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A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already existed when they were born, and hence has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3s.

Origins

Marc Prensky is acknowledged to have coined the term digital native in his work Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants published in 2001. In his seminal article, he assigns it to a new breed of student entering educational establishments.[1] The term draws an analogy to a country’s natives, for whom the local religion, language, and folkways are natural and indigenous, over against immigrants to a country who often are expected to adapt and assimilate to their newly adopted home. Prensky refers to accents employed by digital immigrants, such as printing documents rather than commenting on screen or printing out emails to save in hard copy form. Digital immigrants are said to have a “thick accent” when operating in the digital world in distinctly pre-digital ways, when, for instance, he might “dial” someone on the telephone to ask if his e-mail was received.
The analogy of the digital native was also used by Josh Spear and Aaron Dignan (Spear’s business partner in Manhattan-based agency Undercurrent[1]) who talked about the ones that were “born digital“, first appearing in a series of presentations given by Josh Spear in 2007. First, at Google’s Zeitgeist[2] Europe Conference in May 2007. A different version of this presentation was delivered again in December 2007 at the United Kingdom at the Internet Advertising Bureau Engage 2007 Conference [3].
A Digital Native research project is being run jointly by the Berkman Centre for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School and the Research Center for Information Law at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland.
Gartner presented on the term at their May, 2007 IT Expo (Emerging Trends) Symposium in Barcelona.[2] More recently, Gartner referenced Prensky’s work, specifically the 18 areas of change comprising the Work Style of Digital Natives, in their “IT-Based Collaboration and Social Networks Accelerate R&D” research paper published on January 22, 2008.

Discourse

Not everyone agrees with the language and underlying assumptions of the digital native, particularly as it pertains to the concept of their differentiation. There are many reasonable arguments against this differentiation. It suggests a fluidity with technology that not all children and young adults have, and a corresponding awkwardness with technology that not all older adults have. It entirely ignores the fact that the digital universe was conceived of and created by digital immigrants. In its application, the concept of the digital native preferences those who grow up with technology as having a special status ignoring the significant difference between familiarity and creative application.
Crucially, there is debate over whether there is any adequate evidence for claims made about digital natives and their implications for education. Bennett, Maton & Kervin (2008), for example, critically review the research evidence and describe some accounts of digital natives as an academic form of a moral panic.
This notion should be considered as highly problematic and inept because it plays down the importance of indigenous struggles by making a false analogy with a more or less chosen membership in technological culture. There could be as well telephone natives, or radio natives, which makes ethnic groups around the world who struggle for their rights – especially in regards to American history of genocide of Native American population – look like their culture would be a matter of lifestyle choices. Using such a terminology is rather a sign of unfamiliarity and exotism in relation to digital culture. Of course, nobody is “born digital”; as with any cultural technology, such as reading and writing, it is matter of access to education.

Notes
^ Listen to the Natives // Marc Prensky

  • ^ “Session Description”. http://agendabuilder.gartner.com/spr8/WebPages/SessionDetail.aspx?Further reading
  • External links

    Retrieved from “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_native
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