If you’re younger than 30 years old, you represent a group of young men and women who are identified as a digital native, or someone who grew up with technology from an early age. You understand its concepts and applications far differently than someone older, who didn’t grow up with technology and who is identified as a digital immigrant.
This is not to infer that everyone younger than 30 years old has an advantage, but that as a group they use technology in their lives differently, and have different expectations of it, than those in older generations who would not have begun using it as early in their lives.
Marc Prensky coined the term digital native in his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants published in 2001. “Today’s students have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.” This sometimes creates conflicts among older supervisors and managers with the increasingly younger workforce. Similarly, parents clash with their children at home over gaming, texting, YouTube, Facebook and other Internet technology issues.
How we educate our children today cannot be separated from technology. Technology and Education are inseparable. We frequently struggle as an older generation of immigrant instructors to connect with students who understand the digital environment differently, in part because it is "native" to them. The use of technology in education permeates all fields of education: Doctors are learning to operate using remote-control instruments; military personnel are learning to pilot unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) using hand-held controllers (which resembles Xbox 360 game consoles); high school students are using graphing calculators; and everyone is interested in using SmartBoards at all grade levels.
Whether you are a student or an adult in the workplace, technology is critical to your daily activities. Even the stop-and-go lights on the morning commute are controlled by technology to maximize traffic patterns while maintaining a safe environment. The challenge is how to keep our individual personal technology skills sharp – and how to make sure our children have an advantage when they reach adulthood because they are well prepared with a strong technology foundation.
As we move into the second decade of the new millennium, we must keep our personal technology skills sharp, and we must maintain strong schools with robust and relevant educational technology programs. There are complex changes taking place in our societies, our homes, and our schools. There are rapid technological advances occurring every day, and some more than others challenge our way of thinking and our way of interacting with one another.