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Digital Natives: What Can You Learn From Them?

Who or what are Digital Natives?

All the way back in 2001 (that was 10 years ago) Marc Prensky wrote an article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” and coined the phrase.  He is referring to the students who have grown up speaking the digital language of computers, video games and the internet.  Prensky says that because of their involvement and interaction with technology, they “think and process information fundamentally differently than their predecessors”.

Different Isn’t Always Bad

digital nativesIf you have ever had the opportunity to “hang” with a digital native and watch them in their natural habitat, it is just amazing to see them use these tools.  Watch how they text faster than a speeding bullet, often without looking at the screen.  See how they masterfully wipe out the bad guy and zoom to the next level, (without reading any instructions). Watch how they interact with their cyber friends on Facebook and online.

And to listen and watch them, it is like watching someone speak a foreign language. I watch in awe at how quickly they can figure things out. I’ve seen of how their brains are different.

What Can THEY Teach Us

If you can stop criticizing them for their “lack of interpersonal skills” long enough to watch, you may just learn a thing or two.   They have learned how to solve problems quickly, fearlessly and independently.  They can Google and find anything.  And I am pretty sure you’ll discover even more things once you’ve observed them.

WHY Should I Bother

Because, they are entering the workforce and will be sitting right beside you. Instead of battling against their differences, you can leverage these talents to your advantage.  They are our future consumers and have different buying patterns. They have different expectations on what learning is and how to do it. (Pay attention colleges and universities) They will be our future leaders, and one can only hope they do better than what we’ve seen lately.

Where to Learn More

Marc Prensky’s article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”

Dancing with Digital Natives

From the book’s site:

In this revealing book, Michelle Manafy, Heidi Gautschi, and a stellar cast of experts from business and academia provide vital insights into the characteristics of digital natives, offering an in-depth look at how they work, shop, play, and learn. Dancing With Digital Natives will help any manager, marketer, or educator embrace—and stay in step with—a generation that’s transforming how business is done.

David Meerman Scott’s post from Web Ink Now on Dancing with Digital Natives


PS: Thanks to Deborah Mourey for her “out of the box” thinking and passion for seeing the world in the most positive light. Without her, I may have never stumbled here!

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Marc Miller August 10, 2011, 6:29 pm

    You are speaking a class of Gen Y and yes they communicate differently. As a professional trainer and communicator, it is my job to communicate to my audience such that they understand.

    This is a real issue in a multi-generational workplace and we need all need to adapt.

    • Hannah Morgan August 11, 2011, 4:46 am

      Gen Y Millennials, yes, their brains work differently and you have most certainly seen this in the work you do. Generational differences have always existed, but today, we have 3 very different generations all trying to compete for work. Let’s hope we figure out how to play well together in the sandbox!