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Digital Natives January 1, 2006

Posted by Michael McVey in Lifelong Learning, Students.

scootergirl   My first encounter with the term digital native came through some publications from EduCause, a nonprofit whose mission is to promote the intelligent use of information technology. The digital native is a person who is thoroughly connected with the digital world, prefers to be online, can engage in meaningful relationships with friends they only know through digital means, and prefer to seek out information online through hyperlinks and search engines.

My first awareness that my own daughter was a digital native came when she was only nine years old. Three movies arrived in the mail from NetFlix.com. She asked if the movie she wanted was in the pile of red envelopes. I replied that I would check in a second then she ran off down the hall. For me, checking meant opening the envelope and examining the contents.

Minutes later she was back in my study telling me that yes, indeed, her movie was in that pile. “How did you know that?? I innocently inquired.

“I went online and checked the queue,” was her no nonsense reply.

So, she had turned on the computer in my wife’s office, called up the web site for NetFlix, clicked the correct button to find out what movies had been delivered and found the digital answer to her question. That is how a digital native works and thinks. Finding out the information by opening the envelopes is how a digital immigrant solves problems.

I fear that it goes deeper than that. I recall a friend’s grandmother, a survivor of the depression era of the 1930s who saved or used everything she ever possessed. My own English grandmother chided us kids for using paper towels to wipe up Kool-Aid spills. To her mind, using the towels was a wasteful act. Fast forward to today and my daughter and her friends have made a movie with my digital camera.

Throughout the afternoon of filming, they used hundred of megabytes of storage for their movie, Scooter Girls. Today, as I was downloading them to my computer so they can later edit them, I marveled at the ease with which they could burn through memory. Just like my grandmother and her issue with paper towels, I have to come to grips with a completely different attitude toward digital storage.

When I am feeling like a digital immigrant, I take comfort in the words of Abraham Lincoln who once said, “The best thing about the future is that it only comes one day at a time.”



1. Zs - January 1, 2006

I smile at this post since I am a pack rat myself and living under the communists I grew up like your Grandmother :-) Paper towels mean trees, which mean forests, many of them! I grew up knowing that you never trash anything that can be recycled, re-used, or used for another purpose. I was surprised -should I say shocked? – when after my first Christmas in the U.S.A. having a walk I noticed the tons of garbage with tons of useful things in it! Trash with decorations, Christmas lights, lamps and candles, Christmas cards…. So many $ in the trash :-)
I even did not understood the waste of electricity – when home I always turn off the lights once I exit the room – and the waste of water and paper, and so many things that one can be careful with their use.
But slowly I got used to this, well not totally because I still save some nice sturdy boxes, I never trash my decorations, but I do trash cards, and do use freely paper towels :-)
I just imagine how will the world change in another 50 years… if there will be enough products around the world, but hope by then mankind will invent lots of efficient things :-) hopefully will bring to those less fortunate who never have seen paper towels, electricity, or a simple card…

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