Natives and Immigrants
“Let me see your wrists,” demands Gerry D. Hudson. Twenty administrators dutifully hold out their arms. Hudson is looking for watchbands, a telltale sign of people who are “digital immigrants” rather than “natives,” terms coined by Marc Prensky in 2001.
More than a few people in the room are wearing watches. “Do kids wear watches?” Hudson asks. “No. If they care, they find out the time by checking their phones.”
“Or by asking someone who wears a watch,” one of the immigrants quips.
Hudson, superintendent of the rural but technologically savvy Altmar Parish Williamstown school district in New York State, describes the disconnect between students and teachers when it comes to technology. The students are “natives”; they grew up with computers in a digital era. They text, they network, they receive information quickly and simultaneously from various media sources. Their teachers are by and large “immigrants” to the digital culture, trying to catch up with the technology students have always known. The problem for students is that the immigrants are in charge of their education and the use of technology inside the schoolhouse.
Hudson puts his finger on the real problem of integrating technology. It took three years, for example, for teachers in my district to move to e-grades. Year one it was optional and all the teachers under 30 got on board. By the end of year two, about 80% were inputting their grades. In year three e-grades were mandatory, and the last few immigrants finally cajoled the under 30’s to input their grades for them. In the meantime my 5-year-old granddaughter was texting me on her way to kindergarten each morning.
Hudson says there are basically three ways we can better integrate instructional technology. The first ways is to train the immigrants. The second way is to train the immigrants. The third way is to train the immigrants. There’s probably a fourth way: Wait for the immigrants to retire.