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In 2001, Mark Prensky authored Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants in which he stated a discontinuity had taken place and that today’s students “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” (Prensky, 2001, p. 1). As a result, fundamental changes to education should be sought to accommodate this evolution. Prensky asserts that teachers must find a way to instruct what he calls both legacy (reading, writing, arithmetic, logical thinking, etc.) and future content (software, hardware, robotics, nanotechnology, etc.) in a style more conducive to their students apparent learning style which includes moving through material faster and less step-by-step instruction (Prensky, 2001).

In the last decade his work has come under fire, not for the changes to the educational system that he recommends which was the point of the paper, but for his definition of digital natives. The Public Broadcasting Service’s (PBS) Mike Rugnetta, host of the PBS Idea Channel, takes aim at the definition in the first five minutes of this fast pace, rapid delivery monologue.

Rugnetta, just like others such as Bennett, Maton, and Kervin’s 2008 work which synthesizes findings across English-speaking nations, takes issue with the application of the term across an entire generation for many reasons (Bennett, Maton, & Kervin, 2008; PBS Idea Channel, 2013). But what he accurately brings out is that even though one may not have been born in a world filled with digital technology like the one we find ourselves in today, digital fluency can be learned (PBS Idea Channel, 2013). Helsper and Enyon’s 2010 study show that being a digital native may be more the result of one’s breadth of use, experience, self efficacy, and education–not one’s age (Helsper & Enyon, 2010).


Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39(5), 775-786. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2007.00793.x

Helsper, E., & Enyon, R. (2010). Digital natives: where is the evidence? British Educational Research Journal, 36(3), 503-520. doi:10.1080/01411920902989227

PBS Idea Channel. (2013, Dec 11). Do “Digital Natives” Exist? | Idea Channel | PBS Digital Studios . Retrieved from YouTube: http://youtu.be/9WVKBAqjHiE

Prensky, M. (2001, October). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6.