A personal response to Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”

This is my personal response to Marc Prensky’s “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” (Part 1).  I wrote this for my Computers in the Curriculum class.  The intention is to be reflective of my own experiences with technology, so I guess, take it for what it is!

You can access this article here, full URL: http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

I have many, many, MANY other comments to make on this article… will post on the blog soon.


In reading and reflecting on “Digital Natives, Ditigal Immigrants” by Marc Prensky (2001), I have been thinking about the dominance and pervasion of technology in the world today.  Prensky argues that the singular “arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century”(1) has forever altered education, including students’ ways of learning, their brains, and society’s valued skills.  I agree wholeheartedly with Prensky in that technology is a primary and influential part of students’ lives and general society, and that our classroom content and practices must reflect and incorporate this.  Yet rather than a single event, I see the emergence of technology as an ever-evolving and multi-faceted phenomena.  Understanding phenomena involves a holistic understanding of observable and unobservable things on the micro and macro level, a multitude of connections in a changing web.

I think I view technology more of an evolution because my own experience with it has been one of constant and non-linear development.  My earliest elementary experience was using a big, black tracking ball – learning how to manipulate and control what I saw on a computer screen.  I learned the basics of typing through practice with drill programs.  As well, I had opportunities to type my writing and create multi-modal stories with different software (pictures, sounds, text).  I received a strong foundation from which I can approach and use technology – I now have strong hand-eye coordination and the ability to maintain parallel thinking processes and tasks.

In junior and intermediate grades, I began to learn more “academic” software (think Microsoft Office-type applications).  As well I had teachers who taught me how to create websites and other media texts, and use the Internet.  I developed a personal interest and desire to learn about these technologies and thus began to adopt these practices at home.  My experiences have been in the school as well as self-directed.  In both cases, I was given quite a bit of freedom.  I had a high level of self-control and creativity in how I came to learn and use these technologies: some direction, some self-exploration.  Technology not only helped me learn subject content, but other digital learning and literacy skills so relevant in today’s world – how to navigate and evaluate what I come across on the Web, how to find appropriate research for particular purposes, how to express ideas in multiple ways (digital and otherwise).  I was and am still an active learner and participant of technology.

I think about my experiences and I wish everyone could experience this fine balance between scaffolding/support and independence in learning and using technology. I love all of the opportunities technology affords.  On a personal level, I am able to express and share myself – my interests, my ideas, my emotions – with the world at large, in many different modes.  It also opens many doors for me.  I am able to meet many people for any reason I would like (academic, professional, personal interests, even dating).  I can build multiple relationships – I have met many of my online “friends”, colleagues, and communities in person. I grew up valuing collaboration and critical dialogue – it is my primary way of growth (in all respects of my life).  I see participation, collaboration, and dialogue as the three most exciting things about technology – as an individual, a participant, and a teacher.

One very real fear is the complexity of online participation, collaboration and dialogue.  For instance, I use technology in ways that are very fun for me – blogging, Tweeting, commenting on other blogs/articles, creating Youtube videos, and so on. I try to be sensitive and diplomatic in my contributions, as I am aware that people may understand things much different from my original intentions.  I am also very open in dialogue; I am willing to learn from others.  I consider myself a very responsible and professional participant.  Yet I come in contact with people with very different attitudes about what it means to use and participate with the technologies I find so liberating and accepting.  Instead, some use technology to propagate and maintain rigid ideas and viewpoints.  Some use it in insulting and offensive ways.  But I also see this in real life.  Bullies, racists, and ignorant people are found online and in person.  Do I opt out and choose to stay indoors?  It is easy to remove myself from these sticky technology-mediated and created situations.  But I choose to participate, fully aware of all of the possibilities and complexities –positive and negative.  As a teacher, I want to teach my students also how to navigate through this tricky terrain (skills), teaching them how to choose their own routes (how they want to use technology, for what purposes) and pack their own backpacks (different technologies they want to use).


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), October 2001. Accessed:

http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/default.asp (Part I of II)

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