Myths about Digital Natives-On My Mind

Blogging discussion in class on the Day of Archaeology
I hear it at least once a week.  A grandiose statement about how savvy twenty-somethings are and that they are the experts in exploring and using technology. I interact with that generation every week at the college level, and see a different type of native. In the past two years, I have had students who:

  • Did not know how to upload a document into an online dropbox;
  • Have never read a blog
  • Have only used Facebook, Reddit and YouTube
  • Are afraid to use an online learning system or take an online class

I don’t want to make a similar grandiose statement to say that all twenty-somethings are digitally averse, but it’s clear to me that we should not make assumptions either way and use every opportunity to share the rush that comes from learning something new in the digital universe.

Conversely, my students have also taught me about what’s important to them in their digital lives.

This has broad implications for school systems, for employers AND for students.  It’s not about your age. It’s not about whether you are a Boomer or Gen whatever, it’s about teaching the next generation to learn by exploring.

Photo by Anthro 136k on Flickr. Published under Creative Commons license.

  • OK, this kind of surprises me. I though this generation is suppose to run laps around me in the realm of social media.

    • Fran Stephenson

      Not always! I think those of us who are really digital immigrants try harder!

  • I can back up what Fran is saying.

    I used to work at a university and helped administer the computer skills test to incoming freshmen. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the students were not used to using computers to really solve problems: do research (databases/journals), make spreadsheets/charts, post to a blog or wiki, do serious word processing (e.g., build a table of contents), etc.

    For some young people, their only “computer” is a smart phone; some do not use email, just text messages, Twitter, and Facebook. For those users, it’s especially important to have content that looks good on a mobile device.

    “Learn by exploring” is exactly right. Just because someone is young does not mean they have the confidence to solve problems in the digital world.

    • Fran Stephenson

      So true, Inga and thank you for your comment. I think smart phones are the modern day version of enablers….they are very convenient but not a learning tool. It sounds like your experience has been similar.