In 2001, Marc Prensky asserted that kids today are different, that their approach to technology, including their neuro-plasticity, malleability, and attention spans, is quiet different than those of us who come to use technology later in our lives. They are native to the digital experience as opposed to my experience (even as a Gen X'r) which is one of immigration into the digital ecology. I was uncertain about these social observations until this very Christmas break. I don't know if I had thought that Prensky's assertions were a bit hollow or if there was a part of me that wanted to think that kids today aren't really different.
I had also seen David Warlick's compelling pictures of one of his kids surrounded by friends. The picture is pertinent seeing that each kid in the picture is concurrently engaged in face-to-face and digital interaction using a wide selection of wireless devices. They naturally switch from gaming to laughing about movie quotations, from talking about the statistics from last Sunday's NFL football game to posting Facebook updates; they are literally playing out Prensky's research. But still, I wasn't totally sold, thinking that kids today still aren't significantly different than kids of other time periods of significant change, such as the kids of the 1950s, with their affinity for rock-n-roll and black and white TVs.
At some point over this Christmas break, however, I saw this:
My son, Leo. He had stealthily nabbed my IPad.
Then, while trying to keep up with housekeeping as family was staying at our house, I walked through the kitchen and saw this:
My other son, my daughter, and my brother-in-law all simultaneously engaged in verbal conversation, gaming, and digital communication.
Are there natives in my house? Surely, they are too young, maybe haven't had the high exposure, or don't have the motivation, so it can't be. But still, there they are. I realized that my kids are displaying skills that I don't fully have; they are utilizing dexterity that has not been taught yet. My kids are effortlessly employing dispositions where I have to purposefully exert effort. Indeed, my realization is that I have natives in my house!