Friday, July 8, 2011

iBrain Chapter 2

 Digital Natives Vs. Digital Immigrants
It Doesn't Have to be a Battle

Chapter 2 of iBrain lays out a comparison of digital natives and digital immigrants and then talks about how the two groups might come together. Let's start with digital natives.


Respond faster, but encode differently
Shorter attention spans
1/3 watch TV while using other media
Multi-Task almost constantly
Technology makes the world shrink for them
Too little face to face communications can cause circuits to atrophy and too much can overwhelm the circuits
They use screens 8 hours and 35 minutes a day - meeting the clinical criteria for pathological internet use thereby lowering their academic achievement and interfering with their social lives (not to mention their physical health)

Adolescent specific information:

Adolescents are/should be learning how to be empathetic and moving from concrete to abstract.
Wired to be selfish
As they age they develop the ability to delay gratification, consider others' feelings, put things in perspective and realize danger in a situation. Technology stunts this development.
They crave new technology
Playing video games 2-7 hours a day tuns off the frontal lobes - even when not playing. Makes them devoid of social skills, aggressive and desensitized to violence. (Limited amount of video gaming may enrich minds and improve cognitive performance, pattern recognition, systematic thinking and executive skills)


Learn methodically - one thing at a time
Fearful of new technology
22% of Americans have never use the internet or email (WHOA!)
Difficulty to hold information in their mind
Can't process information quickly
More effective in seeing the big picture (place information into a context)
Midlife brain goes from dial-up to DSL
2 sides of brain come together - personality mellows


Digital natives need to work on their interpersonal skills, immigrant needs to work on technology. Together they could be powerful.


I found this chapter to be one of the most interesting of the book. It explained a lot in terms of why kids and even adults that I know in their early 20's are so different from me. I am on the cusp of this movement. Since I was born in 1981 technically I am classified as a digital native, but in some ways I also feel like I can be an immigrant because it drives me crazy when kids are texting each other constantly or updating their Facebook status with their everyday minutia. Knowing that there is science that actually shows that the screen time is stunting their abilities to interact in socially appropriate ways makes so much sense, but it is also really scary because we are contributing to that 8.5 hours of screen time a day. The skills that are being stunted by this use are more important to me than others that we teach in our content classes. Who is going to make a better citizen - someone that can find the square root of a number or someone that can realize danger in a situation and make a decision accordingly? I can see and have seen how technology can assist in student learning and achievement but I think we all need to be wary of how we are using it and how much we are using it. If you think about the big picture and preparing students for the working world - I would argue that interpersonal skills are far more important than technological ones.


  1. I am really objecting to the statements in chapter 2, that older people don’t use Netflix and the Internet. I have many classmates and family members who are facebook and could not keep in touch with my son who travels constantly with out tool like facebook and traveladvisor. It seems to me that the biggest benefit the young people have is a lack of fear of messing up when it comes to computers. I remember too well, with earlier systems, getting into stuff and not being able to get out of it. The first science test I wrote on a computer, I wrote 3 times because it would just up and disappear. I hadn’t realized I was putting a new document over the old one and just thought it was gone.

    And the statement that says that, referring to teenagers, “ a high percentage of them continue to overexpose their still malleable brains to complicated digital technology”? I would think that would be a good thing. I don’t see it as asking young bodies to over train for a sport, when the body isn’t ready yet for that level of physical stress. I see it more as middle schoolers training for cross-country. I am sure years ago we didn’t think the 4 minute could ever be broken. Now it has been run in 3 minutes and 43 seconds. Wow!

    I agree that social skills are very important in any age so we may need to offer social skills classes. Some schools probably do already. I was also interested in the section on multitasking(32). It said that it leads o a decline in work efficiency. While I think that is possible for many people, I know of some who multitask very well and are able to keep their attention focused on what they are doing while keeping track of what is going to need work next. Maybe we need to have our students work on that as well? All of these aspects tell me of different traits in today’s students that I need to be aware of and teach to.

  2. 1. This book shows why a digital version would be better so it could be updated (it is already dated by focusing on technology is gone)

    2. This book really needs a digital natives perspective. The author's are obvious digital immigrants that think the genie can be put back in the bottle.... it is not better or worse but different

    3. Social skills need to be updated in regards to technology. FOR EXAMPLE THIS IS YELLING, and it is hard to show sarcasm.... and etiquette needs updating --- if I get one more forward chain letter.. and if some one replies to a message with multiple people thinking they are only talking to 1 person but we all see it I will need to send a Nigerian Prince after them

  3. I agree with Keith that the book is blatantly missing a digital native's viewpoints on things. It seems that while the authors give a quick glance to positives, many of the digital native characteristics are viewed in a negative light. I'm not sure if this is because the authors are digital immigrants or if they were figuring a majority of their audience would be digital immigrants. The more I read about digital natives I am convinced that I am one even though I am slightly older than the age group usually being discussed. Perhaps I am a digital native - beta version :) I am all about new gadgets and multi-tasking (or CPA)!

    I found the section on brain development and developmental stages interesting. I have a background in Early Childhood Education and always run into "experts" saying how bad technology is for young children. I think most of the problem is HOW this technology is being used with children. Of course sitting a child in front of a screen all alone is not good! But, technology used in an interactive manner opens so many doors! I think this will be sorted out as those who are more comfortable with technology start to creep into leadership positions within the early childhood education community (my own personal crusade!)

    As far as sarcasm online.. I am a big fan of using my geeky html(ish) tags :)

    And I don't know if anyone else caught this but I was tickled that the last name of the Duke University brain researcher was Cabeza! Simple things entertain me sometimes!

  4. I was hoping to edit my comment but I guess we can't do that!

    my html(ish) tags for sarcasm are < sarcasm > < /sarcasm > (without the spaces...they got sucked into the regular code on my last post)

  5. One of issues is when you go and turn on comment moderation it will limit you ability to "edit" after the fact. It is price you pay to control moderation of comments

  6. I had to get over my annoyance at the labels, digital native and digital immigrant. There is always a continuum of knowledge,understanding and comfort level in any domain.

    Given that everything else is even, people who grow up with a technology are going to be better at capitalizing on it. The idea that gets little discussion is that this works in reverse. Right now I am with my Dad in SC. He rarely has a land-line much less internet. On the other hand, with a 2-cycle engine, a few belts and some bailing wire, he can build a contraption to do anything he needs.

    I wish that people, especially authors of books, would discontinue the use of labels and focus on cooperation.

  7. I would agree with the labels comment. I know of many 'immigrants' who are very computer savvy and even more 'natives' who aren't good with computers or HATE technology. I can't believe the amount of students that I've taught over the years that have complained about the MLTI laptops and programs. Or have complained about having to do a technology based project instead of a traditional methods project. The labels prevent us from seeing everyone as individuals with strengths and weaknesses - likes and dislikes.

  8. A boot for work a slipper for play. IF I was lost in the woods I would want my older brother, if I have a technology question (software based) I want my younger brother (and I think he would want me with hardware based one) I don't think one is better or worse.... just different. Some times you need a boot (a PC) and some times a slipper (my Mac)
    The kids complaining usually comes from them realizing the jig is up... if the technology is used correctly they are required MORE work not less because they can't get away with the standard "Game" of school. We found for our online AP courses the gifted kids wanted the standard course work because they realized they would HAVE to do work rather then fake it until you make they used to do.

  9. I agree with what Laura mentioned about a continuum of learning with regards to technology. There are a few of my colleagues at school who are still having a hard time turning on and starting Firefox with their Macbooks while others are light years ahead of my tech skills (which aren't all that bad). So to label all of them "digital immigrants" is foolish. I've also seen some of the supposed "digital natives" have their minds blown when I throw up and address to save them some time when trying to get to my school website.

    While reading this book I've found it easier to get through knowing when this was written and what the target audience was suppose to be. I mean if you've seen the top ten websites in this book you know what I mean. That was a really good laugh by the way...

  10. I definitely agree with the idea that this book seems to have been written from the point of view of a Digital Immigrant. What struck me the most with this chapter was how tiny the "Coming Together" section was: one paragraph at the very end that said the Immigrants need to hone their technology skills (which, really, we all need to do) and that the Natives need to work on their interpersonal skills. It then goes on to list all the things we all need to do, which is a big list of specific interpersonal skills that the book has targeted as lacking in Digital Natives. It almost seems like the authors have it in for the Natives themselves.

    I really liked the section on multitasking, but as a supposed "Native" I have to chuckle, because as I write this, I'm also watching a movie and talking on the phone, and so far I've been writing this comment for around 45 minutes. I suppose that's a testament to the "decline in work efficiency" they mentioned on page 32.

    One thing's for sure. I'd love to see an updated list of all the statistics that they mention in this book. In the back, it says the Pew Internet Study that they keep referring to was done in 2005, which is before Facebook even allowed people who didn't have a campus email address to join (which happened in 2006). Since then, it's exploded. Even my 68-year-old grandmother has a profile! Granted, I have to talk her through her notifications on the phone, but still. The account exists, so that counts. :)

  11. I also like the section on multitasking. Even though I have never been diagnosed, I probably have ADHD. Back in the old days, say in high school during the 90's, I would lose so much time just spacing out. It was so hard for me to concentrate on just one thing. I have become such a better student as I learn to utilize technology to help me do multiple things at once. Now, I tend to have 8 or 9 windows open at a time and jump between tasks with ease. Being able to divide my attention amongst many things actually help me accomplish more. When I start to feel my mind wander, I move to something else. After a while, I seem to get into a zone and can spend more time on a single task. In this fashion, I am able to get a huge amount of work done in a short amount of time. I am not a digital native, but I was just on the cusp. Learning new technologies comes natural to me, but I still type with two fingers. I can also completely understand the digital brain fog. After spending more than I few hours on a computer, my mind becomes completely fried. I get a head ache and become slow and lethargic. Probably because I am juggling too many things at once. I would never be able to survive a desk job staring at a computer screen. What I enjoy most is quick assess to information. I can not stand now being on a slow computer. It is funny how much has changed. I remember back having a Commodore 64 and sometimes having to wait overnight for a game to load. I think that is the hardest part to learn for kids these days is patience. Everything is so focused on instant gratification. Even still, for the most part, I think most digital natives will turn out just fine, aside from those who spend 8 hrs a day playing video games their entire lives. They might be a bit off by the time they reach retirement.