George Lucas Educational Foundation
Professional Learning

Digital Natives: Students Can Teach Teachers a Thing or Two

June 23, 2006

Marc Prensky has coined the phrase "digital natives." He says that it is "the most useful designation I have found for [students today]. Our students today are all 'native speakers' of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet." They are comfortable with the latest technology before most teachers even know it exists.

I teach, among other things, digital video production. Last December, our school got a grant for various things, with $1,200 reserved for digital media. I was driving across the California desert when an assistant principal called my cell and told me I needed to tell her how to spend the money -- now!

I immediately said to buy four video iPods. I wanted to see whether students could put their films on the iPods and use them as something of a portable portfolio. When I got them, I handed them to students and told them to see whether they could get their movies on them. I didn't give any instructions on how to do it or when I wanted to know. I just said, "Show me when you get it done."

About six weeks went by and I had forgotten about it, when two students came to me and said they had done it. They proudly showed a couple of short films to me on the iPod. They had solved the problem without any input from me, and now they wanted to teach me how to do it. Digital natives, indeed!

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