Digital Natives


When Kaylee was three, she was able to maneuver an iPhone and knew how to put in the password and go to her 4 folders of apps.  Wheels on the Bus was one of her favorites when she was three.  

At age four, she loved AniMatch, an electronic version of the old memory game with animal pictures and sounds, as well as FirstWords Animals, where she matched lowercase letters and spelled words of animals that made noises and twirled and jumped and made her laugh.  And, by age four, she knew how to swipe and drag, pinch and enlarge on the iPad.  

At age five, she enjoys TeachMe Kindergarten and TeachMe First Grade, where addition, subtraction, spelling, and Dolch Sight Words are the topics.  

The other day, she sat on my lap to watch a You Tube video with me, and as it started, she moved my hand away from my laptop, went right to the arrows, “We need it bigger!” and took care of it herself, enlarging the screen. When did she learn that?  

Marc Prensky refers to our students of today, like 5-year old Kaylee or 9th grader Joey, as Digital Natives.  They are growing up or have already grown up in the digital world.  And we must adapt our teaching  to engage them in ways that interest them

Digital Natives.are used to receiving information fast.  They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than after. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards.  They prefer games to “serious work.” They have a whole library in their pocket. They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step logic and “tell-test” instruction. These skills are often totally foreign to the Digital Immigrants (Prensky 2001, 2010).  

When I presented at the National Title I Conference in January 2012, there were a handful of Keynote and smaller sessions that opened new windows and doors to digital literacy.  I consider myself fairly savvy when it comes to technology, not great, but better than some… but I had one “ah-ha” moment after another.   

What do some of the experts say? 

According to Ormiston (National Title I Conference 2012) the communication spectrum that supports a digital rich classroom includes:
è Collaborating
è Moderating
è Negotiating
è Debating
è Commenting
è Net meeting/Skyping/Video conferencing
è Reviewing
è Questioning
è Replying
è Posting and Blogging
è Networking
è Contributing
è Twittering
è Instant Messaging
è Texting
è Podcasting
è Producing
  •  Technology-related discussions often are focused primarily on ways to keep students from using it during the school day, rather than on the potential of digital technology to motivate students and enhance our instruction (Kingsley, 2010, Dagget, 2012).
  • Subjects (ages 10-11) translated a paragraph of texts into standard English and a Standard English paragraph into a text – There is considerable evidence of higher achievement with students who text (Plester, Wood, & Bell, 2008). 
  • “If teachers are not up-to-date with technology, (including but not limited to smart phones, text messaging, tweeting) they have no business teaching today’s children/students – they don’t have a clue what’s going on” (Dagget, National Title I Conference, 2012).

What can we do in our K-12 classrooms?  “Go faster, less step-by-step; we want more random access,” said a 12-year-old girl.  We can use Smartboards, blogging, podcasting, video production, digital storyboarding, wordle (a word generating image), glogster (a graphic blog), and don’t stop there… try digital story telling or writing. (Thanks to Stone & Norman, 2012, Speakers for Seattle Reading Council’s Spring Professional Learning, for sharing the following sites):

We will continue our digital conversation next week, with the benefits of Gaming, some more tips for the classroom, and a bit of research to support it. 


Until next time, share a literacy strategy!
Dr. Denise Gudwin

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