Examining Generational Differences

In Prensky’s article (2001), he talks about how technology is like a language. The younger a person is, the easier it is to learn the technology language. Much like immigrants, the older the person is when he or she learns how to use technology, the thicker the “digital immigrant accent” will be. He says this is based on the scientific reasoning that is behind the language acquisition capabilities of humans. I do not agree with this idea. Yes, there are definitely members of the older generation who have a difficult time learning how to use technology, but there are young children who have the same problems. Just like there are elders who do very well with technology and have the same skill set as a technology savvy teenager. However, there may be some fact to the idea that since the older generation did not grow up with technology, it could be like learning a second language for them.; whereas the younger generation who has been exposed to technology from a young age may describe using it as second nature.

If a colleague of mine bought up the notion of digital natives, I would find some common ground. I could agree that there are definitely people who have been exposed to technology for longer periods of time and who are quicker at using it. However, I believe that everyone can be taught technology if they want to learn. Technology use in the classroom, especially, is very important for all students and it is necessary to learn. It should not be the only form of teaching provided, but I really believe it engages the students and helps them learn in a way they are often familiar with. There will always be students who struggle, but the quicker educators are in recognizing this and providing extra guidance, the more effective technology will be.


Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf


10 thoughts on “Examining Generational Differences

  1. Emily, it isn’t the application of learning a language that bothers me about Prensky (although like you I do get annoyed by the always maintaining their accent part). The part that bothers me the most is Prensky’s rich man’s view that because technology is so pervasive for his upper middle class children that it is that way for all of today’s youth. His ignorance of the digital divide and issues of socio-economic status – and what role that might play into his insulting dichotomy – is unexcusable.

    • Michael, this is an excellent point! I believe the digital divide poses a larger problem in education than the generational divide. I couldn’t put my finger on what was irking me so much about Prensky’s article, but I think you might have hit it on the head!

    • Hi Michael,
      I have the same issue with Prensky. He makes no allowances for those students who never had access. It’s as if they don’t exist in his world view. Are those students digital immigrants too? What about the people who invented the technology but didn’t grow up with it? Where do they stand in this paradigm? I like Prensky’s energy and his attempt to discuss the fact that technology can change the learning process, but I see too many areas that need more thought.

      • Darla, this is where the problems begin, because a generational label should apply to everyone in the generation. It doesn’t matter is you had a TV and could watch it, Neil Armstrong landing on the moon impacted everyone of that generation – as one example.

  2. I really like your idea of finding common ground. This needs to be done anytime if wanting to make a point. It defuses any strong emotions attached to opinions and allows for more calm discussion. Great points!
    Jaime Piatt

  3. You’re definitely correct when you say that people from all age groups can struggle using technology, in part, because there are so many types out there. As teachers, we need to be cognizant of the fact that our students and colleagues may need/want help learning now to use technology. If we can help them, good. If we can help teach them to help themselves, much better.

    • This definitely true. I think that helping people help themselves is all about attitudes; everyone involved needs to be on board, from teachers to admins to fellow students. If students believe that the best way to get help is to figure things out for themselves, they’ll do it without question and be better off for it.

    • Great point! I’m always a huge advocate of helping people help themselves. That’s the only way the world population will evolve and survive, especially in this age of technology.

  4. I couldn’t agree more about no matter what, there will always be students that struggle.

  5. Hi Emily,
    I also have a problem with Prensky’s definition of immigrant/native. I can see that a younger person may be more open-minded to technology and might, therefore, learn it easier than someone older. However, that doesn’t preclude anyone from becoming “fluent” in technology. Why would we separate those fluencies based on natives and immigrants? That seems divisive and counter to the goals of education.

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