Listen to the Natives

by Marc Prensky


Before reading this article, ask yourself the following questions: Do you and your staff think you need to be technology ‘whizz kids’ in order to use technologies effectively for learning? To what extent is your use of technologies for learning constrained by your belief that you don’t know enough about them?

This very relevant and easily read article presents challenging and important ideas for consideration. Prensky uses the terms ‘digital native’ and ‘digital immigrant’ to distinguish between those who have grown up familiar with multiple technologies (our students), and those born before the new digital world had begun. While this is rather simplistic – not all students have equal access to technology, while many teachers are leaders in the field – it is a useful metaphor to help us get our heads around some of the problems that occur in trying to implement ICT in schools.

Prensky is adamant that expertise (or lack of) with technologies is not as crucial in the classroom as is the use of good teaching skills to facilitate learning, using the expertise of students. He also argues that student motivation and engagement at school would be enormously improved by the incorporation of more of the new technological systems, including cell/camera phones and computer games. He advocates inviting students to suggest technological solutions for teaching and learning activities, such as ways to submit homework, or assess work.

There is some criticism of Prenksy’s enthusiastic promotion of technologies in school. Adolescent obsessions with lengthy telephone communications predate mobile phone usage, and not all students are fascinated by or skilled with ICT (Brown, 2005). Brown reminds us to be professionally critical in our adoption of the new digital technology into education.

This is a lively, innovative article that will provide interesting staffroom discussion.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • Given Prensky’s argument about the importance of using new technologies, what professional learning do you need to do in your school to improve the use of teaching and learning outcomes in ICT? Identify the strengths and any barriers that exist in your school to such a development.
  • What risk management strategies might be needed if you were to implement Prenksy’s ideas? Consider issues that might be raised for students, teachers and parents.

Further reading

Brown, M. (2005). The next generation: Looking to the future. Computers in New Zealand Schools, 17(2), 3-7.


Prensky, M. (2005, December/ 2006, January). Listen to the nativesEducational Leadership, 63(4), 8–13.

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