Am I a Digital Immigrant?

After this week’s readings in my EDTECH 597 class, I find that I am asking myself if I am a digital immigrant?  What is that, you ask?  A digital immigrant is a person that was born before 1980.  They, meaning me, was not born into a society with the Internet, computers, iPhones, tablets, and all of the other electronic gadgets that we have today.  After 1980, we began raising our digital natives.  These children (or some adults) know innately how to use pretty much any electronic gadget that you hand them.  They are quick to learn.  More than that, they live in a digital world and are happy about it.  Now, if you were talking about my grandmother, I would say she is definitely a digital immigrant.  But….not me!  I think this needs to be put into the perspective of a mother thinking that they are as hip as their daughter.  I just think I am a native, but in reality, here I sit, an immigrant.  I was born into a world where my family didn’t have a remote control for the TV, we had a box with a wire that you could drag to the couch.  We received 36 channels from the cable company, and that was including HBO and Cinemax.  I didn’t have a cell phone until my senior year in college and it was huge.  I didn’t get Internet service until my senior year in college, AOL.  I didn’t own an iPod until I was 28.  I was 35 when I was given my first e-reader.  And, I was one of the last people to jump on board of the smart phone train.  My daughter, on the other hand, has TV in her bedroom with over 1000 channels (we use the parental controls), had a cell phone at 9 (she goes to after school activities where there is no phone), always had Internet, had an mp3 player at 6, and got an e-reader at 9.  She doesn’t know the world without these luxuries.  She would be considered a digital native.  I, on the other hand, have to concede to being an immigrant.  It certainly isn’t a bad thing, it just means that I was born into a generation that wasn’t instantaneous.  I suppose that the children of today might be in a little bit of trouble if they end up in a black out where there is no power, Internet, or cell phone towers!  🙂


5 thoughts on “Am I a Digital Immigrant?

  1. Tanya, you seem to have bought into Prensky’s non-research-based opinion. Wondering what you thought of the McKenzie piece that describes the lack of research in Prensky’s article and, in some instances, his willful misuse of the research?

  2. Well, I am not sure if I entirely agree with Prensky. I do, however, like his names for this generation versus previous ones. I think it stands true, for the most part. However, I don’t think that we can completely generalize this generation. After all, I have students in my class that don’t know how to use a computer, only have a flip cell phone, and couldn’t care less about learning about anything technology.

    I thought it funny that Prensky spoke a lot about immigrants versus natives but there wasn’t much talk about the “Digital Divide.” I know that the lesson is on generational differences but if I took a school out in a very rural area of say maybe, the Appalachian Mountains, they would not be assessed to Prensky’s definition of a digital native. I am not even sure they would qualify for a digital immigrant. These are students in this generation. Generalization is usually not a good idea. There are always exceptions.

    As far as McKenzie’s piece, I found him to be a little angry. I didn’t very much care for the tone of the reading. I pretty much dismissed it and moved on to the next one. I think Reeve’s was really much more informational and useful than either of the aforementioned articles.

    With all that said, Prensky’s article was easy to read and enjoyable. I found myself chuckling a bit and reading a bit faster to see what else he had to say. For me, Prensky was more of a leisurely read (with no real basis) while Reeve’s was more academic.

  3. Well, Prensky is dealing in generalities (and at the end of the day trying to sell books and speaking engagements). It is understandable it is an easy read. McKenzie was actually responding to the dearth of articles being submitted to his publication extolling the virtues of digital natives.

    On the other hand, Reeves was tasked with conducting a paid literature review for a company that hires a lot of 20-somethings on whether any of this digital talk about this generation of students was valid, and if said company should adjust their training based on any research findings. I’m not sure if it comes through in the IT Forum paper, but it certainly does in his longer and more developed AECT Handbook chapter on the same topic, the only reliable and valid generational label for today’s student is the Generation Me work by Jean Twenge (see

  4. Tanya–
    I agree that although it is not true all of the time, its nice to have a word to describe this phenenomenom. You make a great point that this idea of being a digital native would not be true in the undeveloped rural areas of the US or in tribes in South America, but in the middle ground of the bell curve, you could find this to be true. My experience has showed that digital natives is something that my experience has proven true (to me, at least).
    Thanks for sharing!! –dm

  5. I thought it was very interesting in the rebuttal article by McKenzie how he pointed out that no studies have been done taking into account socio-ecomonic status. This obviously could have a huge impact on how much of a “native” or “Immigrant” an individual is.

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