Note: This post was originally created for Web 2.0-Based Learning and Performance at FSU.

I enjoy reading articles that disagree with each other. This week we read Marc Prensky‘s Digital natives, digital immigrants part 1 and Paul A. Kirschnerab Pedro and De Bruyckerec’s The myths of the digital native and the multitasker.

I understood where Prensky got his observations and some seem point on while others I questioned. I appreciated Kirschner’s retorts about how digital natives don’t always know the correct ways to use technology and against the myth of multitasking.

For this post, I want to focus on the first point. One of my favorite classes that I teach is Computer Apps to 7th & 8th graders. In this class they learn how to correctly use the G Suite apps and more. They usually approach the class feeling like they have nothing to learn and have no reason to take the class. However, while all of them are pretty comfortable with most of the applications they don’t know how to use them properly.

This is illustrated so clearly when I teach them how to use Google Slides. On the first assignment I repeatedly tell them very clearly not to change any fonts, colors, backgrounds, or other styling. Most of them reluctantly listen but there are always a few who cannot help themselves. They make their slideshow “beautiful.” Then comes the second assignment when they use the same slide show and learn how to edit the Master. The master allows them to change the styling of the whole presentation. Except for the parts that they had already changed manually. Now they regret not listening to me… Next time… maybe.

They can make a great looking slideshow but they are doing it the hard way that won’t look as good in the end.

I think the most significant characteristic of “digital natives” is their lack of fear. This allows them to go in and figure out how to use the technology. I believe this is what we often mistake for being naturals at it. Because this lack of fear also allows them to style their slideshow the difficult and less attractive way.

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I like your perspective on how a lack of fear my play into what others perceive as being a natural. It reminds me of a tongue-in-cheek conversation I have had with a friend and former co-worker. She had embellished parts of her resume. As someone right out of college, she hadn’t experienced many opportunities to work certain programs, but she said “There is a YouTube video for everything.” She may have been slower at first, but her boss who could not work any of the programs and refused to try was none the wiser! I feel that Digital Natives may… Read more »


We have these same issues/challenges with the undergraduates in the ed tech course. They know it all when they show up, and then we catch someone hitting the space bar a zillion times to center text. From there the rest of the myth unravels …

Lee M

My experience indicates that lack of fear is one of the key differences, too. Great point!

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