Digital Natives

I've been reflected on the digital natives issue after reading The 'Digital Natives' debate: A critical review of the evidence (by Bennett, Maton and Kervin, 2008.

The argument is well put that there is an element of 'moral panic' that brings unnecessary emotional reactions from both of this debate. Defenses are put up and little progress is made. Overall, I think to say that there is little empirical evidence to support the claims made about how we should change education because of the digital natives is fair enough. However, it's difficult to study changes to education which haven't happened. You can't study what hasn't happened!

Personally, I don't like the term digital native because it suggest a generational thing which isn't helpful. It's as if humans are intrinsically different from 1990 onwards! Rubbish. However, we can learn something very important from all human interaction with ICT over the last few years and think about how we should be educating people as a result. What I mean by this is that we are using Web 2.0 because they allow us to communicate in better and deeper ways. We are a social species. If we weren't, there would be no facebook, no twitter. Or at least not with the same widespread use. These tools were develop because of an inclination to communicate, to play, to create, to experiment. Why now? Because we can. We simply couldn't before. Or at least, most of us non-techie's couldn't. A lot of these tools are simply ways of interacting in different and deeper ways. So the fact that we, as humans, are doing this or want to do this is an important message.

Is it such a leap to think that there are lessons here for education? Not for me, but to a certain extent this is a leap of faith. The paper talks about digital natives being held up to "active experiential learners." No, this is what they want to be; this is what they are doing by choice; this is where we can surely accomodate them through formal education.

Overall, if you want labels I prefer the digital visitor, digital resident distinction made on the Don't Waste Your Time blogpost - Digital Native/Immigrant … or Resident/Visitor?. This is mostly because it doesn't distinguish between ages.