Teaching Technology to Digital Immigrants: Strategies for Success

Teaching Technology to Digital Immigrants: Strategies for Success

Danika Rockett (University of Maryland Baltimore County, USA), Tamara Powell (Kennesaw State University, USA), Amy Massey Vessel (Louisiana Tech University, USA), Kimberly Kimbell-Lopez (Louisiana Tech University, USA), Carrice Cummins (Louisiana Tech University, USA) and Janis Hill (Louisiana Tech University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-828-4.ch016
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Someone has to prepare faculty who are in need of technology skills. For example, in Louisiana, in response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, every faculty member at the university level has to have a Blackboard presence and a disaster plan so that classes can continue in the event of a catastrophe. Those faculty called upon to assist their peers in complying with the directives are often chosen only because they are more comfortable than others with technology. Often, trainees are uncomfortable in such training, and senior faculty, often later “digital immigrants,” can be resentful. The researchers and authors of this paper have garnered $443,658 in grants involving training faculty in instructional technology. Through their experiences, the authors and researchers have isolated seven key practices that make such training successful. This article describes those practices and supports the findings of the primary research with secondary research on andragogy and Marc Prensky’s ideas of the literacy divide that exists between “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” By considering the basic tenets of adult education, we can be better facilitators of valuable training sessions that will bridge the digital divide.
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When the term “digital divide” was first mentioned in a 1995 report from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), physical access was the primary topic of discussion. The subtitle alone, “A Survey of the ‘Have Nots’ in Rural and Urban America” attests to the goals of this report on the digital divide (Falling, 1995). But since the publication of this report, researchers (Warschauer, 2002, 2003; Cooper & Weaver, 2003; Solomon, et al, 2003; van Dijk & Hacker, 2003; Enoch, Y. & Soker, 2006) have noticed other trends—cultural ones rather than physical ones—that prevent certain people from reaping the benefits that technology has to offer. Some of these barriers include gender, social class, urban versus rural community, and age. In US society, as some researchers (van Dijk & Hacker, 2003; Warschauer, 2003) have discussed, physical access to technology is widespread; therefore, “the key issue is not unequal access to computers but rather the unequal ways that computers are used” (Warschauer, p. 46). Indeed, there exists a clear gap between digital natives and digital immigrants in terms of how these groups utilize available technology.

In Prensky’s words, “Today’s students—K through college—represent the first generations to grow up with this new [digital] technology” (2001, p. 1). So if we think about this fact from the perspective of established faculty members, it is apparent that many of us are the immigrants whereas our students are the digital natives. This potential dilemma places faculty members in the interesting position of being behind the learning curve when it comes to our students and technology.

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