view’s on digital natives. The most important thing our so called digital natives need is guidance and as a teacher I see a strong need to educate our students the importance of digital identity/citizenship, they are sometimes so naive that they do not understand consequences of having a negative digital reputation and we have the responsibility in tailoring them to perfection. Excellent post and I loved reading it and look forward for your next one.


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