EdTech 537: Blog Response

digital native


This post is in response to Examining Generational Differences which was posted by Michael Barbour, EdTech 537,  here.

Examining Generational Differences

The theory of generational differences exists and is a valid theory, there is no research at present that indicates instructional designers should modify instruction or instructional strategies to accommodate today’s generation of students

Marc Prenskey defines the differences between digital natives and digital immigrants. Prenskey asserts, and somewhat oversimplifies, that many, if not most, teachers are digital immigrants and the majority of students are digital natives. Obviously, this is a generalization.  The assumption is that “digital natives” learn differently than immigrants.  If you are “native” to any type of culture, you assimilate it into your every day life more easily.  When you are an immigrant, you are learning something new all the time.  It made me think of language and how I “think”.  I studied Latin for 5 years.  I could speak it and I could pray in Latin but I never “thought” in Latin.  I would think of what I wanted to say (in English) then I would translate it into Latin before speaking.  As you can imagine, this would cause a definite delay in a conversation.

Technology is the same.  A digital native student responds intuitively.  This makes them more adapt at multitasking and able to process information much more quickly.  Yet, teachers often need time to “translate” what they want to be accomplished into words, instructions, and processes so that that “natives” can easily understand.

Prensky also asserts that the best way to connect with the “natives” is through games.  Yet Jamie McKenzie disagrees, rather strongly; he criticizes Prensky’s lack of substantial or  any research to back up his findings:

His [Prensky] proposition is simple-minded. He paints digital experience as wonderful and old ways as worthless. He lumps people together by nothing more than age and exposure, spending little time on differentiating or understanding. He offers learning with video games as a digital Nirvana that should replace forms of learning that he claims are now outmoded.

McKenzie thinks that Prensky has overstated the technological competency level of the “natives” and undervalued the tech skills of the “immigrants”.  The majority of this article is a “bashing” of one person’s perspective.  Quite honestly, the tone was so incredibly negative that many of the critical points were lost on me:

Real fifteen year old humans are quite different from each other, a fact that Prensky did not take the time to study or notice. Some love things digital. Some are more interested in a horse or a dog or a walk along the shore. If you took the time to study a million teens, you would find dozens of different patterns and passions. Prensky lumps them together as one cohesive digital phalanx.

The original Pied Piper, it should be remembered, stole the town’s children away when the Mayor failed to pay him for leading the rats out of town.

Of course if you looked at a million teens you would find many different traits, skills, and interests!  If you look at a million anything you will find variation.  I’m not saying Prensky had a good study, I don’t know.   However, he did make some good points that would be important to at least consider.  There is no perfect way to teach everyone, but if incorporating games into a classroom now and then impacted even one student, who perhaps otherwise wouldn’t have been engaged, doesn’t that matter?!

Thomas Reeves article was so filled with so many generalizations about the “Boomer”,  “X” and “Net Gen” in particular.  On page 3 he does acknowledge,

However, it is important to acknowledge that there is a great deal of variance among the distinguishing characteristics within any given generation, and thus it is unjustified to assume that if a person was born in 1985, he/she would have most of the characteristics of Gen Y, or that someone born in 1960, and thus a late Boomer, would be not as technologically sophisticated as a person born into Gen X or Gen Y.

Yet the article and charts are an overwhelming series of “sweeping generalizations” and “stereotypes”.  The article felt like a hunt to prove the author’s point of view.  I don’t believe that teaching styles should be geared towards any generalizations specifically.  But a variety of methods will most likely help a variety of students.  Teachers need to be aware of what is current and incorporate the new with the old.  Twenty-two years ago I did my student teaching.  We had several mentor teachers to chose from.  All of my collegues wanted to go with the “young and cool” mentor teachers; I chose the seasoned veteran.  She told me “just watch, education is like a giant pendulum,it will swing wildly back and forth between the “newest” methods and then “back to the basics” … the Best teachers are the ones who try to find a balance!  Always be willing to try something new and never forget to do what you know works”.  For the past two decades I have lived by those words and I have always been grateful I did.


McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf

Russell Street School Website (2014). eLearning. Retrieved July 16, 2014 from http://russellst.school.nz/?page_id=352


About kimberlyhefty

Hello. My name is Kimberly Hefty and I live in Sammamish, Washington. For the past 23 years I have taught high school and college level mathematics. 13 years ago I started a private tutoring business. I specialize in working with public high school students who are taking math courses "on-line". I work closely with both the students and the local school district. I typically work with 40-50 students per week. I also have 2 children ages 14 and 23. My daughter just graduated from Elon University in North Carolina. My son plays competitive golf and premiere soccer so most of my weekends are spent at either soccer or golf tournaments. I am excited to be completing the Master's In Educational Technology Program from BSU (M.E.T.) Spring 2015! Through this program I have gained a better understanding of educational technology and it’s applications. I believe that the knowledge that I have gained will be beneficial personally, as well as to my students. With these skills that I have learned in the Educational Technology program, I hope to help myself and my students be successful in future endeavors. The M.E.T. program has allowed me to create an environment for all of us, my students along with myself, to gain skills for education, employment, and existence.
This entry was posted in 2.4 Integrated Technologies and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to EdTech 537: Blog Response

  1. rtrosino says:

    I LOVE your closing points about continuing to do what you know works and never being afraid to try something new. It’s something my older colleagues do as well that I love. I’m a younger teacher, with only five years under my belt, and while I never believed the stereotypes of older teachers being outdated or unwilling to change, I was amazed at just how far off that stereotype is. There are bad apples in every profession, but the vast majority of teachers I meet are so interested in honing their skills and taking in new information, trying it out, tweaking it with what they had before, and making something new out of it that works even better for the students they have. After all, isn’t part of why we came to education because we ourselves love educating? Even if you don’t start by liking to plan and tweak, it seems to go that way. So I’m with you – it’s not about generalizations and stereotypes of learners and educators and technologies and generations. It’s about taking in new information, seeing which of our students it works for, and then applying parts or all of it where we can, when we can.

    • Thank you. Although I believe I am now part of the official “old guard” in school, I hope I never feel that I know it all.
      I think it is so funny how many younger teachers I know, with 3-5 years experience, act like they “know it all”. It reminds me of raising my children … the smartest person to ever to live in my house was my daughter, when she was 16!
      It’s definitely not about stereotypes or generalizations!

      • rtrosino says:

        Ha I know what you’re talking about for sure! I watch it with some of my colleagues (in my old school – not where I am now). And I’m always disappointed by the attitude toward older teachers. My experience is the older teachers really know what they’re doing and are GOOD at it! I love just sitting and watching them go. I’m not a super confident teacher by any means – I watch a lot of people, pick what I love from what I see, and tweak it to make it work in my room. I like learning from the seasoned people around me!

  2. angiekruzich says:

    Hi Kim:

    Thank you for mentioning the pendulum swing and maintaining balance!! This is something I always strive for in the classroom. If I see a new idea that makes sense, then I go for it. If someone just lectures at me about using group work in the classroom, then I tune them out. (really!?, did they not understand the irony?!) I love balance in the classroom because it creates variety for the kids. Students love my class and I think one of the big reasons why (because it isn’t the topic of math for most!!) is that we change up the approach to learning. I use a variety of differentiated lessons like authentic group tasks, guided notes, construction activities, graphing calculator activities and computer lab time. If we do guided notes more than 2 days in a row, it is because another way is not more effective.

    AP Calculus BC is my hold back…I need more activities for it!! How do you plan an authentic group task about a topic that took decades or even centuries to develop? There just is not much out there once you are past the basic idea of integrals and area under the curve. I think I will twitter about that and see if I get any bites.


    • Thanks Angie, it reminds me that the older I get and the longer I teach … the more I realize how much I DON’T know.
      You nailed it ~ we have to constantly be changing our approach to learning and teaching. Good luck with your BC Calculus. I can only imagine the learning curve for that class.

  3. Johnk526 says:

    Great website! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am taking your feeds also ccbdebgegeeb

  4. Johnd370 says:

    Admiring the hard work you put into your site and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m adding your RSS feeds to my Google account. bdaacbcedbdc

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s