Marc Prensky, computer games and "digital natives"

You’ll notice I’ve got a bit of a posting frenzy on today – I have come out of a long tunnel of projects and pitches, and wanted to start blogging again, particularly given that I wanted to comment on the cancellation of Jam as per below. This marks my first non-Jam related post – breathe a sigh of relief.

Late last year I went to the Handheld Learning conference. Mark Prensky was one of the keynote speakers, and his notion that kids are digital natives and the rest of us are digital immigrants was aired (again). He was – perhaps unsurprisingly – talking about his latest book, “DON’T BOTHER ME, MOM — I’M LEARNING” : How Computer and Video Games Are Preparing Your Kids For Twenty-first Century Success — and How You Can Help! His presentation was charismatic – but, frankly, a little patronising in places.

Prensky’s ideas are helpful – but I think, only up to a point. They seem to have been unthinkingly accepted as universally true, without a lot of research. I even saw them in a document distributed by an LA to its primary schools the other day. Yes, lots of kids are naturals with the technology. Yes, they are often much more savvy with digital devices than their teachers, and many end up helping their teachers and parents with their Word woes. But – there are lots of kids out there who don’t like the technology, or aren’t interested in it: just as there are girls that like football, and men that like ballet. My (utterly unresearched) opinion is that there are plenty of kids who think that computer games are really dull (in most cases, my view as well). Computer games are not a cure-all for educating our kids in the 21st century. It’s simplistic and lazy to accept Prensky’s ideas unquestioningly. Let’s challenge them a lot more.

One thought on “Marc Prensky, computer games and "digital natives"”

  1. Yes. I have read some of Prensky’s writings. Some of it pretty compelling … some of it pretty hard to swallow. For example, I think the observation that kids have all these engaging technologies at home … and then come to school to sit idly listening to their instructor does point to a problem. But I just can’t buy that “1,200-year-old algebra” is as irrelevant as my reading of “Turning on the Lights” would suggest. Over the top, there I think.Opposing points of view are plentiful. …Maybe a majority, no? But fine — the challenge you call for may help distill from all of the static what is best in it.


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