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Helping Digital Immigrants Achieve Citizen Status

by Dr. Dawn Wilson

Marc Prensky (2001) labeled those born after 1989 Digital Natives.  This term describes those who were exposed to digital tools from the time they were small children. In today’s schools, we have Digital Natives being taught by Digital Immigrants (whose who have had to learn the language of the digital environment). Many suggest that one of our major problems in education stems from digital immigrants teaching digital natives using archaic methods. photo(3)While there are many teachers embracing the use of technology as a tool for teaching and learning, many also choose to resist using these tools.

More and more districts are beginning to move 1-1 initiatives into their schools. For those more experienced, less technical teachers, this is a threatening shift.  Teachers must either learn to use the tools, or leave their jobs. Schools now, more than ever, are focused on efforts to challenge immigrant‘s to improve their technology use or move on.

Could it be that the digital immigrant teachers just need to shift their teaching and learning paradigm?  Recently, students in HBU’s undergraduate education program partnered with residents in a nearby senior citizen retirement center in order to help them utilize technology. photo(3) copyWe are beginning our third year of this partnership.

I found it very interesting to see how the needs of these seniors changed in the last year.  Usually seniors ask for help on email, Facebook, downloading pictures, sending e-cards and using Word.  This semester their needs have changed dramatically!  Many of the seniors brought iPads, and want to know how to use this tool for learning, brain exercise, picture taking, and communication. It was great to see the instant partnership develop as the HBU students shared their knowledge of iDevices. It was equally refreshing to see seniors so interested in learning to use technology.

photo(3) copy 2I am inspired! Watching the seniors and college students sit side by side, and investigate, problem-solve and apply new learning together made me realize that we have it all wrong in many districts and schools today. We are encouraging teachers to learn to use technology tools, and then use them with our students. I wonder why one has to happen before the other?  Teachers often resist the use of technology in their classrooms because they believe they must be experts in the tool’s use. The only way to become an expert is to jump in and begin to use the tool.  Why not capitalize on the knowledge and skills our students bring with them regarding the tools, while sharing our own content are knowledge and skills.  If we work together and collaborate as partners with tech tools in the classroom, then we can make room for the most powerful and empowering teaching and learning for all involved.  Let the students teach us what they know the most about – tech tools, and in return we will teach them the content knowledge they need.

Let’s push our egos out of the way and make room for collaborative learning with the most powerful and motivating tools as possible. Develop partnerships in the classroom for learning. It is a win-win scenario for teachers and students. Once we change our teaching paradigm, we will finally be able to overcome the real digital divide.


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