56 comments on “Shall we kill off the digital native?

  1. That needed to be said, Jeremy, and I for one agree with you…and I´m quite a bit older, too! I´m still involved with education, here in Mexico particularly, and there are some excellent English teachers around who are doing a good job without access to technology in their classrooms. That doesn´t mean they don´t know how to use it or mention it…Facebook is often used as a “context”, in lesson plans!
    Thanks for that contribution and I hope many techers reply!

    • Hi Maria,

      thank you so much for ‘coming along’ to the blog. Really pleased to see you here!

      I agree 100% that teaching successfully without technology is entirely feasible (the ‘stick in the desert’ argument).

      But teaching without technology because teachers are nervous of it/can’t do it? Well that may be true for some, but it’s not a given! Nor is YL expertise!

      Of dear! I’m repeating myself!


  2. Good point, and the practical implications are that a lot of teachers come to technology assuming it will be difficult for them and easy for the kids, often leading to the deadly combination of a lack of confidence by the teacher and just throwing the kids into it without enough preparation. Needless to say, such attempts often fail!

    However, that is mainly about the amount of knowledge kids have about technology. I still think it’s generally true that kids are better at sitting in front of technology and working out how to do stuff for themselves without a manual than most adults are, although that is sometimes more true of younger kids.

    • Hi Alex,

      I am so pleased you’ve left a comment on the blog. Thanks.

      You have no idea how much I agree with your first paragraph. That was, of course, one of my main points; that educators who perpetuate this myth damage teaching and teachers.

      Are kids more intuitive with technology than adults? Well some are. But I’m pretty intuitive now too and n one would accuse me of being a kid. Er…. Seriously I have seen some seriously older people ‘take off’ with iPads etc after being shown only a small fraction of what they do.

      Perhaps it’s because technology itself is becoming far more intuition-friendly?


  3. I love this Jeremy. I think we potentially put a lot of pressure on YL when we assume they are tech savvy with whatever we throw at them and this assumption can also lead us to lose sight of the very real danger of the language getting lost in technology. It’s so easy to be blinded and not see just how much effort the poor kids need to put in to understand some new whiz bang app or program whilst still looking cool in front of their mates (who may or may not be feeling the same) when we aren’t looking for it. Unfortunately I find though that whenever I say something outrageous like ‘not all YL are good with/ familiar with/ like technology’ the reaction I get is crazed stares like I must be out of my mind.

    • Hi Kylie,

      an educator after my own heart – to use an old idiom. You’ve said it absolutely right. By buying into the ‘they know more’ argument we have a malevolent influence on both teachers AND students.


  4. I taught my 9-year old daughter (almost) everything she knows about computers. Except the easy stuff like playing games and pressing the big red button that says ‘Record’. I mean, it’s not exactly hard these days, is it?
    BBC, eh? I was a ‘Speckie owner’ (wonder what Clive Sinclair is up to these days?) Came with a massive 16K RAM and input jack from a cassette player. You could make a cup of tea while Jet Pack Willie loaded up.
    10 PRINT “Daniel rules”
    20 GO TO 10

    • Hello Daniel

      thanks for making me laugh!!

      Ah yes, those Sinclairs.

      I think you’ve put your finger on something I had kind of missed; that kids look intuitive with technology, but it’s the simple stuff most of them can do – and appear to be instantly comfortable with – not the more sophisticated IT activities.

      But then it’s the same for adults isn’t it?


    • Hello Huw,

      so pleased to ‘see’ you here.

      Yes, DNs & DIs were still current when we met in Bangladesh (that was an amazing conference., wasn’t it!)

      I read your article which you included the URL for (above). I am absolutely sure you are right that mobile devices are the future for the many reasons you state, and that CALL sounds like an old-fashioned acronym.

      Which leads to another questions: most mobile devices are significantly better designed (with intuitive interfaces) than early IT was. Result? The difference between kids and adults is squeezed out – except perhaps that some adults do the whole thing with more intelligence than some kids.

      Note some!


  5. Hi Jeremy, you have really hit the nail on the head once again.) I have thought for a long time that this distinction is completely redundant. There are things technologically that I can do that my learners cannot. By failing to realize this, we then overlook an area of need for our learners because we might just assume that they can do it. From research I did with 18-19 year olds, you begin to realize that there are many areas of a digital lifestyle where they struggle. Unfortunately, adults who think that technology and digital spaces such as Facebook etc. only belong to young people have negated a whole generation to navigate certain overwhelming digital spaces alone. I know of no parent that would allow their 14-15 year old to socialize with 1,400 people or more openly in a physical setting, yet this happens online. A healthy community, even virtually, needs the wisdom of all ages. By affording young learners a native title, we are also saying that they are mature enough to handle what this technology brings. Emotionally they are not. Adults also need to be more confident about their abilities. Let’s hope that the terminology you mention will face extinction sooner rather than later.

    • Hello Sharon,

      wow! I love the way you talk about how “a healthy community needs the wisdom of all ages” – and that adults have much (technologically) to teach kids.

      Yes, some kids are completely fluent with some technology (Facebook/Twitter etc – though both may soon be outdated), but that does not mean they instantly understand all of it. That’s what we are there for.


  6. Hi Jeremy:)

    I totally agree with you that calling kids or teenangers techno wizards is an absurd. I teach older teenangers so all of them born after 1990;) and I was born before this year – there are several students who know a lot about technology and sometimes they teach me (I call them my experts) but we also share some knowledge and sometimes I teach them, however most of my students know less than me, their knowledge is restricted to using facebook and downloading music:)
    What is shocking is how unaware students are of the danders of using the Internet!!! So apart from their alledged ‘innate abilities’ they should read with understanding 😊

    • Hello Kate,

      lovely to ‘see’ you again! And what you say ties in exactly with something that happened yesterday.

      In a face to face pub conversation (about this blog) with a teacher friend she pointed out that when/if she asks for tech help from the kids she teaches, one or two can come up with a solution, but most can’t.

      My point exactly!


  7. Good post, Jeremy. Like you, I had a BBC computer back in the 1980’s, which we used to write computer games for the PC market. To suggest that either of us are ‘Digital Natives’ purely on the basis of age alone seems to my mind just plain silly. It’s a discriminatory assumption, and for that reason alone I feel we ought to be challenging in the same way as we would if somebody sought to argue that men were better at playing computer games than women, for instance.

    I also think that it perpetuates negative stereotypes about older people and technology that can dent the confidence of adult learners who are new to computers, and make them nervous about their ability to master technology and become proficient at using it; which again, I think is a pretty solid reason for kicking this particular cliché to the kerb.

    “If a speaker at a conference talks (again) about how kids know more about technology than teachers do, how would I react?” Not sure about the answer to that one. I’d probably be tempted to heckle, though as I’m British, that isn’t very likely to happen 😉 I might well stick my hand up the end though, when it came to asking questions… 🙂

    • Hi Sue,

      thanks so much for your comments. I completely agree that all tis ‘they are better than us at technology’ at talk just fuels the myth that older people can’t do it. But/and the thing is some older people freak out with technology – because they’ve bought into this. But so so so many don’t.

      And kids freak out too sometimes.

      Two questions occur to me: how old is older? And secondly, I wonder that with e.g. iPads and other highly usable technology is any difference (perceived or real) less and less important?


  8. Hi, Jeremy, fantastic reflection and one that I fully share. I think this generalization has to stop! There are too many adults nowadays that are more technologically and digitally literate than most kids. And I think we need to distinguish technological literacy (being comfortable around technology, knowing how to use the mouse, etc.) from digital literacy. That’s where kids fail, no knowledge of effective searching and filtering of information, safety and privacy issues, copyright issues, etc. I do think they are more intuitive in the way they approach technology but that’s all. We, adults in general and teachers in particular, have to teach them about effective use of technology not just for socializing for their educational and professional benefit.

    • Hello Vicky,

      thanks a lot for your comments. And of allowing me to quote you in the original blogpost. Well actually that’s not true. You didn’t!! I just took the quote from a public post you made on Facebook and I reckoned you would not mind! Because it encapsulated one part of this whole discussion.

      You are so right to zone in on digital literacy. That’s the non-intuitive part of the whole picture and one where, as Sharon turner says above, older wisdom may have a big part to play.

      Kids are more intuitive? Than someone like you? In what way, I wonder.


  9. I second Sharon in saying that you have hit the nail on the head and it is a surprise and a relief. I’m an aging technophile, like you, who started on a Mac in 1992, but I never thought to question the digital native / digital immigrant line that my betters have been laying on me.

    On reflection, almost none of my students can do half of what I do, and though my teenage son is a master of XBOX games, and my teenage daughter can apparently text on her smartphone at the speed of light, both are quite limited in their skills. At school, all my kids are taught, apparently, is how to use Microsoft Office. They are not even taught how to touch-type, the most generically useful skill of all, I would argue, at least until voice-controlled interfaces become mainstream.

    Found this post from a link submitted by Vicky on the IATEFL learning technologies discussion list.

    • Thanks, Geoff, of your thoughts. And of course as for nail-head hitting, you’ve got it just right I think too.

      I am rubbish at XBOX games I imagine (don’t know, I’ve never tried!) But that’s only because I’ve never got involved, or wanted to be involved. So your son wins hands down on that one.

      But as far as Facebook, for example, goes? I reckon we’d be equals there. I climbed on board early and so did a lot of kids. I might have thought slightly longer about it than your son’s peer group. But that’s nothing to do with tech savvy or intuition. It’s just that I am older!



  10. Hi Jeremy,

    What a great post! Just like you (and so many others I see) I have always been bothered by Prensky’s terminology, however appropriate it may e in some cases. My personal story is one of always being surrounded by computers and electronic gadgets ( 4 brothers, one deep into IT) so I have always felt very comfortable around technology (since the time of tape programs and MUD). Nowadays, have lots of students who are very tech savvy, but I also have those who aren’t – both adults and teens. So many times I know a lot more about the equipment, websites and apps than them! So I don’t consider myself a digital immigrant and I don’t think all my students (despite how young!) are digital natives. And the labeling bothers me.

    Nice reflection, Jeremy.


    • Thanks Ceci, and it backs up very eloquently my profound belief that people ARE different (well that’s what NLP and MI theory keep telling us – and all the differentiation focus of recent years).

      result? There are difference between individual YLs and individual adults. Not between YLs and adults as a satisfactory generisaltion!


  11. Interesting post, Jeremy.
    What about turning this around and looking at how computer/hardware/technology knowledge is obtained – do we have EFL/ESL/EAL equivalents – Computers as a Foreign Life, Computers as a Second Life, Computers as an Additional life? The old phrase “the medium of the second chance” still applies I feel – how do we approach experimentation/error – do we click away fearlessly or want to first find out the consequences of that clicking away?

    As with all areas nowadays, do we have data or information or knowledge of what we are doing? How well do we cope with the errors from experimenting? Do we have an intutive notion of where to click? Can we critically evaluate what we are using? How well do we cope with change (machine, OS, software)?

    There are similar ideas expressed by ICT teachers “condemned” to teach Office and other Tools rather than programming concepts, or the restrictions of traditional programming courses – see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZyXOa5LH9kw for example (those who can remember Logo and Papert’s Mindstorms will feel at home here). As somebody who now spends most of my teaching time teaching translation software, the biggest difference is not perhaps the one you debunk, but the attitude to (and the strategies for) learning something technologically new.

    In that respect, there is still something in the distinction, but where both “generations” have something to teach the other!
    David Hardisty
    PS An abraço from Lisbon

    • Hello David,

      thank you so much for your comments (and the video link).

      You are so right. we do not have evidence. There are no studies I know of (someone will put me right here, I bet) that demonstrate clearly that young people per see are better or more intuitive than adults with IT. But the folk wisdom says it is so, therefore people churn out the lazy trope time and time again.

      Much more interesting is how different individuals approach technology, both young and old.

      Hey, that’s your point!


  12. This so resonates with me and my experience, Jeremy. I have felt like a lone voice in the past, with nobody really believing me. Thanks for expressing it so well. I think the digital native/immigrant dichotomy has actually caused real harm to how teachers approach their teaching by making those who are not really confident hold back from using really useful technology in their teaching.

    • Thank you Kevin,

      you perfectly express one of my main concerns. That this whole discourse has a negative influence on the teaching profession in general and on some individual educators in particular.

      Let alone the way that teacher relate to YLs; assuming they are all intuitively connected to technology. If (just if, you understand) that is not true will lead to unsophisticated and insensitive teaching.

      I think.


      • Somehow I missed your reply Jeremy! There seems to be broad agreement in these responses on most of the issues, and I am a little surprised that there have been no real comments disagreeing (unless I missed those too!). Given that, I think the next big question is how we can effectively address this issue. Are formal training programmes already doing so? What about the many EFL teachers who do not go through such programmes?

  13. Dear Jeremy,
    Hitting the nail on the head, as you often do! Let’s also remember, too, that there are many children learning English in the world who aren’t digital at all. In the BLISS (Bihar Language Initiative for Secondary Schools) project in Bihar in north-east India (a British Council project I am working on), the children mostly haven’t even seen a mobile telephone or computer. Unbelievable to me working on my tiad, iphone and computer in the evenings when I am there. The odd teacher trainer has maybe just purchased a smart phone and only some of them have an email address. The teachers that they train work in crowded classrooms (60-100 kids), a piece of chalk and an old blackboard and are hard-pressed even to find – let alone use – a newspaper picture in the classroom. Children attend school sporadically… but still smile and try their best. How would it be for them to meet a computer or a tablet?

    • Hello Rosie,

      lovely to have you here. So good that you have ‘come along’.

      You make a point (very forcefully) that I have often thought: that the REAL digital divvied has nothing to do with age or life stages, but rather between those who have access to technology and this who do not.

      That’s a distinction I can live with!


  14. Likewise
    You know, dear Jeremy, I´m just an EFL teacher, I´m not even a Native English speaker, or hold a Master´s degree, just taught EFL for many years in Argentina, ESL and Spanish in the US, so whatever I say may or may not be relevant. Anyway, what I have learned all these years, for I believe experience does count, is that we have a tendency to “label” people: by race, color, religion….: my daughter is American so she is white, I am Argentinian so I´m Latina! and I am too white for my taste! Native, non native…there is always this ridiculous necessity in most human beings to categorize individuals. A child may be a digital native because he/she can handle tech devices, such as cell phones, much easier than old adults: we all know most kids grab a tv´s remote and point at the tv screen and not at the ceiling!. Those in their late 20´s and mid-thirties are adults too, and as far as I´ve witnessed can be considered “digital natives” too, so it is not only children handling technology like Masters!. However, as many of the educators I do respect and admire have said above, many children are not aware of online security, or maybe type on word effectively (this is mine!). Besides, this past week I had to teach my fourteen-year-old group about copyright and protected content on Internet: they used anybody´s photos for their projects: isn´t this supposed to be taught by Computing teachers?. Hope you all understood my humble latin thoughts translated into English. How do you like my labeling “we are all learners”?


    Fabiana Casella

    • Hello Fabiana,

      thanks for your heartfelt comments.

      I love what you say about labelling. That’s part of the problem, sin’t it. The native/immigrant labels when they were issued instantly allowed people to talk about groups as whole entities, whereas in fact, we are all individuals.

      Aren’t we?

      But I’ll be happy to accept the ‘learner’ label. Because unless we are all one of those, there’s not much hope for the world!


  15. Great discussion, Jeremy. As I work more and more with teacher training to help them develop their digital literacies, I realize that they really need some guidance there not because of technology itself, but because one of their biggest roles of educators is to help their learners to develop their own digital literacies. In order to do that, they need to feel better equipped to face this challenge, they need to be safe and supported.

    Regarding to what you said about digital natives, I have two very good examples at home, my own kids, one is 11, other is 13. They don’t know how to edit a word doc, they don’t even know how to work with an email. Attaching a file, never done it! They know how to socialize and sometimes poorly, not being aware of the viral power of their typed words. I, as a mother and educator, need to mentor them and alert them about matters such as digital footprint and copyright. So, I guess we should be talking much more about the difference between being digital smart and digital naive/ignorant!

    Cheers from Brasilia!

    • Hello Carla,

      I’m so pleased you cane and left some comments here. Lovely to ‘see’ you again!

      You’ve got it absolutely right, I think. The fact that the digital world is all around kids now in a way it wasn’t when I was a kid (about 500 decades ago!) doesn’t say much about how or if kids can access or interact in/with it.

      I like the idea that the teacher’s main role is to encourage students to be digital smart. But that’s something that is both acquired AND learned, I think!


  16. Whether or not there is any mileage in the native/ immigrant distinction, like you, I feel patronized by those who urge the classroom use of digital technologies by arguing that ‘your younger students will expect you to’. I will use them only if I think they will facilitate learning, thanks.

    • Hello Scott,

      short and pithy as always!

      I absolutely agree with you (even as a paid-up technophile!) We do not HAVE to use IT because kids somehow expect it! And even if we do, there’s absolutely no guarantee that all the kids will benefit equally from such an experience. Or that every tasks merits the use of IT.

      We can’t go on agreeing like this!


  17. Terrific read on a rather restful Sunday … thanks for sharing!

    I think the whole ‘youngsters know more’ really depends on what angle you’re looking at it. For example, my youngest son has never been ‘taught’ how to operate the iPad but he just *knows* his way around it. It took -me- a couple of weeks to get used to it (nothing like the Android I was accustomed to) and just when I was getting a hang on things, Apple went and released iOS 7 and moved everything around on me. But I digress.

    The point I was trying to make is, a lot of the teachers I know and work with feel like they need their students’ help hooking up the projector to the laptop or whatever, and that’s okay. What I always say (and my MEXTESOL session was a bit about that) is the students need us teachers to teach them is not that, but how to best use the technology, to what purposes and, just as importantly imho, when they’re better off doing things the old fashioned way!

    • Hi Gloria,

      great to have you here!

      I wonder about your son, the iPad, Android (the Android?!) and you….

      I wonder whether this ‘intuition’ that you son just seems to have is because he’s see other kids with iPads and has had similar digital experiences. Meanwhile you got accustomed to Androids and found the unlearning of that difficult. And maybe you’re not that fascinated by technology either. In other words your son’s abilities may not be because he’s a digital native or anything; just that he has had different exposure to you and/or has different interests to you..

      Just thinking aloud, that’s all!


  18. Seriously, Jeremy? There are, of course, a few conference speakers who haven’t kept up with what’s going on, but I really do think you have to get unlucky to get one of them these days. Those of us who work in EdTech properly picked Mr. Prensky apart a while back… Using Prensky’s mislabelling to justify not using technology in class is ‘baleful’. Using Prensky to pick apart EdTech in general is a non-starter.

    It’s tricky to keep up with all facets of education, I know, but few serious EdTech proponents would use the ‘kids expect it’ argument in any discussion these days. Now, ‘kids need digital literacy in order to get on in the brave new world’, there’s an argument that has some legs… Sometimes it’s not just about ‘facilitating learning’, sometime it’s about helping people acquire life skills. Why language teachers should be exempt from this side of things is beyond me. We’re not *that* special…

    • Hi Gavin,

      yes I understand entirely why you are a bit surprised that anyone should be rolling all this stuff out yet again. Didn’t we deal with all this stuff years ago?

      Yes, I thought so too. But suddenly I’ve been hit a speakers and Facebookers etc who are STILL saying the same thing. You know…leave out up the kids, they’re better than us. I think of all the people in education i know who are technology leaders and innovators and wonder how people can still say this.

      But they do, The plenary speaker I mentioned went unchallenged doing a content-lite session on 21st century skills and out it came. Personal communication frequently throws up ‘kids know best’ stuff. And as fas as I can see – from the responses to this blog – there are still heaps out there who still buy into this ‘us’ and ‘them’ idea. Look, that little toddler can use an iPhone kind of thing.

      But that’s partly to do with the actual toddler; partly because the interfaces we use are so much more intuitive; partly lots of stuff.

      So, I kind of apologise for coming up with this topic yet again. But recent events suggests it’s still worth talking about!


  19. I’m going to challenge this a bit. I think the digital native/immigrant distinction _IS_ useful, but not for the reasons many provide.

    Sure, it’s not black & white. Nor are we “born to it.” Thus, “native” might be the wrong word.

    May I suggest it is rather like describing “fluency”. There are many definitions, but we often say someone is fluent when they seem comfortable, when they can work rather quickly with a pretty-high degree of accuracy (however that is defined!). No?

    Not all so-called “native-speakers of English” use educated English, particularly in certain situations. (Cognitive load certainly plays a part here, along with social considerations and education.) Thus the “native-” description does not presume excellent skills.

    When we refer to “native,” we aren’t really talking about skills (with any particular (digital) technology), but instead a readiness to try things out without getting terribly worked up about the possibility of making a mistake. Thus, the Logic-Pro referent confuses the heart of the issue, methinks.

    And therefore, you are 100% correct in your argument that we should not presume younger learners have more tech-savvy than older folks. The question is not skill or knowledge, but attitude. And of course, we are generally wrong when we generalize (about age or anything else).

    (My mother is 80 now, and she uses a computer for wordprocessing, email, web-browsing, and even a bit of spreadsheets now and again, but she made a point of taking classes (in her 60s) to do so. She still can’t program her VCR (perhaps I’m a bad teacher?). But a kid – a digital native – is more likely to be willing to try without instruction, to poke at the buttons. They will make mistakes, but when it all crashes, they reboot and try again. Unruffled. This is my working definition of a digital native.)

    • Hi Rob,

      thanks for your comments and yes, I think you are right (mea culpa) about Logic Pro being a bit of a diversion. Just that I wanted to show off, that’s all!


      It’s all about attitude, you say, and Logic pro is about that too, for me. I want/wanted to learn how to use it. I had a need to use it etc

      And as with other bits of technology I’m comfortable with I’ve relied on the help of friends and strangers – ‘hey, how do you do that?’. So positive attitude + self belief + help when needed + a little bit of resourcefulness? You can learn (and more importantly, get comfortable with) anything.

      And that may what happens with most kids. Take away thew affective filter and we can all do anything. Perpetuate the ‘adults find it difficult myth and many adult just can’t or won’t.


  20. The more I think about it, the more I think it’s probably a ‘private language school’ thing that all we’re supposed to do really is teach English and not dirty our hands with anything else… Of course, that probably counts for about 5% of the world’s English teachers…

  21. Dear Mr. Harmer,

    Thank you so much for this tangible topic.

    I think our engagment with Technology counts; the more we use them, the adepter we become. So even the older generations can become “techno whizards.”
    Once I heard ” the excitement after not having access to internet is indescribable.” Technology has become part of our lives. And this affection increases as we move forward. As a young learner who use this amazing phenomenon a lot, I still cannot detach myself from pen and paper. But I am sure those old yet precious materials will be forgotten in near future.


  22. Dear Mr. Harmer,

    Thank you so much for this tangible topic.

    I think our engagement with Technology counts; the more we use them, the adepter we become. So even the older generations can become “techno whizards.”
    Once I heard ” the excitement after not having access to internet is indescribable.” Technology has become part of our lives. And this affection increases as we move forward. As a young learner who use this amazing phenomenon a lot, I still cannot detach myself from pen and paper. But I am sure those old yet precious materials will be forgotten in near future.


    • Hi Sara,

      you raise an interesting possibility – that pen and paper will disappear. Hmm. I wonder. Anyone who grew up in school using a pen or board markers etc will probably still use them, I guess. But in twenty years? We need a good fortune teller!

      But I am sure you are right: the more we use technology the more ‘digital’ we become. None of us have trouble accessing the digital world if that’s what we do even if we once did. Just like kids I guess.


  23. It’s straightforward: those who don’t know much about aspects of technology use claim kids know a great deal about it. On the contrary, those who know much about aspects of technology, like you and me, believe the children do not have a relevant and significant knowledge about it. The issue is that the argument of the former counts more.

    • Hello Mohsen,

      you put it very eloquently. ‘Kids know more’ may well be a defence mechanism for those who are afraid of engaging (themselves) with technology. And, as someone pointed out earlier in these comments, that attitude is only strengthened by people in ‘authority’ (e.g. conference speakers) saying things like that.


  24. Totals agree, Jeremy, that it can’t be taken for granted that all youngsters are techno whiz kids. I find that I’m often far more adept at using (albeit teaching) technology than a lot of my students, most of whom are younger than my kids, i.e. I’m showing them how to use tools rather than the other way round a lot of the time! Cheers! Veronica

    • Hi Veronica,

      that’s it, isn’t it. ‘We’ have to show ‘them’. But I uses it all depends on what we use technology for. I don’t do gaming, but then I was lousy (have been all my life) at cryptic crosswords, and my Scrabble playing isn’t very good either. I’m not much good at Candy Crush either!!

      I guess everyone (kids, teachers) are more expert at the technology THEY like to use!


  25. Hello from Wales! Just stumbled on your blog as a newbie MA TESOL student!

    I think that the only difference between children and those who came to technology as adults, is that children are almost to a fault fearless when it comes to technology. They’re not afraid of ‘breaking’ it or deleting a vital file, they just have a go. It doesn’t of course mean they always know what they are doing!! Having said that, my 3 year old can open Firefox, type the letter ‘C’ in the address bar and click on “cbeebies games”, then choose a game and play it, all without my support (or knowledge, half the time!) Of course, their fearlessness can be dangerous and it’s our job to educate them in safely using technology.

    We as adults have had to learn (sometimes very quickly, I admit!) that we cannot easily ‘break’ the techie stuff, but we also have much more of an awareness of internet safety, avoiding viruses and so on.

    I feel very much a techie native – if I can’t do something, I know how to find out how to do and I have the guts to have a go. However, I’m a pre-1980 baby, so maybe I’m half-and-half? Anyway, very interesting points, Mr Harmer! Thanks!

    • Hi Debbie,

      thanks for coming along and leaving your comments. I hope your MATESOL is going well. Where are you doing it?

      I love that your 3-year-old is a Firefox operator. My nephew was pretty good at messing around with his granny’s iPhone at about that age too! And of course people are amazed at that and think that kids are somehow special.

      But it’s amazing how quickly we (= non kids) become adept at whatever it is we WANT to do with technology. Just like kids really! It’s just that once your kids have grown up you kind of lose interest in cbeebies!!

      And/but of course we know more about issues like safety etc. It’s like crossing the road really, isn’t it. Teaching kids to look left and right (or vice versa).


  26. Dear Jeremy,
    It was really comforting reading your post. The idea that kids know all about technology has led teachers to another misunderstanding… that classes can only be attractive and engaging if technology is part of it. Flashcards, realia, slips of paper and board games have been part of very few classes. What a pity! I strongly believe that learning takes place when students are exposed to varied tools.

    • I agree that a lot of teachers pander to students with too much technology. Here in Italy the Mums have asked me to avoid anything looking like a screen as their kids stare at these in one way or another throughout their day.
      So we have good, old-fashioned play, drama, movement and group interaction that leaves the kids and me breathless and sweaty at the end of each session.

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