Shifting the dichotomy

Wes Fryer wrote on the 21st about the narrowness of the native:immigrant analogy. He adds the category of digital refugees to the mix; as well as bridges – those with one foot in each century … I like this word picture – and voyeurs – those who just watch as others do – they are many times referred to as lurkers in online learning environments.

I’d like to add the digital tourists to the mix. Tourists (as I say in my soon-to-be published article, Digital Culture: Immigrants and Tourists Responding to the Natives’ Drumbeat, International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education) are temporarily visiting a new environment, they always return home, back to what they’re comfortable with. Tourists learn just enough about where they’re visiting to get by – they learn enough of the language to be able to find the bathroom and ask if the water is ok. Think about the lady in front of you at the checkout stand: the cashier has finished ringing up her groceries and she’s just now starting to fill out the check. Heaven forbid that this tourist use an ATM card.

I strongly agree with Wes’ viewpoint of a more flexible use of the terms – we’re not stuck in one category; we move between all the categories according to what we’re doing and what tool we’re using.

Feeney (n.d.), in her article Digital Denizens, suggests that adding more categories can be useful. Here is her list:

  • Digital recluse: use of technology is a result of the need to function in the current environment, not used by choice; computers are prohibited in his/her home.
  • Digital refugee: unwillingly forced to use technology; prefers hard copies, does not trust electronic resources; seeks assistance; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult.
  • Digital immigrant: willingly uses technology, but not familiar of its potential; believes technology can be used successfully for some tasks; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult.
  • Digital native: chooses to use technology for numerous tasks; adapts as the tools change; may have grown up with technology or adopted it as an adult.
  • Digital explorer: uses technology to push the envelope; seeks new tools that provide more work, faster, and easier.
  • Digital innovator: adapts and changes old tools for new tasks; creates new tools.
  • Digital addict: dependent on technology; will go through withdrawal when technology is not available.

Feeney’s additional descriptors provide a more thorough representation of where we might fall – again without pigeon-holing ourselves or others. By the way, her article also includes a short, non-scientific quiz. Check it out.

As Wes concludes, so do I. We must provide multiple opportunities for the digitally reclusive to see the power of using technology for engaging students in their own learning. I find that providing examples and 1-on-1 mentoring helps them move past the fear, apathy, and/or reticence. Sometimes they even have fun! 🙂


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