Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants

Thanks to slashdot, I’ve found this great article on how univeristy librarian (the Digital Immigrants) should change the way they interact with students (the Digital Natives) to help them finding their ways through the temple of knowledge a library is.

James Paul Gee, a linguist who is the Tashia Morgridge Professor of Reading at the University of Wisconsin at Madison and the author of Why Video Games Are Good for Your Soul, argued that librarians need to adapt their techniques to digital natives.

I do like this casual way of coming up with new words and expression in the english language, mostly in the US. In France we would come up with vey complex and intellectual expressions which is only half as efficient (something like hyper technological generation). Digital natives is so brilliantly adequate.

Googling around, I found out that it comes from a fascinating essay by Marc Prensky

What should we call these “new” students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.

So what does that make the rest of us? Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, Digital Immigrants.

As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their “accent,” that is, their foot in the past.

The interesting thing is that this essay was written back in 2001. Before iTune, before Google put the dot in web 2.0 ! How even more appropriate it is today !

This is the type of essay, coming up with radical yet obvious concept, that helps you understand the digital world we live in. It puts a different type of perspective and offer solutions to a problem we don’t really know how to deal with.


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