Imagine for a moment that you have to give an important presentation to an audience that doesn't know you, doesn't speak your language and doesn't know your culture... where to start?
It was the 2000s when the American writer and researcher Marc Prensky started talking about "digital natives" and "digital immigrants". Since then this expression is intended to identify two groups of people: the "natives", that is young people who were born and raised together with digital technologies, and the "immigrants" who were already adults when these technologies spread and they had to learn how to use them. This implies, according to Prensky, not only that the two groups have different habits of use of the contents and tools, but also involves a different effort in learning. Prensky uses the linguistic metaphor to explain this phenomenon: the natives are digital native speakers, the immigrants had to learn it.
Some have managed to learn it quickly, others are still trying and then there are the skeptics, who have no intention of doing so while remaining firmly stable in their own habits.
But what influence does this have on education?
For too long educators have tried to teach and interact with an audience whose language they did not know. This has not only created problems at the level of mutual understanding, but has excluded the possibility of taking advantage of the opportunities offered by digital education.
For "immigrants" the Internet is not part of their identity, it is an "accessory" and they almost feel in awe in front of most devices. Unlike the "natives" who live the digital technology as an integral part of their lives. They socialize, get information, play through the Internet and, with the massive diffusion of smartphones and wireless technology, this reality intensifies making technology fully integrated into their daily lives.
But what happens today is that even the most skeptical of digital immigrants will not be able to enhance their skills without the support of new technologies . We live in an age in which digital technology is present in every aspect of human life.
"Natives and digital immigrants": a possible coexistence?
Since 2010 the world has seen seven different generations living together on the same planet and as time goes by, the difference between "natives" and "immigrants" has become (and will become) less and less clear. Whether we like it or not, the digital world and the technology are the present, but what will make the difference today and in the future will be the way in which these tools will be used.
Nevertheless, even if it is true that none of us can escape from the use of new technologies, it is also true that in order to make the best use of the potential of these tools, we need to know them and their operating principles thoroughly.
In spite of the fact that the digital technology has seen ever-higher growth rates in the last 10 years, even with "immigrants" coming on board, the level of digital illiteracy remains high and it can certainly not be said that the countries of the world have conscious digital citizens.
Digital skills can in fact represent an opportunity to develop innovation and support creativity. But it is not enough to know how to access the Internet or how to use a computer, it is rather necessary to have a "digital awareness" that is able to prevent risks and that knows how to take advantage of the opportunities of the network.
How to educate digitally?
The "Ok boomers" have to know that in order to better support young people in the educational and creative process in the digital age it is no longer enough to say "put that thing away". To be a good digital educator you need information and awareness.
To date, we use only 20% of the available technology. That's why we need to look with new eyes at what is already available and enhance it.
The goal must be to educate how to use, not to ban.
As we have seen before, it would be really impossible to try to teach something, or simply interact with someone, in a language we do not know. Therefore, first of all, it is necessary to approach new technologies and understand how they work while remaining up to date. Without fear of asking "how does it work?", "what is it for?" ,"why do you enjoy it so much?" or more banally "what does ok boomer mean?".
It is no longer the time to be "skeptical", you have to become "digitally aware" and educate young people to this awareness. This does not necessarily coincide with being a programming wizard or a computer hacker. The awareness in this case is a detailed study, not only of the ways of use, but the knowledge and understanding of the risks to which the web can expose us.
The story of "don't go too far", "be careful not to get hurt", "don't swear" ... and all the recommendations that we propose to children in the various phases of growth, in more or less incisive way, are also valid in the digital world!
The fact of being in your home behind a screen, or maybe on the sofa next to mom and dad with a tablet in hand does not make us immune from these dangers.
But there are not only dangers. Looking at the digital world only from a pessimistic point of view is like not using a car that can take us far away and can make us travel more comfortably, just because we risk an accident.
The educator in the digital age must not limit himself to "protect" the others from the media, but rather must develop in the new generations a media competence that prepares them to live in a critical and constructive way in a world with which they can confront themselves.
Digital space has become the most inhabited place on the planet; the mission is to make it inclusive, safe and sustainable. How can this be done?
It is exactly who knows it that has the opportunity to answer this question, and it is the duty of those who live there to make it so.