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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Digital Docent - The Bridge to Connect Digital Generations

Digital Docent - The Bridge to Connect Digital Generations

Sarah Irish

Recently I have been learning more about and giving presentations on the students who walk into our classrooms every day.  A common phrase uttered by teachers is "my students today just can't ______ like they students in the past have".  What I have found from my learning is that the students in todays classrooms simply aren't wired the same way students used to be, so that means they don't learn always naturally learn in the same ways.  

The students who come to school today are accustomed to interacting with the world in a digital way, they are known as digital natives.  "They were all born after 1980, when social digital technologies, such as Usenet and bulletin board systems, came online.  They all have access to networked digital technologies.  And they all have the skills to use those technologies” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2008, pg. 1). 


On the flip side, there is a second term used for people are do not interact with the digital world as natively, they are known as digital immigrants.  “A person who has adopted the Internet and related technologies, but who was born prior to the advent of the digital age” (Palfrey & Grasser, 2008, pg. 346).

I would like to introduce a new third term: digital docent.  When you go to any museum in the United States the who gives tours is known as a docent.  The word docent is from the Latin word docēns, which means to teach.  These are the people who grew up on the edge of all of this technology.  They can connect with how both the digital natives and the digital immigrants view the digital world. 


Currently in the education world there are is a huge push to integrate technology into the classroom.  The challenge is that many of our current educators are digital immigrants. This isn't a bad thing, it just adds another challenge when trying to integrate technology.  The digital docents who are also teachers are essential to ensuring the successful integration of technology.  It is their job to act as the bridge between the digital natives and digital immigrants.  The digital docent has the capacity to teach as the Latin root of the word suggests both of these groups.  The big question is how best to facilitate this teaching bridge.  

Digital Natives Resources


Marc Prensky Essays


Suggested Reading List
Palfrey Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives