Digital Natives/Immigrants in Imagined communities and the digital citizenship quandary

When considering if there is such a thing as a digital native or digital immigrants (Prensky’s overview on PBS)I can’t help but look at it within the context of Imagined communities and with digital citizenship (see Ribble’s 9 elements of Digital Citizenship) in mind.

The term digital native implies someone being “born into” digital knowledge just as a “native speaker” is ‘born’ a speaker of a certain language.  Which means, being a digital immigrant is someone who was born “outside” of something and has come into it.  That term also implies that the ‘immigrants’ will never be as proficient as the ‘natives’.

One doesn’t have to look far to see that being ‘born into’ a digital age doesn’t equate someone who is able to navigate the muddy waters of ‘digital citizenship’.  If the ‘natives’ were adept at ‘handling’ all things digital – we wouldn’t have the unfortunate cases as witnessed with Amanda Todd.

David White’s idea of digital visitors versus digital residents and that people fall on a continuum that range from someone who utilizes digital tools and leaves it behind  to those who interact with tools and social spaces as part of one’s identity. This is where Benedict Anderson‘s idea of ‘imagined communities’ comes into play.  Those who are ‘residents’ (or closer to it on the continuum) – might be quite adept at utilizing the web and placing themselves within different communities, but I don’t think that equates understanding the implications of the way one uses the web.

When we look at it from this perspective, and consider the students who are closer to the ‘residents’ portion of the continuum, Doug Belshaw’s Essential elements of digital literacy lends itself nicely.

Digital Literacies need to be taught in a progressive way.  His key point that digital literacies are dependent on context and need to be socially negotiated is ,in my opinion, exactly right.

Bringing this back to the idea of ‘digital citizenship’ if we continue to think in terms of digital native versus digital resident, and we believe that these things are very black/white and linear, or that students who are ‘immersed’ in digital spaces understand all of the parameters that need to be navigated, then we as teachers/parents etc. are setting our kids up to fail.  While I believe it is good for people to make mistakes on-line and learn from it, there is certainly ways we as educators can work to lessen the severity of the mistakes.

One thought on “Digital Natives/Immigrants in Imagined communities and the digital citizenship quandary

  1. I really agree with you suggestion that being able to do something doesn’t necessarily mean understanding implications. An example I heard or read a long time ago was that most of us can use a microwave but not all that many of us know how it works. That is similar to how many people treat their digital presence now. They can do it so they do. But should we? What will it do to us, what are the implications? I still remember a couple guys throwing a pencil into a microwave when I was in high school, or the time I accidentally put a bowl with gold around the edge into the microwave at our cabin. Oops! Didn’t realize that it would spark, the guys didn’t know it could short out the microwave or worse (or that they would get the microwave taken away from all of us). And it is so true. Even more so because we are still figuring it all out. Turkle talked about that in her video. So if digital literacies are socially negotiated, what implication does that have for teaching them?

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