Closing The Gap Between ‘Digital Native’ and ‘Digital Immigrant’

Digital Immigrant vs Digital Native

The picture above represents how digital natives with digital immigrants interact each other. In today’s world, technology has become an ‘important’ part that gives a very big change in human life, so that it can be said that almost all humans on this earth can be called technology users.

Our culture that often gives ‘labels’ to things has given rise to terms for technology users. It has given two terms that can be the classifications of technology users, namely ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’. This term was actually created by an educational consultant named Marc Prensky in 2001 in an article entitled “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”.

The main question-Who are the “Digital Who”?

Difference between ‘Digital Native’ and ‘Digital Immigrant’

Digital Natives

Digital Natives are those who are usually referred as the ‘Millennial Generation’ or Generation Y (Gen Y). They are estimated to be around 10–29 years old and born in the digital era, where technology is already in its environment (starting in 1990). Things that become their daily life are playing games, doing homework, looking for activities / information / products, and interacting with others. All of these things that they do using the internet. These people usually have a fast, flexible and open response to change. Usually they use technology as a tool to communicate with others (texting, social networking and others). Digital Native is a large part of social web; they live here, using these tools for social communication. They always use digital technology and have the idea that digital is a social tool. According to Prensky, digital natives are the generation of young people who are “native speakers” of digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.

Digital Immigrants

Digital Immigrants are those who are usually old who during their lifetime (from children to adolescents) take place before the development of technology such as computers, cellphones, etc. Digital immigrants are the older crew, they weren’t raised in a digital environment. The digital immigrant term mostly applies to individuals who were born before the spread of digital technology and who were not exposed to it at the early age. Digital natives are interacting with technology from childhood, otherwise the Digital immigrants are those who recently interact with technology and feel like that every technology is ‘new’ and they have to learn on it. They have to adapt with every new technology. Digital immigrants usually process every time, working on one thing at a time and not appreciate less serious approaches to learning.

So, how can these two groups work together? How can they teach each other?

Unfortunately, not all people who classified as a digital immigrants are willing and able to accept the fact that our activity cannot be separated from the technology. They are still considered as an old school, old-fashioned and clueless because there’s still many people who teach in conventional ways that are no longer suitable for the students in this digital era. Fortunately, some people have begun to realize this and they are willing to learn about the digital world that grows when they are not young anymore. These people are called ‘digital immigrants’ where they try to migrate/move from their era to the digital era adopted by most of people around them.

We can see that from these digital immigrants, there are those who have succeeded in following the digital era and applying it into their learning activities so that the students feel comfort with their teacher, but there’s also a few people that are just limited to knowing the technology and eventually return to their ‘comfortable’ zone. Those are who finally ‘abandoned’ by their students and considered them as a teacher who didn’t want to accept the development of technology.

From the case above, there must be ‘understanding’ between the two parties (digital natives and digital immigrants). Digital immigrants have to realize that today’s world has changed. It is not the same as their ‘previous’ world, even very different. Learning and applying the digital world in their learning process will certainly be able to fulfill the learning desires of students who are the ‘digital natives’.

While students are expected to also understand that their teachers are the people with a different world and being digital immigrant is not as easy as turning the palm of the hand. It takes a lot of effort and intention to be able to change new perspectives and habits of life. So mutual understanding is one key to the success of the world of education with students who are “digital native” and teachers as “digital immigrant”.

It comes down to creating opportunities where they learn from each other. The generations, in some ways, feed off each other. Digital immigrants invented the microchip, the Internet, the cellphone, text messaging, all decades ago. But the greatest users are the natives. We can conclude that collaboration is the ‘key’. Allowing for a variety of people with a variety of abilities and experiences must be paramount.

For teachers, it means developing lessons based on building horizontal solutions. There are many ways to come to a conclusion, and with access to so many means, embracing all the technology available only leads to broader understanding of the problem. Including a place for values in lessons will also allow a deeper connection to the problem and the solution. Digital natives are driven by productivity. Their goal-oriented working style may seem aggressive and competitive so incorporating more value in the process may be a good strategy.



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