I was reading an article recently that looked at the countries where the most young people are online. The article cited the recent UN International Telecommunications Union (UTI) study that looked at the proportion of young people in each country that grew up with the internet. While that was pretty interesting in and of itself (more on that later), it got me thinking that if such small percentages of our current populations grew up with the internet (aka, “digital natives”), there must be an interesting way to look at the digital divide.
Basically, all of our young digital natives are being taught by “digital immigrants”, or, folks who didn’t grow up with the internet. Pretty obvious, but think of it this way: Let’s say you go to school and have to take English classes (and English is your native language). Your teacher’s native language is not English (and let’s say hypothetically their English is not great), and even though he/she may be very knowledgeable about literature and much of the other stuff to go along with it, there’s a language barrier getting in the way.
In some cases (and obviously not all), this is what we’re doing to our students. We are….older. Many of us grew up with VCRs and rotary phones, not smartphones, wifi, and touch-screen tablets. Many teachers who are not ‘fluent’ in technology choose a pretty logical route – don’t teach with technology you’re not fluent with. This obviously yields widely varying levels of technology being used in the classroom. This is something we’re all pretty familiar with, right?
But teaching only with a bit of technology that you feel super comfortable with is like teaching a foreign language class when you have a more limited vocabulary than the students. Obviously, learning All Of The Technology Immediately is not necessarily an option, so while we learn new technology at a reasonable pace, thinking about how our digital native students think and learn is a good gateway into closing some of the divide.
The handy infographic below came from a quick Google Search of “digital natives vs. digital immigrants”. There are a TON of different versions of this out there, but I thought that this one got the point across pretty well. Looking at some really basic differences of how digital natives vs. digital immigrants function and process information can help bridge the divide even before you have all of the tech skills under your belt.
Click the image below to enlarge so you can actually read it!