Are You A Digital Native or A Digital Immigrant?
We all know that we are living in an increasingly
technologically driven world. Living here in the heart
of Silicon Valley I certainly feel it every day. In fact, I
don’t think I know a single couple in my neighborhood,
5 other than my wife and I, who don’t work in the
technology field in some capacity. Our local companies
are Facebook, Apple, Google, Yahoo, and so many
venture capital firms that I can’t keep them straight.
But you don’t have to live in Silicon Valley to feel
10 that the world is getting more and more technology
centered, focused, and driven. We can debate the
pros and cons of this reality but we can’t deny that
the world has changed very quickly in head spinning
ways. Two recent comments led me to finally enter
15 the 21st century by getting a smart phone this week,
kicking and screaming.
First, I mentioned to one of my undergraduate
classes at Santa Clara University that I didn’t have
a smart phone, but rather I had a dumb phone. My
20 phone can make and receive phone calls and that’s
about it. No email, internet, and so forth. So one of my
students looked at me in an odd and curious way, like
she was talking to someone from another planet, and
stated in a matter of fact manner, “Professor Plante,
25 even 2nd graders have smart phones.” Ouch!
Second, I was talking with a producer at the
PBS NewsHour who wanted me to do a live interview
within a few hours of his call regarding some late
breaking news about clergy sexual abuse, which is
30 my specialty. I was out of the office and driving my
car when he called and in a matter of fact manner
he said that he wanted to send me some important
information to my smart phone to best prepare me for
the upcoming interview. When I told him that I couldn’t
35 receive anything since I had a dumb phone and not a
smart phone, there was a long silence. He then said
he’d have to just read it to me over the phone as a
Plan B. He wasn’t happy ... neither was I.
In case you haven’t noticed, the 21st century is
40 really upon us and to live in it one really does need
to be connected in my view. Although I often consider
myself a 19th or 20th century guy trapped in the 21st
century we really do need to adapt. For most of us
we are just living in a new world that really demands
45 comfort with and access to technology.
This notion of digital native vs. digital immigrant
makes a great deal of sense to me. Young people
in our society are digital natives. They seem to be
very comfortable with everything from iPhones to TV
50 remotes. Digital immigrants, like me, just never feel
that comfortable with these technologies. Sure we
may learn to adapt by using email, mobile phones,
smart ones or dumb ones, Facebook, and so forth but
it just doesn’t and perhaps will never be very natural
55 for us. It is like learning a second language ... you can
communicate but with some struggle.
This has perhaps always been true. I remember
when I was in graduate school in the 1980s trying to
convince my grandparents that buying a telephone
60 answering machine as well as a clothes dryer would
be a good idea. They looked at me like I was talking
in another language or that I was from another planet.
Perhaps we have a critical period in our lives for
technology just like we do for language. When we are
65 young we soak up language so quickly but find it so
much harder to learn a new language when we are
older. The same seems to be true for technology.
So, this week I bought my first smart phone and
am just learning to use it. When questions arise, I turn
70 to my very patient teenage son for answers. And when
he’s not around, I just look to the youngest person
around for help.
So, what about you? Are you a digital native or
a digital immigrant and how does it impact your life?
Adapted from “Digital Native vs Digital Immigrant? Which are you?”
Published on July 24, 2012 by Thomas G. Plante, Ph.D., ABPP in
Do the Right Thing
retrieved on July 28, 2012
Paraphrasing the sentence “In case you haven’t noticed, the 21st century is really upon us and to live it one really
does need to be connected in my view” (l. 39-41), we can say that
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