Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Examining Generational Differences

This blog entry is in response to a professor’s prompt: “As educational technologists, what did you take away from these generational differences readings? How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?” 
The readings included:
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from
Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at

The order I read the readings was in the order shown above.  In prior graduate school class, we were assigned a reading by Prensky when studying the topic of Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants.  Prensky’s article makes sense to me mainly because I categorize myself in the Digital Native group. Although the technology used during my schooling in the 1990s looks way different than it does now, it was still present.  We had a computer class that we attended and teachers used different types of media to support their lessons.  Many of my teachers I would classify under Digital Immigrants, and I must admit, I work with teachers today who would also be in that group too.  A big different between then and now is many forced to change.  
I think what I took away most from the readings was from the Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation.  McKenzie makes you think twice about how quickly you had agreed with Prensky’s ideas of the digital world.  Mckenzie nitpicks several claims in Prensky’s article – mostly all revolving around the lack of evidence Prensky used to support his claims.  The one claim that surprised me the most was Prensky citing the name of the doctor incorrectly for one of the studies used about brain structures, and also not citing that doctor’s work. I don’t know if this would have even crossed a reader’s mind if not for McKenzie’s findings.  Although McKenize basically finds Prensky’s article insulting, I don’t know if I can agree with that feeling.  Maybe if I was from a different generation or if I was being categorized as Digital Immigrant, I might have some resentment towards Prensksy.  I wonder what generation McKenzie is from considering how much steam was released in his article.

Most of my colleagues have or are in the process of understanding and teaching to the Digital Native. I see the younger generation of teachers at my school using technology constantly in their lessons whether it is by the use of their white boards, bringing their classes to the computer lab for assignments, or using ActiVotes for classroom discussions.  The teachers who are still adapting to technology show frustration at times, but do see the benefits with using different technology tools, and therefore do not give up. 


  1. Casey, Prensky's basic premise is that the pervasiveness of digital technology has fundamentally changed how the brains of ALL of today's students are wired, essentially hindering (even preventing) them from learning effectively through any means beyond technology-infused learning environments. Based on this premise, the students in the classroom of the younger teachers in your school that uses the electronic whiteboard will learn, but the students in the older teachers' classroom who are still using the non-electronic whiteboards won't learn, won't learn as effectively, or will struggle to learn. For Prensky, the fact that the pedagogy is the same makes no difference, it is only the presence or absence of technology.

  2. I would probably be considered a "digital native" as well, but some of what I consider my best lessons do not use any technology at all. Pensky would argue that in those lessons, my students simply aren't learning. To me, that is a scary assertion. I value the technology I have at my disposal and I definitely look for ways of effectively using it when it fits within the scope and sequence of my curriculum and is appropriate for the content or skill I am teaching.

  3. Casey, your take on this issue is certainly different than mine! I would consider myself on the cusp of being considered a digital native, as I grew up with technology, but it was NOT necessary for my learning. I am one of the "techies" in my school and even in my school division, but I do not believe that my learners NEED technology to learn. They like it, they might even prefer it, but it is not the deciding factor in their learning. Prensky's premise is that technology is necessary for digital natives to learn. My own experience refutes this view and the lack of evidence in his work does little to convince me differently.

    I do believe that technology is an amazing tool. Used properly, it is engaging, supportive and efficient. I work very hard to integrate technology into my content, but I do not integrate my content into technology. For me, the learning objectives and my students' needs determine the tools I will use and I am grateful that there are such powerful ones available.

    Thanks for sharing!