Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Do You Have the Fluency of a Digital Native? Take this test to find out.

There's been a lot of talk about the appropriateness of the terms Marc Prensky came up with at the turn of the century, Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. Some argue, the students aren't "really" native speakers of the digital language of computers, cell phones, video games and the Internet.  In fact they argue, often their students know very little about technology.  If that's true, I say shame on the adult for not ensuring students have the access they need to be fully immersed in today's digital environment.  Regardless of how you see yourself, when it comes to being a Digital Native or Digital Immigrant, the reality is that it is less about when you were born and more about how you engage in our digital world today.  This test is designed to see where you, your colleagues, and your students fall on the continuum. To find out where you fall, take the test and share your results. 


  1. There's been a recurring shift away from the mental model of native/immigrant because it the dichotomy carries some unintended implications - such as it's better to be a native than an immigrant, that being an immigrant is something to "evolve" from or shake lose. I've seen resident/visitor picking up steam of late...

    While your quiz supports educators to think about their use of technology, the "accent" analogy presents some challenges, most significantly that it is stating pretty point blank that an accent is wrong or bad and something to eliminate. As Gary said: oh vey. This afternoon I will have a phone conference with an amazing educator whose parents moved to Mexican from Poland and has a lyrical accent that is a joy to listen and is as much a part of who she is as her blonde hair and blue eyes.

    I recognize that you're drawing an analogy and not passing judgement on people with accents but given our national conversation regarding citizenship in Arizona, undocumented immigrants, and even the Battery Park mosque, using accents as a scheme for something to lose or move away from because it represents "bad" or negative, conveys things you didn't intend to.

    I'm wondering about using an analogy of navigation. A "native" can find their way around without asking for help, even knows short cuts and can help others. An "immigrant" needs to rely on maps, GPS, and others for help. That might convey the same imagery but avoid the implications tied up with "accents".

    Looking forward to the conversation.

    Jennifer (@datadiva)

  2. @Jennifer
    Thanks for replying and continuing the conversation. The implications you suggest are interesting to ponder. I don’t see the unintended implication of it being better to be a native than an immigrant. After all in places like the America in general, and where I live in particular, there are few Native Americans. The way I interpret it is that if our accent is too strong than others (who are not also immigrants) will have a hard time understanding or relating to what we are saying. Additionally, I believe that those who inhabit a space/place should strive to be understood by those native to it. With the education analogy, this can be translated to keeping up with the times. You don’t need to shake loose from your past, but neither should your nostalgia result in you keeping others stuck there, and in the case of a teacher, it shouldn’t result in your not working to understand the language of the 21st century.

    When it comes to teaching, while a hint of an accent can be appreciated, when it is too strong, it becomes difficult for students to learn. In essence, while it is fine for an immigrant to speak their native language with other native speakers who come from the same place, when in a new land, it is important that the immigrant does his/her best to learn the language...at least if they have selected a career for which it is required. When that person is getting paid as a teacher it’s a must!

    You are correct, that I’m drawing an analogy, but I do believe that immigrants have two choices. Either do their best to assimilate or find a community of immigrants to live/be among. Both choices are fine, but those who chose to teach should have given up their right to select the latter option.

    For me, the navigation analogy does not work. I wasn’t born with a “sense of direction” gene. I get lost even in my native land while my boyfriend can visit a new place and know his way around in an instant. With this analogy though, we both are striving to be able to navigate our way around. This is not always the case with some educators who are stuck in the past and refuse to allow students learn in the ways that work best for them.

  3. I scored an 8 so I guess I'm a 43 year old digital "native", but I've found that most of my students can't see social media for much of anything other than entertainment and socializing. Granted, the task for enlightening them to using these tools for learning falls on us teachers, at least to be the catalyst. But with so many schools and districts blocking and filtering these tools out of litigation fears, and providing little or no help to encourage and enable teachers to use such tools, it can be difficult to be the guide our students need us to be. I also would venture to say that many students don't want to push outside the "box" that we have created in most schools, where creativity and deep thought are less important than "achievement" on standardized testing, and the points for the grade matter more than the learning itself. For too many, school is a game of points and compliance, instead of being a place where learning and inquiry and challenge are the true heart and soul of the school. And who says you have to get those things through a traditional school anyway? I sincerely believe the revolution is coming, and public schools may get run over in the process.

    Thank you for posing the topic! Conversations such as this are SO worthwhile. Since I've started reading and commenting on blogs and using my PLN for the last couple years, thanks to the Gary Stagers and Joe Bowers and Lisa Nielsens and Will Richardsons and countless others of this little neck of the digital woods, I am having long-held paradigms incinerated. I find myself questioning more than ever my philosophies and practices as a teacher AND learner, which has been a marvelous, healthy, yet often nerve-wracking experience. But it is SO much better than closing the door and doing the same blasted thing in isolation year after year. Hopefully, the "edginess" of the experience will keep me sharp as I enter my third decade in education.

  4. Belonging to these Professional Development networks is beneficial and utilizing digital productivity tools is very important and efficient!!! I've been teaching for 27 years and I am happy to say that I am familiar and have experience with all of these tools except for the MMORPGs!! But, I think having the time to attend webinars, write posts or comment is the issue. I read so many blogs and belong to many professional development sites, but rarely have the time to get engrossed in them.
    Incorporating these tools in teaching and learning is slowly becoming more popular and I feel someday will be more mainstream.

  5. I am a tech native that, according to this, is an immigrant. I know and use many of these ideas such as Facebook for personal use. My professional environment will not allow me to persue those other avenues mentioned in the quiz like MMORPG's, Twitter, and nings (they are blocked).

    So, I guess I am more of a native that is harnessed by an immigrant environment.