Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants


Monkey Wrench has been phenomenally successful in getting young people interested in learning the software. It is widely used by engineering students around the world, with over 1 million copies of the game in print in several languages. But while the game was easy for my Digital Native staff to invent, creating the content turned out to be more difficult for the professors, who were used to teaching courses that started with “Lesson 1 – the Interface.”

Prensky considers the rapid dissemination of digital technology the main cause for a big discontinuity, in students. According to Prensky, contemporary students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors as they were born into this digital age. He calls them Digital Natives and distinguishes them from those who took up the digital culture at a later time in their lives by calling those students Digital Immigrants.

Prensky goes on to claim that there is a strong accent in digital immigrants one that differs in grade and kind but one that forces the them to reconsider themselves in the educational framework and question their practices in regard to both content and methodology. He also adds that there is a need to rethink content in terms of legacy and future. Out with the old, in with the new. And by new he means ethics, politics, sociology etc.

As educators, we need to be thinking about how to teach both Legacy and Future content in the language of the Digital Natives. The first involves a major translation and change of methodology; the second involves all that PLUS new content and thinking. It’s not actually clear to me which is harder – “learning new stuff” or “learning new ways to do old stuff.” I suspect it’s the latter.



Prensky, M., 2001, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants”, in ‘On the Horizon’, Vol 9, No 5, MCB University press, full article available here

Image available here


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