November 27, 2020

Digital Immigrant: Definition, Type & Characteristics

Anshika Awasthi

Definition

A digital immigrant is a term coined by Marc Prensky. According to his article published in 2001, the learning styles of past & present generation is spilt by their respective fluency with technology. Therefore, according to Marc Prensky, Digital immigrant is a term used to refer to a person who is raised in a world when the internet didn’t exist. They are not raised in the digital environment but are individuals who were born before the spread of digital technology from childhood.

Digital immigrants are framed by the attributes of persistent compensation. They constantly adapt their mental model with new form of engagements. Every new software or device is an opportunity for them to “level up” their cognitive strength. And yet, they still retain to their past behaviour of printing web pages or using Facebook to connect to set up in-person meeting.

While some digital immigrants are highly proficient with technology. Almost to similar level of millennials.  Generally, those born before 1985 are considered digital immigrants. While those after 1985 are called digital natives, having grown in a digital era.

The idea of digital immigrant grew from the complaint that teachers were having a hard time communicating with technologically advanced students. The students were speaking a different language than their older, digital immigrant teacher. The gap called for a change on the way educators communicate with their students so that they could learn that made sense in a digital age.

What is Digital Age

The digital age is a period starting with the introduction of computer. With it came subsequent technology that provided the ability to transfer information freely and quickly. Although the digital era began in earnest with the widespread use of the internet.

Technologies have been defining features in the lives of younger generations in a way that they predict a fundamental change in the way young people communicate, socialise, create & learn. The digital era has changed the way we search for information and they we think.

Types of Digital Immigrants

Avoiders: they prefer a technology-free lifestyle. Minimal exposure wit technological device/gadget. They do not own smartphone a tend to have deadlines marked on their wall calendars. They do not have an email account and consider social media a futile activity.

Reluctant adopters: they accept technology and try to engage with it, often work related. They feel unintuitive and hard to use it. They own a smart phone but prefer calling over text. Occasionally they use Google, Facebook but find it hard to learn its new features.

Enthusiastic adopters: they are fast learners who have potential to keep with digital natives or millennials. They embrace and value technology. They are mostly top executives, programmers & entrepreneurs. They own technological gadgets and use advance smart phones. They check their emails regularly and are active on social media. New software version makes them excited. They are always eager & excited to learn.

Characteristics of Digital Immigrants

  • Prefer to talk on phone or in-person
  • Do not use text or use it reluctantly
  • Prefer synchronistic communication, for example F2F meeting or phone conversation rather than email.
  • Prefer instructional manuals with clear sequential steps. They are reflective learners who like logical and linear process of discovery.
  • Prefer receiving information: linear, logically, & sequentially.
  • Prefer reading books over videos, pictures, or sounds.
  • See high value in deferred gratification and rewards. Do see value in waiting.
  • Hierarchical approach to workplace
  • Cannot multitask
  • They think learning can’t be (shouldn’t) be fun.
  • Rely on traditional 5-day work week, & prefer working in office.
  • Prefer physical workplace over virtual workplace or remote work.
  • Value loyalty and consistency in workplace.
  • Hang out in person, club, dinners etc.
  • Use the internet only to gather information.
  • Think young people waste their lives online.
  • Value privacy and limit self-disclosure to small group of friends and family.
  • Get their news via traditional news medium like newspaper & magazines.
  • Traditional safety concerns: physical kidnapping, robbery, assault.  

Bottom Line

The adoption of digital technology has not been a unified phenomenon worldwide. Digital immigrants, however, are the one that can teach the younger generation to achieve goals quickly. They can help the tech-savvy to scale the learning and patience. A digital native may not be able to offer great ideas for layouts, designs, image, while the immigrant would contribute greatly with their knowledge of storytelling and the value of including worthy artefacts.

About the author

Competitive, real; loves to keep working for what it wants. An extrovert who lives by her own ideas and methods.


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