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Are you a digital native or immigrant?

While cruising through my family room the other day, I took a moment to watch my 15-year-old daughter busy at our little computer setup. What caught my eye was the flurry of action surrounding her: instant messages beeping like crazy, text being "thumbed" into her cell phone, activity lights flashing as music downloaded into the iPod, music streaming through the speakers and the CD burner running on overdrive with a slideshow of digital photos. All of this was happening simultaneously while she was researching her history assignment! It made my head hurt, but what really struck me was the casual nature with which my daughter said, "Hi, Dad," when she noticed me standing there.

I recall that during the 2006 Leadership Academy for Educators one of the attendees used the term "digital natives" to describe the students we're seeing more and more of in the classroom and the term "digital immigrants" to describe the faculty and others raised in the pre-Internet era. The terms "digital natives" and "digital immigrants" were coined by Marc Prensky, consultant and author of several informative and entertaining papers on the subject. Here, right in front of me, was the classic example of a true digital native.

Prensky makes the point that today's students have spent their entire lives surrounded by computers, video games, digital music players, video cameras, cell phones and various other toys and tools of the digital age. He forecasts that before today's kids leave college, they will have spent more than 10,000 hours playing video games, more than 10,000 hours talking on cell phones and more than 20,000 hours watching TV, in addition to sending and receiving more than 200,000 e-mails and instant messages.

People who grow up in this tech-savvy culture not only think about different things than the rest of us, they actually think differently. This is the generation of digital natives. The rest of us can and do learn to adapt to and use new technologies, but we tend to retain elements from the past, like printing out a document instead of reading it on the computer.

Why is this important? If we consider the age groups of practicing technologists and educators in the radiologic sciences (42 and 45 years old, respectively), we see that digital immigrants (people born before 1980) dominate in our field. Yet the majority of students currently preparing for a career in the radiologic sciences were born after 1980. As we head into the future, new employees in imaging and radiation therapy departments will include an ever-increasing number of digital natives.

ASRT surveys have consistently demonstrated that, once in practice, peer learning is the dominant method used by R.T.s to remain current with changes in the field. This is an important point because educators and seasoned R.T.s risk relying on outdated language and communication techniques when they try to share knowledge with a generation that speaks an entirely different language.

Prensky points out that digital natives are used to receiving information really fast--they like to multitask, prefer graphics over text, prefer random access to information, function best when networked and thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They also prefer games over "serious" work.

Some people might say that, even though this information is neat and interesting, traditional learning methods have become traditional because they work; the digital natives can change things after we digital immigrants retire and they take over. Others recognize that dealing with digital natives could offer an opportunity to enhance their creativity while also learning to communicate years of wisdom and knowledge using the language of the future.

I hope this information helps you develop a new perspective of the people you encounter in the classroom or clinical setting and that you can embrace and celebrate the inherent "nativeness" and "immigrantness" that is uniquely yours.

Now I just have to figure out a way to get my daughter to program my cell phone!

By Kevin Powers, Ed.S., R.T.(R)(M), ASRT Director of Education
COPYRIGHT 2007 American Society of Radiologic Technologists
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:guest column
Author:Powers, Kevin
Publication:ASRT Scanner
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jul 1, 2007
Previous Article:Brain tumors possible after irradiation.
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