Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Three Different Views of the Digital World and its Users

It's easy to use Pensky's definition of Natives vs. Immigrants when referring to technology exposure and experience in today's digital age; it is far more difficult to use these terms when looking to see who brings what to the table in terms of usable knowledge. Yes, digital natives bring access and knowledge or process; however, digital immigrants tend to bring depth and understanding of application.  When I think of these two terms I think of the negative connotations that could be associated with these labels and how misleading they can be.  The term digital natives could imply that these users of technology are savage or reckless in their use of the digital world.  Digital immigrant is not much better when we allow ourselves to compare the word "immigrant" as used in society in general.

Boyd's work examines these terms and calls out some points that may be overlooked when considering these terms and their application to groups of individuals both as producers and consumers of the digital world and what it offers.  I was particularly struck by the section concerning Barlow and his interpretation of these terms.  Barlow contends that most parents are terrified of their children because they were born into a digital world where technology is woven into their lives out of desire and necessity while parents are left to their own defenses to become technologically savvy or be left out.  If this is true, then adults should not fear those born into the digital age but understand that they were not also born with understanding that comes with experiences.  If adults are to fear anything it should be their own reluctance to learn how to connect their life experiences with the "natives" to bridge the gap and make learning a collaborative experience.

As a teacher in an urban city stricken by unimaginable poverty, another section that hit home was  the discussion about digital inequality.  Even in the digital world, not all digital natives are created equal. An example of this came out of our conversation in class when it was noted that school districts are giving students ChromeBooks to use at home where they do not have any access to the internet.  One of the points that Boyd brings to the surface is that more privileged youth have more authentic experiences and more opportunities outside of the classroom to develop digital competency.

Wesch makes a good point by noting that it is important to move beyond being knowledgable about something and actually using that knowledge and applying it to make it more meaningful on multiple levels.

Overall, I would likely state that although the terms "digital native" and "digital immigrant" offer a precursory description of two groups of people and how they are categorized in the digital age, I am not in agreement with these terms and how they are misleading in their generalizations of users of the digital world.  I think these two terms tend to segregate instead of integrate and provide opportunities for collaboration.  Maybe when these two things happen we will see a more meaningful use of the digital world and all it has to offer everyone.

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