In my two freshman composition classes this semester, my students and I have been talking about the “digital native” and whether or not they self-identify as digital natives, to what extent, and so forth. I’ve really enjoyed listening to and reading their responses–especially seeing how varied they are–to the texts we’ve been reading (everything from the introduction to Born Digital to interviews with Mark Bauerlein).
Some of them immediately embraced the identity, busily rejecting many of the negative aspects of the stereotype, while others were quite happy to point out that they didn’t see themselves like that at all. Some have embraced the news media’s (and probably their parents’) disdain for elements of digital culture like wikipedia, blogging, twitter, and the like; others are self-proclaimed Facebook addicts. Though many of the assumptions and generalizations they’re making are raw and uncritical (to be expected at this point in the semester), it’s definitely a group ready to think–and talk–things through.
It’s definitely a good reminder that overgeneralization–especially on my part–is dangerous; a reminder that this “digital native” thing is a population, not a generation. Though the changes being wrought by the digital paradigm are massive, it’s important to distinguish meaningful change from hyped change.
More on that later.
Side note: I got asked a very good question today: “Does success in this class depend on being a digital native?” I chuckled, but it’s a good question–a good reminder to stay cognizant of what they do and don’t know, and what is and is not REALLY important for success in the class, and not assume that my digital way is the only way.