Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Digital Natives: A Metaphor or a Reality?

Over the years I have been intrigued with the concept of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" and have written and taught about Marc Prensky's contribution to our understanding the impact of digital technologies on today’s children and youth, and how teachers (and preachers)need to find new ways to communicate with today’s “digital natives.” [See his work at http://www.marcprensky.com/]

Prensky is an educator who creates videogame-based training tools designed to teach today’s technically fluent children, youth, and young adults. In his ground-breaking article, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, Prensky coins the term “digital natives” to refer to those who are natural users of computers, video games, and the Internet. Those people not born into this digital world he calls “digital immigrants.”

Although they are using much of today’s technology, digital immigrants retain an “accent” because they were born before the advent of home computers, cell phones, and the Internet. Prensky maintains that today’s educational challenge is for the
digital immigrants teaching in classrooms (and preaching in our churches) to find ways to effectively reach out to the “natives” in our midst.

At his website, Prensky offers downloadable versions of his many articles about today’s youth and how they think differently, and how their brains are changed as a result of their use of digital technologies. When navigating his website, click on “Writings” to go to a number of his free articles, including those with practical suggestions for developing effective teaching and learning strategies.

Prensky has given us a way to understand the shift that has been taking place ever since the development of the radio, the camera, the moving picture, and television: those who use these media are affected by them. He discusses how the“digital” world of technology is changing human brains. If brains are being changed, and if multiple generations of people are now shaped by electronically-delivered content, how does the church harness this force for the sake of the gospel?

In recent years there have been some studies to test this thesis. The recent March 6-12, 2010 issue of The Economist cites research that seems to minimize Prensky’s concept. It’s good to be able to read another view. I recommend this article, "The Net Generation, Unplugged" in the Economist Technology Quarterly. This report of some recent findings will at least help us be aware that no label can adequately summarize the diversity of human experience. I still am intrigued with the digital native/immigrant concept, and think the metaphor bears testing out in our worship and preaching.

No comments:

Post a Comment