Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The Digital Generation

Someone threw out a term to me the other day that I found very interesting: digital immigrant. Apparently I am a digital immigrant. There are also conversely "digital natives". These young children are typically born in the 21st century and have grown up with nothing but digital technology. One can argue back and forth that if you were born in the 1990's then you must also be a digital native but I'm convinced it's only 21st century children.

First, let me define the terms for you:

A digital native is a person for whom digital technologies already existed when they were born, and hence has grown up with digital technology such as computers, the Internet, mobile phones and MP3s.

A digital immigrant is a person for whom digital technologies did not exist or were in their infancy when they were born and growing up. This would be most of us.

These 2 terms were coined by Marc Prensky and he uses them to discuss his opinions on why our educational system is failing. It's actually a very interesting article and speaks to us digital immigrants (who are largely ignorant in the technology) teaching these digital natives. I'll make the analogy of how poignant this is by relating the story of my little niece Sienna who is an excellent Wii bowler. She had never played nor was she cognizant of real bowling and only knew of it virtually. She was quite thrilled when she was just recently introduced to the "analog" style of bowling, aka reality. Sienna is a digital native through and through.

These digital natives are more commonly referred to as Gen Z. Gen Z as lined out in the whole Gen X and Y thing span the birth years of 1995-2010, give or take. They are children of the Gen Xers and they are highly connected, most having lifelong use of all the digital gear (MP3, internet, IM, etc, etc).

An interesting topic for a cocktail party...

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