Digital Natives vs Digital Immigrants

25 10 2011

Digital natives’ versus ‘digital immigrants’

My group contribution on the debate of digital natives and digital immigrants. (Further information to be found on Mairi Glynn blog where our group is discussing this topic).

Bennett et al (2008) in her article titled ‘The ‘digital natives’ debate’ attempts to discredit Presky’s (2001) view of digital natives and the possible outcomes required. Bennett says that Presky firstly clearly defines digital natives and secondly suggests fundamental changes required in education because of this.


Presky says that digital natives have sophisticated knowledge and skills with information technology, but he does not back this up with hard evidence/research. Bennett, however, draws the readers attention to recent research across 13 institutions (post compulsory education) in the USA (4374 students) which showed that 93.4% owned computers, 82% mobile phones but only 11.9% owned handheld computers.  A study of 2007 (of which 4 years can be argued in today’s fast pace technology climate as out of date, but I believe is still relevant in comparison with the fact that Presky says that anyone born post 1980 is a digital native) showed that only 21% maintained a blog and 24% used social networking technologies. This study highlighted that differences in use of technology depend on the children’s school and home backgrounds and socio-economic make-up.

Both studies highlight that today’s learners are not as technological advanced and sophisticated as a whole with only a small proportion of learners being highly adept with technology.

Presky says that today’s learners think and process information differently from predecessors arguing that learners are more adept at multi-tasking as they can be listening to music and taking part in web chats whilst studying. Bennett argues that this is not a new phenomenon that can be attributed exclusively to digital natives. Bennett also questions whether multitasking is beneficial, as this can result in either information overload or loss of concentration as the brain shifts between competing stimuli. Bennett goes on to say that Presky’s view of seeing all learners as a digital native is short sighted as any learners learning style is never static or can ever be generalised to a whole population or group within a population. Biggs (2003) says that students change their approach to learning depending on their perception of what a task requires and previous approaches.

Fundamental changes in education

Presky says that learners (digital natives) are disengaged and that teachers and the education system will need to embrace and utilise learning technologies for learners to learn. Bennett points out learners are actually using technology differently at home when compared with school. Learners are not applying critical thinking and evaluation of information when internet researching. They use a ‘snatch and grab’ philosophy (Sutherland-Smith, 2002). So education has to have a role in fostering information literacies that will support learning. The shift from text based to multimedia educational resources should not be due to the ideology of digital natives but to improve learner’s ability to read and process information in this different format rather than letting technologies dumb down learner’s English skills.


Bennett, S. maton, K. Kevin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, Vol39, No. 5, pp. 775-786

Biggs, J. (2003). Teaching for quality learning at university. Buckingham, UK: OUP.

Prenksy, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 5, 1–6.

Prenksy, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part II. Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9, 6, 1–6.

Prensky, M. (2005a). Engage me or enrage me. EDUCASE Review, 40, 5, September/October, 61–64.

Sutherland-Smith,W. (2002).Weaving the literacyWeb: changes in reading from page to screen. The Reading Teacher, 55, 7, 662–669.




3 responses

25 10 2011

This felt like I was writing a mini project. I have chosen five out of six to write, (I am leaving the sixth one to be influenced by writing and ideas that come out of the previous five), I just need to start writing them. I have started reading and set five personal deadline dates, the first this weekend. I hope this discpline works, it needs to.

25 11 2011
25 11 2011
The Net Generation and Digital Natives – Implications for Higher Education « Jo Goodison

[…] This blog post links in with that of Mairi Glynn, Claire Wiggan and Julie Beaumont.  At our MA/MSC Underatnding e-learning session in October we were asked to look at the notion of Digital Natives/Net Genners we each took a different strand of this discourse – mine was to summarise “The Net Generation and Digital Natives – The Implications for Higher Education” (Jones & Shao 2011). This text is a literature review commissioned by the Higher Education Academy. The article reviews several interrelated texts and the terms they use for young people who have been “immersed in a world infused with networked and digital technologies” (Jones & Shao 2011:3). Amongst others Jones & Shao refer to the work of Prensky (2001) (See Mairi Glynn’s blog), Oblinger (2003) (See Claire Wiggan’s Blog) and Bennett et al(2008)(See Julie Beaumont’s Blog). […]

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