Digital Natives

Digital Natives

Digital Natives are considered the “native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games, and the internet.” Also known as the “Net-Gen & Digital-Gen” [1]. It is the new generation of students who are immersed around information communication and technology. These native students in technology aim for quick information and multitasking performance. They do not like slow interactions because the ease of doing everything fast is in their reach when it comes to the computer. With the revolution of the internet, they are used to the easy accessibility of information communication and technology that they would rather play games than do “serious work”. The main issue with digital natives is that they like to work fast and that includes learning at a fast rate too. Digital Natives are interested in fun and innovative things which are some of the reasons why kids that are being taught by the old generation (Digital Immigrants), who were never immersed around technology, find it difficult to grasp the teachings and methods of the past. These are a generation of kids that need to learn new and exciting things, therefore “Digital Immigrants” need to implement new ideas of teaching these students to regain and capture their innovative minds or there is no way of getting through to them at all in the future!

Digital Immigrants

Digital Immigrant is the term which is often used to refer to people who have not been born to the digital age. Like all immigrants, they learn to adapt to the new culture in which they are immersed. However, there remains a continuous view to the past where they incorporate old practices into the new technology. Having encountered technology differently than the younger generation, digital immigrants often retain their “accent”, where they may approach technology in a different way. An example of the digital immigrants’ accent may include printing out emails to edit them instead of making changes directly in the computer [1]. Just like an immigrant that enters into a new cultural setting and is supposed to learn the new language, they will always have their “accent” towards the new technological society.

The Difference Between the Two

It is suggested that Digital Natives’ brains are likely physically different from the Digital Immigrants as a result of the digital input they received growing up. The evidence of the physical difference between the brains is performed through studies of neurobiology and social psychology. Firstly, in neurobiology it is said that transformation of the brain structures go on throughout life, affecting the way people think. This phenomenon is known as neuroplasticity, where the brain changes and organizes itself differently based on the inputs it receives. Thus, the brain structure of Digital Natives’ is different because they grew up surrounded by technology. Secondly, social psychology says that one’s thinking patterns change depending on one’s experiences. The environment and culture in which people are raised in may affect and sometimes determine many of their thought processes. Children of the Digital Native have adjusted or programmed their brains to hyper speed, developing a hypertext mind. These kids have developed a very different blend of cognitive skills than the Digital Immigrants. Tying all this towards school, teachers say that students only have an attention span of about 20 minutes, which is partly true. Their attention spans are this long because they crave inter-activity, which is not provided to them in an exciting way. Therefore, it’s not that they can’t pay attention; it’s that they choose not to [2].

The difference between the digital natives and the digital immigrants have profound effects; digital natives are accustomed to multi-tasking, parallel processing and instant gratification, while digital immigrants prefer to consolidate information slowly, taking a step-by-step approach.

Methodology of Digital Natives

The fact that the digital natives and immigrants communicate in totally different languages and styles, a serious problem arises in the education system. The teachers, who are the immigrants, assume that the learners, the digital natives, are the same as the teachers and the methods that worked for the teachers will work for their students. However, this is clearly not the case. Students prefer faster and less step-by-step style of learning. Thus, teachers must learn to speak the language of their students and teach in the style that is most accepted. For instance, teachers can let students play the games they created, which carry the messages and materials that need to be taught. An example of this is an elementary school in Mississauga that incorporates these ideas in today’s studies. The teacher would put up daily homework online through the school’s webpage where students can access interactive activities and homework problems. Everything can be done through the use of technology and without the use of papers and pencils.

This new method will involve changing the “Legacy” and “Future” contents. Some parts of the “Legacy” content, which is the traditional curriculum that consists of reading, writing, and logical thinking, will become less important. On the other hand, the “Future” content, which consists of the software, hardware, ethics, politics etc, will interest students more [1].


Lily Yu, Charlene Campo, Silvian Ly, Virginia Zhang

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License