Friday, November 23, 2012

Another Kind of Immigrant

Last night as we were celebrating Thanksgiving with our daughter and her family, I was reminded of something that should challenge all people who call themselves educators.   In 2001, writer Marc Prensky coined the term digital native and digital immigrant.   He argued that those of us who grew up in the era before digital technology became ubiquitous are "immigrants" that speak with an accent.  

I think of myself as a pretty digitally literate person.  But after dinner my son in law called his family in Oregon and his family huddled around an iPhone to FaceTime with them and exchange greetings of the day.   They had a fine conversation.

The point is not that they used Face Time but that their instinctive notion was to call visually (although I would have probably tried it on my iPad first for a bigger picture and a better video experience.   Our granddaughter, who is a very literate 2 year old, was engaged and chatty with her other grandparents and cousins and uncles and aunts.   Every time I use FaceTime or my wife uses SMS, we do it with a bit of wonder.  But we are, after all, immigrants.

Another example, about a year ago I was in Mexico City at a restaurant, with my iPad.   It had been hooked into WIFI in the restaurant for another purpose.   All of a sudden the iPad rang and there was a four year old calling his "boppy" on Face Time.  He had secured his father's phone and knew how to ring me up.

One of the issues that these two parents confront is how to make sure that their child is educated in a way that helps her develop in the world in which they reside.   We've had some long discussions about the challenges there.   And there are many.  Fortunately, these kids are comfortable bridging between traditional things like story books and new things like digital media and even at times in serving as translators for their immigrant grandparents.

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