Years ago I was launching a 1:1 program and was collecting content for a technology committee meeting. At this point I was in the proposal stage so I really wanted to hit a home run with this presentation. During my research, I discovered the terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” This was the Holy Grail of metaphors! My whole presentation focused on this premise. Soon we were all using these terms with everyone we encountered, parents, administrators, complete strangers. Every conference I went to, edtechies were talking about digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital immigrant t-shirts popped up. It was bliss!
Then the metaphor got taken way too far. People were saying since they are digital immigrants, they will always have an “accent.” We had first generation digital immigrants and even digital refugees. Technology professional development became digital immigration policy. Technology competencies became paths to digital citizenship.
Stop calling yourselves digital immigrants!
First of all, I don’t like the term immigrant being used to represent someone with lower skills than someone else. Notice I said lower…not low. Even though I am quite tech savvy, calling myself a digital immigrant implies that I am not as skilled and not as comfortable as digital natives. Correspondingly, natives appear to have implied superiority. In my opinion, this is wrong. It is fine to use the term immigrant as a concrete term but not as a descriptor that implies inferiority.
In addition, being comfortable with and knowledgeable about technology has nothing to do with age. I know middle schoolers who are neither. I never touched a computer until college and when I did, I booted up that Apple IIe and never looked back! I think it has everything to do with an innate curiosity and a willingness to learn new things. The teacher who wants to teach one year, 35 times, will never embrace technology. The teacher who is constantly evolving and improving will certainly explore the possibilities technology brings to the classroom.
So, colleagues, I propose that we all move forward and ban the term “digital immigrants” from our edtech vocabulary. I don’t even think we need to search for a replacement. We’re all learners on a continuum and cannot be grouped into two large and unfitting categories. I am definitely one of the biggest offenders and vow to change my ways. And, you will never hear me say the term “digital meltingpot!”
What do you think? Please comment below and thanks for reading the educational technology blog Teach Amazing!