By : Zizipho Madibi
Before I discovered the terms “digital natives and digital immigrants” I was always asking myself how is it that the children born these days are so much more aware of technology than I am or was at their age. I remember my 2 year old niece taking selfies, knowing exactly where to go for the camera to turn on her, I was amazed. When I came across the term “digital natives” I had an aha moment, my questions were somewhat answered.
The term digital native was coined and popularized by education consultant Marc Prensky in his 2001 article entitled Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, in which he relates the contemporary decline in American education to educators' failure to understand the needs of modern students.
This generation of students has not just changed in bits and pieces such as changing the way they talk, changes in fashion and styles as it used to be in generations before. A huge disconnection has happened and there is no going back. Digital natives are different, they read blogs rather than newspapers. They often meet each other online before they meet in person. They probably don’t even know what a library card looks like, let alone having one; if they do have one, they probably have never used it.
I am a digital immigrant. I have learned about technology late in life. Sometimes I wonder how I used to do some things before the advent of information and communication technologies. Have you ever imagined how life would be without your smart phone? I cannot, yet I am an immigrant. How much more for a native, they don’t know any other world except for the digital world. They were born and raised with technology.
Now the real question is: are digital immigrants well equipped to serve digital natives? If not, what should they do to be on par with this generation? That is another subject for another blog post. Truth is, as librarians today, we are serving a generation of digital nativity and most of us are digital immigrants, we have to learn more about the ways they’d rather be taught and adapt to them. The problem here is not with them but rather with the rest of us, the “digital immigrants” who remain stubbornly attached to older media, and who are failing to catch up with the times