Native and immigrant generations of the digital world

Mar 16, 2021

The digital world is in constant growth and change around us. Many experience this as a difficulty and a source of frustration; but younger generations consider it the natural way of life.

In an article written in 2001, American educator, lecturer and author Marc Prensky introduced the terms "Digital Native" and "Digital Immigrant" to describe the two groups and explain why their differences cause so many problems in education.

The younger generations have grown up in (or were directly born into) a world where they are surrounded by digital tools since an early age: computers, webcams, smart phones or the Internet. Children's brains are malleable, which means they will adapt to the use of such tools: they will think and learn differently, and have a different relationship with technology than previous generations. Some researches even suggest that their neural structure might be changed. They are the Digital Natives.

The oldest generation among them are the Millenials, also called Generation Y, who were born between the early 80s and the mid-90s. (They're called Millenials because they started entering adult society around the turn of the millennium.) Many of them still had a childhood without digital gadgets, but they grew into digital culture relatively early in life. They were followed by Generation Z, the "zoomers", who were born between the late 90s and the very early 2010s and who already had Internet access from a very early age. The most recent generation is Generation Alpha, from the early 2010s onward, most of whom are the children of Millenials.

drawing man in blue shirt pointing at a board with blue mobile icon

And next to the Natives there are the Immigrants: those generations that have only learned to use digital devices as adults. Just like in language learning, the brain differentiates between knowledge learned as a child and as an adult, and stores the information differently. In the real world, an immigrant will always retain a foreign accent; similarly, a Digital Immigrant can also be told apart from the Natives: he might learn modern technologies (possibly even better than a youngster), but he will still use them slightly differently. Think of the office worker who prints a document to proofread it and mark changes in ink, rather than use the proofreading function of his word processor; or the elderly relative, who calls you on the phone to ask if you received the email he's sent. Even the most diligent immigrants will trip up occasionally, and won't have a perfect idea about the exact uses of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and which one is cool with whom right now.

This generational difference becomes a problem in school when older Digital Immigrants try to teach Natives and are flummoxed by the difficulties. Natives have grown accustomed since their early years to receiving and processing information at a rapid pace, to seeing a diagram or picture first and only reading the explanation second. They are used to multitasking, to studying while listening to music or doing something else. Browsing the Internet, they learn not by reading chapter by chapter, but rather through random access: following links this way or that, putting the material together in their head. It's no wonder that traditional pedagogy with its slow teaching pace, strictly linear logic and "tell and test" methodology doesn't work for them: its vastly differs from the learning methods they were born into.

We at Logiscool feel it's important to arm the newest generation of Digital Natives with the digital literacy they will need in life. Our young trainers think similarly to them, and pass on their knowledge playfully, adapting to the children's natural learning methods and pace. Our 4–5-month-long courses teach coding and other digital subjects such as video production and robotics. Alternatively, our 6–10-session workshops let kids take quicker dips into additional exciting topics such as mobile app development, 3D design, digital illustration and Minecraft modding. Register for our courses or workshops, and meet the experience-based teaching methodology we've developed with Digital Natives in mind!