Monday, April 2, 2007

Don't Be Naive, Native, or Immigrant

After attending the FATE, Foundations in Art: Theory and Education conference this last week I returned home with four resounding words in my head: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. Marc Prensky's idea (found here) was repeated at many of the session presentations as a standard for what is happening in today's classrooms. However, there were many, including myself, who found these terms to be dated, negative, and off the mark.

Examining Prensky's original paper, you'll find he was speaking the message of the Polychronic Classroom long before I was:
"instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language."
So remember as you read this that, above all, Prensky is on our team.

However, the term "Digital Native" should actually be "Polychronic". In his 2001 paper, he clearly defines a digital native as a polychronic person. Polychrons have been traditionally defined by culture (Asia, Middle East) and are now being defined (or created) by technology. There is no reason though that any American above the age of 30 could not be a Polychron. And this is where Prensky's idea of digital foreigners is wrong.

Likewise, today's students that have never worked with a computer (or much technology) before reaching college, are more likely to be Monochrons; or the same type of personality that Pensky describes as digital immigrant. They have grown up reading, writing, thinking logically, etc...

I suggest we work to change these terms from words like "native" or "immigrant", which carry negative connotations of being foreign, naive, unaware, and not in control, to terms more akin to what they describe: Polychronic or Monochronic.

After all, aren't we all pioneers and conquerors in some way.? Aren't we driving this boat? Sure, some of my students don't know a world other than the new digital millennium but, that does not mean they will understand the iPhone better than I.


Terence Armentano, M.Ed. said...

Nice blog Anthony. I agree that the term digital native or immigrant may need to be re-worded to more accurately reflect the truth about the subject. I also think the terms monochronic and polychronic are more descriptive, however, they are not very self explanatory either, which may or may not be an issue. Those terms probably bode well within the art community, however, those terms may not mean as much to those outside the community. Maybe a term that has flexibility to evolve with the changing technology and education environment would be more suitable. For example, the term “Classroom 1.0” may describe the monochronic classrrom and the term “Classroom 2.0” may describe the polychronic classroom. These terms are not self explanatory, but once defined within the community work nicely, so that when our educational setting morphs to something new and not yet imagined, we can use the term "Classroom 3.0". This trend has been around in software development for years and is the reason Windows and MAC are still identifiable names with specific meaning attached to them and yet their products have evolved tremendously over the past 10 years. Just an idea. What are your thoughts?

Anthony said...

I love it! "Classroom 2.0"