Sunday, March 18, 2007

Characteristics of Digital Natives

From Susan McLester's recent post at TechLearning:

Characteristics of a Digital Native

Following is a compilation of characteristics of 21st-century learners gleaned from a variety of sources, including an American Association of School Librarians blog, high school and university student interviews, and Kim Jones, vice president of global education for Sun Microsystems.

  • Multimedia oriented
  • Web-based
  • Less fear of failure
  • Instant gratification
  • Impatient
  • Nonlinear
  • Multitasker
  • Less textual, more modalities
  • Active involvement
  • Very creative
  • Less structured
  • Expressive
  • Extremely social
  • Need a sense of security that they are defining for and by themselves
  • Egocentric
  • Preference for electronic environments
  • Have electronic friends
  • Thrive with redefined structure
  • Surface-oriented
  • Information overload
  • Widening gap to information access
  • Share a common language
  • Risk takers
  • Technology is a need
  • Aren't looking for the right answer
  • Feel a sense of entitlement
  • Constant engagement
  • All information is equal
  • No cultural distinctions (global)
  • Striving to be independent

—with acknowledgment to Diane Beaman
Would this list look differently if it were created by a group of classroom teachers?


Kelly Christopheson said...


It would look different through the eyes of a teacher just because of the context. The biggest thing is that I don't agree that there is a defining "digital native" unless you want to use it as a term to divide generations. As a term to describe people or a definition of people who have technology, it doesn't work so well. To be born at a particular time surrounded by certain "inventions" creates a gap between you and those who were not born with them in only that they weren't born. The ability to use, interact and advance may have nothing to do with when you were born. If it does, then we'd better go back and redefine all the people "electric immigrants vs electric natives" "print immigrans vs print natives" "car immigrants vs car natives" "plane immigrants vs plane natives" You get the picture. It is now when you are born but how you what you do with it. Being surrounded by water doesn't mean you can swim. To me, there no different than the youth of previous generations - they don't see the deeper possibilities because they aren't ready yet. They are youth. Instead, you have those who are older that are as native as any of these youth and who are pushing the technologies to do more. Sorry for this but I think we do a disservice to youth with this label. It's was a great marketing gimmick by Presnky. Period.

Patrick Higgins said...


This is a great way to look at it. Your comment follows nicely with a discussion that is ongoing on one of my workshop wikis (
about the changing nature of teaching. Your use of the phrase "because they are not ready yet" in describing how some students will be "native"-like and others will not is apt. Just like Prensky's term of "immigrant" does not fit everyone who was not born with email or IM.

For people just coming into all of the 2.0 technologies, I think this provides a nice framework for them to feel comfortable with. For example, if they feel that it is OK not to know something and learn it from their students, that is a nice change. The idea of a gap between the two sometimes will help those new to the idea by reducing the anxiety caused by change.