Home > Media and Culture > Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants – Exploring

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants – Exploring

PBS, and the world of Digital Natives

This past week, I made the time to view a couple PBS documentaries on the world of Digital Natives, kids who have grown up online, and who know no other world.

The first PBS documentary aired in January 2008, and was titled Growing up Online. Here’s the a clip of the first segment:

Click on the link provided above to view the entire documentary.

The second documentary aired early this month (February 2010), as is titled Digital Nation – Life on the Virtual Frontier. Here’s the trailer:

If you can spare the 90 minutes, I strongly recommend you watch the entire documentary.

PBS has also created a fantastic Citizen Journalism like site for the audience to upload their a video of their stories. It’s quite brilliant, actually.

Leonard Brody – and the altered brains of Digital Natives

So I had heard of the term Digital Native before, and helped raise kids who by birthright, are digital natives. But for some reason … and I’m not sure why … I’m not sure I fully reflected on how different there worlds are until recently. And the PBS documentaries help me make sense of this world.

A couple weeks back, I had an opportunity to view a video of a talk given by Leonard Brody in October 2009 to the BC Innovation Council on the topics of (a) our changing world, and (b) what this means to entrepreneurs. Here’s a video of his talk:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Brody has a segment of his talk – starting at approx 8:42 in the video – where he talks about how the brains of the Millennials and Gen-Ys are actually wired differently than previous generations.

Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

Then a few days later, I viewed the opening session of Google’s Atmosphere 2009 conference on Cloud Computing, Adrian Joseph – a Managing Director at Google – talk about his experience of a Digital Immigrant, and how he is reminded of this fact daily by his 10 year-old boy’s ease with digital/social media.

And it just emphasized for me how powerful this generational gap is going to be between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants.

In fact, with a renewed sense of my status as a Digital Immigrant, I decided to go back and try to found out where the term “Digital Immigrant” came from. And I discovered that both terms – Digital Native and Digital Immigrant – were both coined in 2001 by Marc Prensky – who is among other things a learning and educational consultant – in two articles: the first in October 2001, and the second in December 2001.

And sure enough way back in 2001, Prensky was asking about how the brains of Digital Natives might be wired differently, and how on earth we were going to teach these children who’s minds and brains processed information so differently from their digital immigrant forebearers.

In Summary …

As Leonard Brody states in his talk above, we are truly living in fascinating, historic times. And the generation gap, and its consequences for communication and understanding, between Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants is fascinating to contemplate.


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