Digital Natives Debate

Digital natives debate

A digital native's first day at school

The digital natives debate is a discussion based on today’s students who are called the digital natives and students of the past who are called digital immigrants. Marc Prensky (2001) states that our students of today are all native speaker’s of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet while those who have not grown up with these will be compared to them as the digital immigrants, who have had to adopt these aspects of new technology. Students today have been brought up with the technology changes and are therefore used to the advanced technology being used. Students of the past (prior to 1990’s) have completed school and now have to learn to adapt with ever-changing technology around them.

To understand the term “Digital Natives” better, watch the following video of Marc Prensky in an interview as he explains the term from his own words:

Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin have written an article “The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence.” They outline the claims of Digital Natives to be born between 1980 and 1994 and surrounded by computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones etc. These students learn differently compared with past generations of students as they are experimental, multi-taskers, and dependent on communica- tions technologies for accessing information and for interacting with others. The authors also discuss the characteristics of Digital Natives which proved to be very helpful in my understanding and reflection of the Prensky article.  In this review they also discuss “Digital Immigrants” further to deepen the audiences’ understanding. They explore the ideas that people born prior to 1980 are ‘foreign’ to technology and have to learn it like foreigners learn a new language and culture when they move overseas. (Bennett, Maton & Kervin)

Prenksky (2001) states that digital immigrants are the biggest problem facing education today due to some having lack of skills technology and some unwilling to learn. He argues that there needs to be changes in the curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional development are the answers to address this problem. Therefore his debate is whether there is existence of digital natives and immigrants and also that education must change to meet the needs of these digital natives.

In our Laboratory Class we made a comparison table to outline and simplify the contrasts between the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants:

Natives Immigrants
Multitask within technology Step by step approach
Prefer graphics to (before) text – interactive Prefer text before pictures – low interactivity
May use abbreviated language May use more formal language (whole words)
Non-linear access to information May prefer information in a particular order
Like to engage with technology at a fast pace May refer a slow steady approach
Use technology in the most efficient manner

Use technology in an inefficient manner

We also transformed this table into an inspiration document

Technology in the classroom is essential to digital natives because it enables visual and kinesthetic learners to grasp and understand different concepts and strategies. They are provided with a new approach to learning because it encourages them to use a higher level of thinking. Digital immigrants have followed traditional learning which in the long run has prevented them to expand their knowledge through the use of technology, just because a lot of it wasn’t available to them when they were students. Therefore it supports visual and kinaesthetic learners.

This can be implemented as a good cognitive tool because gigital natives, due to the increase in technology are able to multi-task and save time to learn the same, if not more valuable information whereas digital immigrants have books as their main source of information which is relatively slower.  Digital natives use ICT as a first preference to find information, so it is therefore an effective tool for them to use within any lesson in order to provide students with a enthusiastic learning environment.

This ICT enables the development of creativity as it allows different channels for learning. Children are able to use other means of sources to find information and knowledge through use of a variety of technology. Students are learning more and saving time with the use of high speed technology available to them in the classroom.

This ironic cartoon "Zits" represents the Digital Native Student and how it must be almost tiring to be that competent with technology: filming and placing a video on Youtube the minute after it has just happened.


Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidenceBritish Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786

Borgman, J & Scott, J. (2007) Zits. Accessed from:

Digital Nation. (2009) Living Faster – Digital Natives. Accessed from:

First image in blog accessed from:

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Accessed from:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.htm


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