Many of Us are Digital Immigrants

OK, be warned: This is a three part special!

Part 1 – The concept of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives
Part 2 – Adoption of E-learning and Current Complaints
Part 3 – Actions for NOW to Support E-learning

The terms Digital Native and Digital Immigrant

In the early 2000’s Mark Prensky stated:

An event has occurred which has changed things so fundamentally there is absolutely no going back: the arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology.

Prensky (a big advocate for game-based education) was big in 2001 when he coined the terms Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Some of the learners in our organisations today are “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. Those of us who were not born into the digital world but who have adopted many aspects of the new technology are, and always will be when compared to the natives, Digital Immigrants. Some people adapt to new environment better than others. Some of us immigrants retain an “accent” (such as turning to a manual first rather than looking for a YouTube video, or printing out emails or documents to read and edit them).

There are also some generalised preferences that have been used to help describe the differences between natives and immigrants. The following list is taken from Digital Culture: Immigrants and Tourists Responding to the Natives’ Drumbeat, but don’t get too particular about this list because with people there are always exceptions!

Digital Natives Digital Immigrant’s
• Prefer receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources

• Prefer parallel processing and quickly hopping between tasks

• Prefer processing pictures, sounds, and video before text

• Prefer random access to hyperlinked multimedia information

• Prefer to interact/network simultaneously with many others

• Prefer instant gratification and instant rewards

• Prefer learning that is relevant, instantly useful, and fun

• Prefer to learn “just-in-time”

• Prefer slow and controlled release of information from limited sources

• Prefer singular processing and single or limited tasking

• Prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds, and video

• Prefer to provide information linearly, logically, and sequentially

• Prefer students to work independently rather than network and interact

• Prefer deferred gratification and deferred rewards

• Prefer “just-in-case” it’s on the test or needed at some point in the future

A Continuum of Digital People

In 2010 Linda Feeney (a University Director of E-learning) wrote about the idea of people being on more of a continuum, expanding the concept above to include a few more variations.

How would you compare yourself and those you know with these categories?

  • Digital recluse: use of technology is a result of the need to function in the current environment, not used by choice; computers are avoided or refused (Becoming a rare species)
  • Digital refugee: unwillingly forced to use technology; prefers hard copies, does not trust electronic resources; seeks assistance; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult (Being forced to assimilate due to general environment)
  • Digital immigrant: willingly uses technology, but not familiar with its potential; believes technology can be used successfully for some tasks; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult (Shout out to my mum! This is you!)
  • Digital native: chooses to use technology for numerous tasks; adapts as the tools change; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult.
  • Digital explorer: uses technology to push the envelope; seeks new tools that provide more work, faster, and easier.
  • Digital innovator: adapts and changes old tools for new tasks; creates new tools.
  • Digital addict: dependent on technology; will go through withdrawal when technology is not available (Oh boy! Know few of these too!)

Now that the definitions are out of the way, let’s talk about how e-learning is affected by this diversity of people.

On to Part Two:  
Adopting E-learning and Ongoing Complaints

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