Digital Natives Debate.

Previously, I retold my childhood story about my adjustment to the world of computers and the internet. I suppose it was a little scary at first but now, looking at how I am successfully able to use new technology, such as the internet and mobile phones, I’d definitely count myself as a digital native.

I was shown this video in my first year of my degree. The facts are astounding.

Prensky’s (2001) article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, delves into the issue of our ever-changing world and its technology. But firstly, what are digital natives and immigrants?

“Digital natives” is a term that refers to the somewhat “native” speakers of the digital language. This would include the Z Generation who were born in the early 90s until the early 2010s and are today’s children and students who have never known life without the internet or mobile phones. On the other hand, the term “digital immigrants” describes those who were not born into a digital world and have attempted to adapt an understanding of technology.

Prensky (2001) discusses the issue of whether digital immigrants/ educators should learn and adapt to the new ways of technology and its presence in the classroom or if digital natives should return to traditional ways. He describes digital natives to be those who can multi-task, enjoy games over serious work and prefer graphics over text. Therefore, he believes that these students should be taught differently as they are digital natives.

As a teacher in training, I believe we should offer learning for both categories and integrate ideas of new and old. This would work because then we would be able to cater for our digital native students by encompassing modern-day ideas and technologies into our classroom whilst staying true to traditional ways of teaching, such as through rote learning or explicit lecture-style teaching depending on the subject area. Students brought up in the new-age society are highly unlikely to take their learning levels backwards therefore it is the teacher’s duty to ensure they meet the learning requirements of their students by becoming more technologically updated and bringing this updated knowledge to the classroom.

Bennett, Maton, and Kervin (2007) challenge Prensky in their article “The ‘Digital Natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence”. They believe that many young people are highly proficient with technology rely on ICTs for various activities whilst others do not have the skills or ability to access this technology making Prensky’s assertions mere generalisations. They also consider Prensky’s promotion of ICTs for multitasking to result in a loss of concentration and promotion of “cognitive overload” (p779).

This mind-map is the information I was able to gather from either sides of this debate.

My personal view is that the technologies are not the issue but how they are used that can become a problem. Exposure to these technologies from a young age allows children to learn “the digital language” therefore it is vital that it is incorporated into learning experiences at school. Teachers must be trained in the area of new technologies so that they have the knowledge, understanding and skills to appropriately use these ICTs in the classroom with their students. This will allow students to use their creativity to devise games, web pages, blogs and other computer based tools to express themselves and their learning.

Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786.
(See UNDA Library Electronic Catalogue)

Hawkwarrior7 (2010). Rapid increase in knowledge and technology. [Video file] Retrieved March 8, 2011 from

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Retrieved March 4, 2011 from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf


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