Great comments and links from Quentin Dâ€™Souza and Christopher Harris on my post “Digital refugees and digital bridges” yesterday. Quentin’s diffusion model of technology use IS helpful (categorizing users as innovators, early adopters, early majority, late majority, and laggards) but I think his framework still suffers from the oversimplification problems of a simple dichotomy between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” view. My slightly more expanded version with “digital refugees” and “digital bridges” certainly does:
Christopher Harris’ post “Why Dichotomies Fail” from early this summer contains some excellent ideas about why we need to move beyond simple dichotomies. I think (and it seems Christopher may agree based on his comment) that Prensky’s dichotomy is helpful for starting conversations, but we need to move beyond mere conversation starters and use metaphors which can help ourselves and others move forward constructively with more sophisticated uses of digital tools and resources. Toward this end, Chrisopher suggested back in February a different construct in his post “Knowing | Participating | Living.” I had not previously heard of Stephen Abram’s concept of “Internet Voyeurs:”
Definition: An Internet Voyeur is someone who is aware of the tools, sites and concepts of the new ways of web ecology but hasnâ€™t really experienced them personally. Theyâ€™ve read about blogs, maybe visited a few; theyâ€™ve heard about, for example, MySpace and The Facebook, or del.icio.us and Flickr but only understand what they look like from afar and on an intellectual level.
Christopher suggests instead of using an oversimplified dichotomy to understand digital learners (both novice and expert), we should look at whether people merely KNOW ABOUT technologies, are PARTICIPATING IN the use of specific technologies, or are LIVING the use of technologies. Being a rather visually oriented person, I created a modified graphic of these ideas tonight:
I think there is still room in this framework for the concept of “refugees,” who are either ignorant of specific technologies or in denial that they exist and should be at least acknowledged. I also think there is still room for the idea of people who serve as “digital bridges.” I really do like the idea of not just categorizing people based on their age or their “average perceived understanding and use” of digital tools, but rather using a technology by technology level of analysis. This means I can still be a “digital voyeur” when it comes to the use of GPS technologies (which I am) and simultaneously a “digital native” when it comes to blogging and podcasting. It also avoids the all-to-common problem of assuming that a digital native “knows it all” when it comes to technology, when in fact the knowledge and skills each “native” has are generally contextually limited. (The learning style of a generational digital native may be navigational rather than procedural, as the generational digital immigrants’ learning styles often are, but a navigational learning style– i.e. “the VCR gene syndrome” does not correlate to actual knowledge and skills with all technologies.)
Frameworks and analyses like these can certainly get overly complicated, and simplicity can be a good thing, but I do agree with both Quentin and Christopher that we need more robust and complex models than the simple dichotomy of “digital immigrants and digital natives” if we not only want to understand WHERE WE ARE as learners, but also HOW WE CAN MOVE FORWARD in learning to effectively utilize additional digital tools.
These ideas support my own contention that in educator professional development settings, teachers need to be provided with more opportunities to PARTICIPATE IN the use of web 2.0 technologies, rather than merely grow aware of them. If we persist in the latter type of professional development, we will likely increase the population of “digital voyeurs” in our midst but not necessarily swell the ranks of the “digital immigrants” and “digital natives.”
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On this day..
- DEN Tech or Treat: Playing with Media - 2011
- NetPotential 2011 Conference Notes - 2011
- One of my favorite Oklahoma Classroom Blogs - 2011
- A touching story about Dad, the hero - 2009
- Visualizing social media publishing - LIVE - 2009
- Getting Started with Oral History Interviews - 2008
- Research-based suggestions for the digital storytelling process - 2008
- Professional development submission requests integrated in K12Online08 blog - 2008
- U.S. Citizens: Contact your elected officials about Change Congress - 2008
- IE7 for Windows and Vista / Open Source reflections - 2006