George Lucas Educational Foundation
Subscribe to RSS

Digital Natives: Students Can Teach Teachers a Thing or Two

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Pinterest
  • Share

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!

Was this useful?

Comments (6) Sign in or register to comment Follow Subscribe to comments via RSS

dave's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What were the age of the students who used the ipods? How did you decide which students to give them too? What movies were they supposed to "get onto the ipod?"

ron smith's picture
Anonymous (not verified)


The students were seniors in high school. I chose them because they had made a movie, using, in order, a digital video camera, final cut pro, itunes. What I wanted was to see if students could use the iPods as a portable portfolio. The movie they made was a 5-part novella, in Spanish, about high school boys.

Andrew Pass's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

The phrase "digital natives" never ceases to amaze me. Our students truly do know so much more about the world of the computer and the Internet than we do. Recently I've come to compare the computer in today's classroom to the pen in the classroom of the Twentieth Century. It is absolutely essential to high quality education. I've done some writing about this on my own blog Feel free to take a look.

Bonnie Bracey Sutton's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

What a great story! How sad it is that we educators have to create funding and grants for this kind of technology work. How wonderful that you were able to create resources for the students so that they could use multimedia in new and wonderful ways.

Marie Sontag's picture
Anonymous (not verified)

In addition to Marc Prensky's "Digital Natives" term, I have also found some remarks by John Seely Brown very helpful in describing today's youth. He writes that today's students prefer to learn while they "link" and "lurk" - which I'm sure describes how Ron Smith's students figured the video pods. I am working on a doctorate in instructional design for online learning, and have added a third term to Seely's link and lurk descriptions. Today's students have a preference for learning situations that allow them to link, lurk, and lunge. They learn by finding those who know how to do what they want to do, they hang out or "lurk" around them, and then lunge in and try new things on their own. I am looking for ways to statistically document these attributes and learning preferences. Any ideas?

Luis Carvajal's picture
Luis Carvajal
Ilustre Municipalidad de Camarones

Un saludo muy especial desde Arica, Chile. entiendo un poco el ingles, y bueno quisiera mantener contacto con ustedes en cualquier ambito que tenga que ver con la educacion mi sitio web y mi email es Mi trabajo es desarrollar software educativo para la ensenanza de la cultura aymara, donde se esta haciendo un esfuerzo por recuperar la lengua aymara en algunos lugares por este medio.

Sign in to comment. Not a member? Register.