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I genuinely hold the idea that we can’t villainize the internet. Policing the students who (ab)use technology or criticizing the current contexts our students develop in seems fruitless in the absence of education. Maybe this lends itself to my appreciation for better understanding our respective places in the digital realm in order to proceed with wisdom? (It does). We really need to understand the depth of what we consume digitally (and how) and with this comes the need to identify where we, and our learners, fit in order to grow  and continuously learn about the ever-changing digital landscape.

Ironically, in previous reflections, I’ve kind of grappled with the idea of classifying students and myself with particular labels. At times labeling can be too constrictive, or its too subjective when considering things in a spectrum (but, that’s the point of a spectrum); student (and teacher) experiences and narratives constantly are in flux, so a spectrum to approach the diversity of technological literacy makes sense. The variation is wide from person-person. In this case, “what type of digital user am I”, widely varies depending on which point in my life you look at (my age, and technology available at the time), or in what setting the notion is applied (is it me as a student, teacher, or consumer). In my late teens?

I overshared and would’ve immensely benefited from digital citizenship education
(thanks Facebook Memories, for serving as a daily reminder for how much of a tool I was). The appreciation for the variety of digital consumers I think should keep us humble and empathetic as digital educators (if you’re an educator, your students will be put in a better position to be successful if you acknowledge your need to be a digital educator, assuming you live in a context with access).

This appreciation for empathy when approaching the idea of the spectrum of digital consumers has been a scaffolding process. One of my colleagues was providing a presentation to our staff about English Language Learners, and stated that we are all English Language Learners. That really resonated with me when considering the wide variety of proficiencies that exist regarding our respective grasp of the English language would also apply to the range of our grasps of digital literacy. With this, I consider that range of digital visitor/resident (which is presented as a continuum) as presented by Dave White.

However, upon watching Dave’s video, I became curious as to fluidity of being a digital visitor versus resident. When exploring that metaphor in a literal sense, we can see the impact visitors can make in new communities, and there can still be a trail or trace of their existence. This applies to online activity when considering webpage traffic, cookies, and histories. While we may not leave something easily visible to the public, those with the aptitude to perceive our presence online can do so. Therefore its important to remember our digital user classification isn’t definite either. I understand the context of the distinction Dave White makes as it pertains to our engagement with the digital world, but I also think it’s important to acknowledge the digital realm as an extension/part of our reality. Of which, relatively speaking, we’re all “residents” or “visitors”, and this is subject to change. But are we also digital “immigrants” or “natives”?

With digital immigrants and natives, there is a new issue presented that involves the peril in classifying individuals (clarification below). Its too subjective.

I do acknowledge the multitude of factors that can cause individuals to be predisposed to be better learners in different forms of literacy and the divide a failure to acknowledge this may cause. I acknowledge how certain generations may possess certain characteristics reflective of the context they grew up in. And I acknowledge that the digital world presents an exponentially increasing amount of change and challenges associated with it. But I fear we get too negative about the digital world and this can be a debilitating force against education. Like it or not, it is a part of the world we live in today.

That led me to consider drifting from the binary division of different types of educators and learners that I feel is presented in the distinction of digital immigrant/native, (and I wasn’t alone in this, thanks Megan). As I dug deeper, however, apparently Prensky felt similarly, opting to try to shift focus and emphasize “digital wisdom”, but was he successful in this endeavour?

Apparently the phrase digital wisdom didn’t catch on, but in reading Prensky’s work, he emphasized ideas after his digital immigrant/native article that, despite my personal critiques, he recognized and acknowledged as well. Two of which, I think are reflective of some main takeaways from my (and his) post:

  • Education and, by extension, the context in which digital literacy exists “should evolve” and so too must educators.
  • Educators need to listen to students. With this I think this connects to that empathy piece I mentioned before. 

We have to be cognizant of not over-generalizing the wide spectrum of learners that exist in the ever-changing digital world. Users are constantly increasing their fluency in digital literacy, and we are all digital literacy learners. Approaching all digital learners with that in mind, will keep us empathetic and adaptive to their learning process. With that, we will be practicing digital wisdom.


– Logan Petlak