Erasing the Line Between Digital Natives, Immigrants

By Ian Quillen — November 29, 2011 1 min read
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Greetngs from New York, where the Software and Information Industry Association’s Ed-Tech Business Forum kicked off last night with an innovation incubator session that had me wondering why the education world continues to draw a line in the sand between digital natives and digital immigrants.

Eleven companies presented their newest educational innovations to a crowd of 200 or so who, despite my receding hairline, appeared to be mostly my seniors (I’ll be 28 in January). Those that incorporated pleasing graphic elements and functioning videos appeared to captivate the audience, while those which utilized mostly text-based PowerPoint presentations—and occasionally suffered from unfortunate technical difficulties—fell flat, at least in my eyes.

My purpose is not to chastise those whose presentations appeared to fall short. (I’ll say only that my favorite ideas were those from FluidMath, which turns stylus-written equations into computer-generated graphs, and ScreenChomp, which allows students or teachers to work through problems with a stylus, record it, and then link it on the Web as a tutorial or a plea for help.)

But I do wonder if this construct of digital natives versus digital immigrants serves those who want to push teachers, schools, and districts to think about how to use technologies to make a richer experience for students. Or whether it might be more disarming to say, “Think about what captivates you, and think about what bores you, and weave that into your educational approach.”

Generational gaps aside, humans are more alike than they are different.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.