Identity Crisis – Digital Native or Immigrant ? #edcmooc

I have always thought of myself as a digital native. Agreed, I wasn’t born to technology, but then technology evolved during my lifetime and I grasped it pretty quick. The transition was pretty natural. I grasped computers fairly early – I got my first desktop computer way back in 1998, all of 4 GB hard disk, a celeron processor and a whopping 256 MB of RAM. State of the art, in those days, and it set me back by almost INR 60K (Yep, I took a loan to buy it back then !)

I got hooked on to it pretty soon, and a journey of exploration commenced. A journey that is still on, I now consider myself an expert  – computers are my hobby, I assemble my own desktops, I troubleshoot computers for friends and relatives, I recover data from crashed disks, and I am fairly active in the social spaces. I make my own websites, I am experimenting with various LMS live, on my own domains, and I write blogs. I was one of the early cellphone users in India and have changed dozens since 1998, having tried most brands an popular models. I was one of the first ones to get hooked by arcade video games and spent many years indulging myself in various gaming arenas. Nintendo was my constant companion, till I got bored of it and moved on. Nope, I’m not trying to impress you. I am simply sharing some facts which I thought made me a digital native. I mean, computers are my second life. I am online from 8 AM to  midnight almost every day, barring the days when I go out to teach or conduct training sessions, or in connection with my work as a tourism marketing professional. Otherwise most of my normal work happens in the online spaces. And that, I thought, made me a digital native.

But to my utter shock and disbelief I am now informed that no, I don’t qualify as a native, but am an immigrant. Help ! I’m undergoing an acute identity crisis right now. Don’t believe me ? Watch this video.

“There’s no such thing as a digital native”, it begins by proclaiming. Digital natives, if you please, are the ones that are born to this technology that we revere – the one who grow up with it, and are transformed by it, even to the extent of having altered brains. They are native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet. All oldies in general (is that a reference to me ??), and teachers in particular, are all digital immigrants. Those of us who were not “born” into the digital world, and later on became fascinated by, and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are digital immigrants. One school of thought is digital natives were those who were born after 1980 – in the midst of the current technology, and who grew up using that technology.

Not fair ! It wasn’t my fault that this current technology was not around when I was born, and yes, I got fascinated with it and adapted to it, but that makes me no less a native. It would also not be appropriate, from my standpoint, to label those born into technology as natives – they did not learn this technology in the womb. Sure, they grew up on it, BUT they had to learn it. So what if for them it was a process of vicarious learning ? Does them make them more native than me ?

I refuse to be labelled as an immigrant just because someone wrote a book defining those born after 1980 as natives, and because someone made a video about this issue and plastered in on You Tube. Just because I was born way before 1980 I will not allow myself to be labelled as an ancient relic and be written off. You cannot force me to change my chosen position on this. I stand my ground and I will not budge. No sir ! I am a native. 🙂