Digital Natives: myths and truths

Digital Natives: myths and truths

02/03/2018

The idea of digital natives is right now a hot topic, both on the internet, television and on the street. However, it seems that there is no clear definition or stable concept of what is to be a digital native. The first definition of this term was coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, referring to people who have grown during the digital era, born at a time when new technologies are fully present in society.

 

Marc Prensky and the Digital Natives

 

Prensky is an American writer and educator who popularized both this term and the digital immigrant; the opposite to digital native, this term refers to an individual born before the outbreak of technology of the XXI century. Typically 1995 is considered as the year that marks the border, although not strictly.
His books and articles focused on digital natives, revolved around the most critical questions regarding this generation and the changes they can make in the education systems: How do they work? Are they faster as students? Are they better at multitasking?

 

The boom of Digital Natives

 

For a few years and until now, digital natives have been accused of having a different way to function from that of past generations. Multiple articles have appeared without any foundation stating that it is a hyper-communicated and dependent generation, that they are better at performing multiple tasks at the same time, or that they are better adapted to receive information and learn through multimedia devices (video or image) instead of through text.

 

The reality of the Digital Natives

 

However, many things did not seem to fit throughout these last years. To begin with, accusations that new technologies were turning this generation of multi-taskers into a generation of children with attention deficit began to falter badly.

In fact, essential investigations carried out in prestigious universities began to throw data that made us think that everything was a lie without scientific base more than the millenarian custom of which one generation speaks poorly of the following one.

It seems that, in reality, there is no proof that digital natives are better users of innate technologies, nor worse. They have naturally grown up with these technologies from the beginning and know how to get more out of them than the average digital immigrant. The same way that a child born in the UK will inevitably learn English throughout its life … and how much time and effort seems to cost non-English speaker, it can be applied to the children born in the technological era and the ones that are not that familiar with technology.

The year 2017 was revolutionary for the concept of digital natives. On the one hand, the magazine Nature (the most prestigious scientific journal in the world together with Science) published that, in fact, everything was a myth. On the other hand, focusing more on didactics and teaching, Spanish blogger and lifelong cybernaut Wicho published a successful book whose title says it all: Digital natives do not exist.

 

What are your thoughts about this concept?

Do you believe that digital natives exist?

Let us know in the comment section below!

Written by
Juan A.
Biólogo y Máster en Neurociencias nacido y moldeado en el noroeste ibérico. Alma de científico y naturalista recluida en un cuerpo de Homo sapiens. Fundador del blog de divulgación 'Iguanamarina: Divulgaciones, en plural' y colaborador habitual en el blog de EDUopinions.

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