E-learning concepts - Table of Content

Net Generation

Digital natives and immigrants

Aims Learning Objectives

  • To discover the networking attitudes of students.
  • To understand the terms "digital natives" and "digital immigrants".
  • To be able to take part in an on-line discussion based on a web conference system.

Reading Reading

GenerationDigital natives and digital immigrants

"THEY are variously known as the Net Generation, Millennials, Generation Y or Digital Natives. But whatever you call this group of young people—roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000—there is a widespread consensus among educators, marketers and policymakers that digital technologies have given rise to a new generation of students, consumers, and citizens who see the world in a different way. Growing up with the internet, it is argued, has transformed their approach to education, work and politics." (Economist online, England, issue on March of 2010)

The theory of ‘generations’ - shown on the table below - was developed in the early 1990s byAmerican sociologists Neil Howe and William Strauss. Each generation has its own ‘character’ – a character shaped by their most relevant economic, social and cultural activities and attitudes.

Who are the digital natives?

The most widely used name for the new generation was initiated by the American writer Marc Prensky:

"What should we call these 'new' students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all 'native speakers' of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet." (3)

Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. Marc Prensky: Twenty-first century learning, teaching and technology

... and the digital immigrants?

"Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them, Digital Immigrants" (Prensky, 2001).

Nowadays there are thousands of studies about the Net Generation, digital natives and immigrants, and there are many different opinions found in these the studies. The English online magazine - the Economist - published an article in March of 2010, and invited readers comment on it. Among the people who commented was Don Tapscott, who was one of the firsts educational researchers to draw attention to the Net Generation.

"This is an actual generation and they have different brains because how you spend your time during adolescence is the main determinant of brain development. They are a powerful force to change every institution in society. This research is summarized in my 2009 best seller Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World."

Not all comments agreed with Don. Comments from the opposing view included:

"The only noticeable differences of this so called digital generation are: they think tha plagiarism is a right, cut-and-paste is writing, uncritical thinking is cool, attention deficit is a virtue, incoherent thought is also cool, being smart is dumb, swearing often is natural, being polite is stupid, form over substance is IT. What a great generation for humanity!"

"The Digital Native myth is quite damaging to teacher professional development, I think, because it tells somewhat confidence-deprived teachers that in their middle years that they can never catch up with their young super-whiz students. In fact, from my experience, the qualities that are most needed in teachers using the new technologies are not so much to do with computer skills but thinking skills and mental flexibility. For example, skills to judge whether a Wikipedia article is credible."

Exercise Exercises

Common ForumYou are asked in assignment TC01A03T to describe the learning and networking attitudes of your students. You should carry out a survey of your students to determine this, and then share your conclusions with other participants of the course. Finally you will be asked to formulate conclusions agreed by your group, based on individual results. The assignment TC01A03GR should be submitted as part of your teamwork.

For your own work: a) You are free to use the online "Questionnare for students" published on the front page of Tenegen: your students can access this survey without registering on the portal. b) You can edit your own questionnaire; or c) You are free to setup your own survey based on interviews with your students.


[1] The net generation, unplugged, The Economist, March 4. of 2010.

[2] Marc Prensky is the author of Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill 2001) and Founder and CEO of Games2Train. His website: http://www.marcprensky.com

[3] Marc Prensky: Digital natives and digital immigrants (2001)