PBS Idea Channel’s video questions the idea that some of us are born as digital natives, while others will always be digital immigrants. It examines the idea that age and growing up with technology creates people who will always have a better and more innate grasp of technology, than those who are older and didn’t grow up using digital technology.
Even though I would fit into the digital native category to an extent, being born after 1980 and growing up with technology, I don’t feel like a digital native. I typically had very outdated technology. When my family got a computer it was extremely old and ran Windows 3.1. Think Solitaire, Minesweep and Paint as some of its “best” programs. Who else remembers winning at Solitaire and watching the cards cascade?
When my friends were going on MSN Messenger I finally had an “updated”computer that could play Carmen Sandiego. It wasn’t until grade twelve when I finally got internet. Up until then I would have to go to my friends or if really desperate go to my grandma’s to use her dial up.
Not growing up with the latest technology I don’t feel like a digital native and tend to agree with the video that digital natives and digital immigrants are a myth. I feel like it comes more down to attitude and motivation than age. No matter what age, you still have to learn how to use the technology. Maybe children pick it up faster since they are at a stage where their brains still have a lot of elasticity to learn new things,but they still have to figure out how technology works. Also, I think that children typically are still very curious and aren’t as jaded as adults when it comes to being motivated and having a positive attitude. As I was always “behind” in knowing the latest tech, I feel that my identity as someone who uses digital technology has more to do with my motivation to learn the technology than my age.
Another digital identity theory can be seen in David White’s video (above) about digital visitors and residents. He makes an interesting point that understanding how to use different apps and social media platforms doesn’t necessarily mean that one understands all digital literacies. He points out that some ways of using technology still need to be taught.
David’s model of visitors and residents is more based on how engaged someone is in technology. He explains that we may move around between visitors and residents depending on the context we are using technology. David points out that visitors just visit and aren’t leaving a “social trace” while residents spend time creating a “social trace”. The ways we choose to engage in the social aspects of digital technology define us as visitors or residents in that moment or context. Anyone can be a visitor or a resident depending on how they are using digital spaces.
Growing up I was definitely more of a digital visitor, engaging in digital activities where I was more so just using the technology versus interacting with others or creating content to share with others. It wasn’t until the past five years or so that I have started to really engage on a regular basis with the more social aspects of the digital technology. Pinterest was probably one of the first social apps that I really enjoyed. I loved that I could not only save things I liked, but that I could share them with others. I did enjoy Facebook to an extent, but it was Instagram when I finally caught the social bug and became more of a digital resident. I love using Instagram professionally to get, share and converse about teaching ideas. Over time I have become more of a digital resident professionally on these apps. I often go from visitor to resident and back to visitor on Facebook, spending more time looking at content versus creating, sharing or interacting with content.
In general our students are often residents when using digital technology in their personal and social lives, but are often visitors when it comes to the academic side of using technology. It’s important that we teach students the skills to use technology to help them in their learning journey as well as how to navigate digital tools both in and out of school as responsible digital citizens. I think as teachers we can use educational apps, such as Seesaw and Flipgrid, to help practice digital citizenship in a safe environment. Students can be taught the skills to be digital residents in learning contexts.
What do you think? How can we help students safely and responsibly navigate between being digital visitors and residents in differing contexts?