Digital Natives VERSUS Digital Immigrants: The Great Debate

22 03 2011

When we are talking about digital natives and digital immigrants we are not talking about the Australian immigration policy, rather we are talking about ICT.

Without a doubt, digital technology has revolutionized to the next level. It has taken rapid progress in the minds of people all around the world and it is a new catalyst for people to think about what their future holds for them. The great debate consists of either being a digital citizen in this digital age or attempting to fight a battle with the new revolution of technology – IE the digital immigrant.

The debate on digital immigrants and digital natives started out in a reasonable manner as explained. The revolution of technology has rapidly progressed like an overnight sleep. In this 21st century of 2011, the digital revolution is everywhere we look around. We no longer go and record our music or go to the music stores…we now have revolutionized to iTunes for that. Also, we don’t send post through a postage office or even pick up a long distance phone call…because we now have countless methods to reach out and connect to the world such as by e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Skype, instant messaging, text messaging which can be accessed on air and on the ground. Currently, we don’t leave the house to buy our groceries, instead the groceries come to us with just a small click of a button, in other words, our groceries can be ordered online and delivered to our door. The global world is now a different place for those who have not yet picked up or even attempted the digital technologies, you are either part of the world or just not connected.

Those people that were born between 1980 and 1994 are those people that Prensky (2001) describes as ‘digital natives’ because they have a great reliance and presumption on the revolutionized digital technologies. “They are described as living lives immersed in technology, surrounded by and using computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of  the digital age” (Bennet, Maton & Kervin, 2005). These technologies and competencies is what sets the digital natives apart from their ancestral generations.

The ancestral generations are in digital terms called the ‘digital immigrants’. Marc Prensky (2001) believes that those who were not born into the world with digital technology and have later discovered it and adopted it to their daily lives are called the ‘digital immigrants’. They are basically just the followers of the digital natives.

Obviously, the natives are featured as the young generation of ICT and the immigrants the older generation of digital technology. The language dimensions of technology are fluent for the natives however, the immigrants still have the accent of their past generation.


As shown in the video above, the classroom is the space where the digital natives interact with the digital immigrants. The classroom is an environment where the students’ abilities are catered for. I think teachers who are not making full use of technology in the classroom from fear, are by all means placing limits on their students’ learning capabilities.

Personally, I think the students of today are able to use computers and technology to their benefit to create meaning and understanding. In addition to this they are also able to multitask when using technology such as twittering as well as completing an assignment. Student’s can now draw on their creative mind by not only using butcher’s paper but rather drawing on a screen and capturing their imagination widely. To use videos, or play online games via the interactive whiteboard, students are able to remain interested and have increased attention spans in the classroom.

The use of information technology caters for the wide range of intellectual abilities. For instance, visual and musical learners are supported through the interactivity of the whiteboard with much more ease and interest then they experienced before with blackboards and chalk. No matter what the intellectual ability is, technology has catered for it and increased that learning ability more than before.

The importance of change is required in the education system but it is occurring at a slow rate. New teachers are entering the workforce and bringing along their native citizenship of technology and its demands.

Digital natives think very differently if they are compared with their ancestral generation and there is explicit evidence to prove this. When they are being taught in the classroom, they have trendy new demands for the process by which their learning takes place. Personally I think this is not a negative of school, in fact, it shows teachers should consider changing the way lessons are organized by implementing ICT into their lessons but not to the entire lesson itself. In addition, ICT should not be implemented throughout daily lessons but where it has a requirement such as in research, group work and presentations.

In my opinion, I recognize Prensky’s view. As teachers, we need to move forward and adapt the new skills that the digital revolution is bringing towards us and prepare for the upcoming students for their changing education system. If teachers do not adapt the new technology, they will certainly be left behind in the rapid progression of technology in the teaching workforce. However, teachers should not rely totally on technology as their main material in the classroom. Technology has certainly taken rapid progress but fighting and keeping up with it is a loosing battle.


Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008) “The ‘digital natuves’ debate: A critical review of the evidence” in British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5). doi: 10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.0079.x

Prensky, M. (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” in On the Horizon, 9(4). MCB University Press.




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