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Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives.

Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, 2009, Basic Books, New York, 288 pp., $25.95 (hardcover), $16.95 (paperback), or $14.27 (Kindle), ISBN: 978-0-4650-0515-4.

As a school counselor, the challenge of keeping up with digital technology is a sometimes overwhelming endeavor. Facebook, Wikipedia, Skype, BlackBerry IM, iChat, iPhones, and similar digital technologies come and go in the lives of the 21st-century learners with whom school counselors work. The latest new thing may be old news by the time educators even learn of its existence. This is simply the nature of the rapidly changing digital culture in which we now five. According to the authors of Born Digital." Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives, John Palfrey and Urs Gasser, there exist "Digital Natives," "Digital Settlers," and "Digital Immigrants," and the gap between these three groups "breeds and reinforces fear of new technologies, rather than encouraging positive steps to figure out how to live our lives together in a digital era."

Whether a Digital Native, Digital Settler, or Digital Immigrant, school counselors are faced with new challenges as digital technologies infiltrate students' lives at an ever-increasing rate. A Digital Native is someone born after 1980 who has "access to networked digital technologies," has "the skills to use those technologies," and has "never known any other way of life." In contrast, the authors describe Digital Settlers as those who are older who have learned to use digital technologies, but who "continue to rely heavily on traditional, analog forms of interaction." Finally, Digital Immigrants are those who "learned how to e-mail and use social networks late in life." Palfrey and Gasser note that they can be identified "by the lame jokes and warnings about urban myths that they still forward to large cc: lists." Regardless of the labels used, there are obvious differences among various groups within an individual school culture, each of whom play an important role in the new digital realities of the 21st century.

Palfrey and Gasser offer a guide to understanding those who are "born digital" and how they are indeed different from Digital Settlers and Digital Immigrants. As lawyers and parents of Digital Natives, themselves, Palfrey and Gasser balance a research-based approach with legal implications and personal experience as they walk readers through the aspects of our lives that are being changed by digital technologies, including Digital Natives' identity development, privacy expectations, safety considerations, knowledge creation, equality issues, learning strategies, and social activism, to name a few. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of Digital Natives' lives that is being impacted by digital technologies, and each ends with legal implications as well as suggestions for parents and educators.

Particularly refreshing is the fact that the authors pay equal attention to both the positive and negative aspects of digital technologies. Although the fears and risks associated with digital technologies receive a lot of attention, digital safety is not the only consideration when exploring the ways in which Digital Natives are different. Born Digital explores the very real ways in which digital technologies are creating differences in creative possibilities, multitasking abilities, and global identities for Digital Natives. Digital Natives' digital safety also is explored with an emphasis on parents, educators, business leaders, lawmakers, and law-enforcement officials being held accountable for making sure young people achieve an acceptable level of digital literacy and digital citizenship. Community-based efforts are emphasized as a means to finding solutions to problems that arise related to digital technologies. Drawing upon the "wisdom of Digital Natives themselves in the process" is a key component of these efforts. The authors describe the shared responsibilities of numerous groups to work together to ensure that Digital Natives have the knowledge and skills they need to stay safe in both digital and analog life, a distinction that many Digital Natives do not make as they live in one world, an analog world in which digital technology facilitates interactions, knowledge, and creativity.

One of the weaknesses of this book was that at times the authors' discussion of legal considerations was more in-depth than would necessarily be relevant for school counselors and educators. Although the information provided is extremely helpful, it is not always easy to apply directly to the work of educators. However, these sections are informative and thought-provoking, offering a legal perspective to some of the situations that school counselors face every day.

Born Digital is an excellent book for school counselors whether they are Digital Natives, Digital Settlers, or Digital Immigrants. The authors provide a comprehensive overview of many of the digital technologies that currently exist, the ways in which Digital Natives differ because of their unprecedented use and familiarity with digital technologies, the legal implications that arise with the use of new digital technologies, as well as considerations for parents and educators who find themselves encountering a digital world with which they are unfamiliar. The authors also provide a Web address for a wiki, which is meant to supplement the written text, with the knowledge that what is current at the time of publication is likely to change. However, they are also aware that staying up to date is a critical aspect of helping Digital Natives navigate within this new digital era.

What the authors call "version 1.0" of their book is an excellent catch-up tool for school counselors wishing to know more about the actual ways that Digital Natives are using digital technologies and the implications of that usage. Too often what we read in relation to school counselors and technology has a Digital Immigrant slant. In contrast, Born Digital provides a less biased perspective, but a very real perspective nonetheless, on digital technology and the issues that have arisen as a result. This book is an excellent resource for school counselors as they continue their work with students and parents as 21st-century educators. Being knowledgeable about digital technologies is an ethical responsibility. Born Digital allows school counselors to access knowledge about this topic in a way that is easy to understand and easy to apply immediately.

Adria E. Shipp recently received her Ph.D. in counselor education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and is a school counselor with the Alamance-Burlington School System in Alamance County, NC. She can be reached via e-mail at adria.shipp@gmail.com.
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Author:Shipp, Adria E.
Publication:Professional School Counseling
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2010
Words:1055
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