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How do you connect with Digital Natives?

I'm thinking a lot these days about the environment that we inhabit.  And who is here beside me.  The faces look similar to when I started in this business 20+ years ago, but what makes those people tick, is quite another matter.

Many of these faces belong to Digital Natives - a person that grew up in a digital world.

The term “digital native” and “digital immigrants” comes from Marc Prensky a writer, speaker, consultant and inventor in educational games and learning processes. In coining these terms Mr. Prensky is drawing on the analogy of natives to a homeland and in this case we are talking about the digital land or those who have always known the internet and the immigrants are the ones that are coming to this new land, some kicking and sreaming and others eagerly exploring and learning the new skills, language, and culture needed to travel in this digital world (Prensky, 2001). In this new digital land the natives have an advantage over the immigrants. This advantage stems from the immigrants lack of cultural context with which to judge, and perceive experiences, while the natives grew up in the new land and have assimilated to the environment. The natives have subtle differences in speech, social interactions, and are fluent in the digital communication forms that are prevalent in the new land, whereas the immigrants are perceived as having an accent. This accent “can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information as secondary source rather than their first source, or they will want to read the manual for a new program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach them to use it” (Prensky, 2001). Digital natives will be confortable using neologisms. A digital native will be so familiar with the Wikipedia that they will be comfortable with the word used as a verb. A digital immigrant on the other hand may well ask what is a Wikipedia? Wikipedia is an online multilingual, encyclopedia project, which has been created by a collaborative effort of hundreds of thousands of volunteer contributors. For example one may hear a digital native say, “Just a minute, while I wiki that”. The native is implying that they will search for the topic of conversation on the Wikipedia web site, and then include information found into the conversation. What may surprise the digital immigrant is that this referencing the web site and searching for information will happen in parallel with the continuing conversation, perhaps with very little interruption of the conversation. This ability to multitask a conversation with individuals (verbal communication) and a conversation with a web site (textual communication); perhaps over a mobile device with a screen and keyboard that fit within the palm of your hand, is one characteristic of the digital native. The Digital natives are accustomed to rapid change, and perhaps even thrive within this environment. The immigrant on the other hand may cling to stagnant eddies in the flow of innovations. Innovation that may appear to the immigrant as high-tech, such as email, but be perceived by the digital native as old and tired.

Excerpted from: The Digital Generation - Teaching to a Population That Speaks an Entirely New Language by David Koontz; Tracy Gibson, Ed.D.; & Mark Van Den Hende, Ph.D.

Did You Know  - from the wiki Did You Know?/Shift Happens

Here's a great article and example of engaging the Digital Natives in education.  Wake Forest University's Business school gave newly enrolling grad students iPods - just so they could connect with them via video.

Video Production for WFU’s Summer Management Program

"Web-based video is quickly becoming a must-have to tell your story."
-- David Caudle

These guy's at Frogman taught me that do really connect one has to immerse themselves - to dive deep. I used that metaphor in a training class just this week. We were creating a product scorecard - comparing features of an existing application to desired features of a product to be developed. The scorecard has to allow for the reader (the user) to dive deep into the information and right down to the data layer if they so choose.
Full disclosure:  Frogman Interactive is my brother's web development company.

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