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Digital Immigrant teachers typically assume that learners are same as they have always been, and that same methods that worked for teachers when they were students will work for their students now. But that assumption is no longer valid. Today’s learners are different.
The people sitting in their classes grew up on “twitch speed” of video games and MTV. They are used to instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on their laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging. They’ve been networked most or all of their lives. They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step logic, and “tell-test” instruction.
So is it that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, or that they choose not to? Often from Natives’ point of view their Digital Immigrant instructors make their education not worth paying attention to compared to everything else they experience – “Every time I go to school I have to power down,” complains one student – and then they blame them for not paying attention! And, more and more, Digital Natives won’t take it.
So what should happen? Should we force Digital Native students to learn old ways, or should their Digital Immigrant educators learn new? Unfortunately, no matter how much Immigrants may wish it, it is highly unlikely Digital Natives will go backwards. In first place, it may be impossible – their brains may already be different. It also flies in face of everything we know about cultural migration. Kids born into any new culture learn new language easily, and forcefully resist using old. Smart adult immigrants accept that they don’t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in “old country.”
So unless we want to just forget about educating Digital Natives until they grow up and do it themselves, Digital Immigrants had better confront this issue. It’s time to stop grousing, and as Nike motto of Digital Native generation says, “Just do it!” If you don’t know how, just watch your kids!
Marc Prensky is a thought leader, speaker, writer, consultant, and game designer in the critical areas of education and learning. He is the author of Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill, 2001),and founder and CEO of Games2train, a game-based learning company . More of his writings can be found at www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp. Contact Marc at firstname.lastname@example.org.