How Bad is Your Accent? Published 2008-03-28 under ,

"PDF's are better than web pages..." exclaimed Marge (name changed to protect the innocent).

I was showing Marge how to use to compile a list of web resources for a project on which she was working. The idea was to be able to direct people involved in the project to these resources and provided a central location (single URL).

"So, why are PDF's better than standard web pages?" was my reply.

"They're better for printing out... aren't they?"

Marge's project was about looking at the differences between what Prensky termed "Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants". I had to smile. While she was embracing the idea of using technology to compile the list of resources, her "accent" showed. In the past, Marge would print each article, make multiple copies and compile them in binders for others to use. Prensky calls this her digital immigrant accent.

There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even “thicker” accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I’m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the “Did you get my email?” phone call. Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our “accent.” Prensky, 2001

Within Marge's project, I noticed that the gap in adoption, comfort level, and understanding of the digital world was tagged as a generation gap with the older you are, the more likely you will respond to issues from the digital world with ignorance. Is age really the problem? Superficially, "digital natives" are those born in to this wired world. Thus, someone like me, born in the 60's, could not be a "digital native" while someone like nephew, born in 96, is a native. But who is more connected? Who lives more in the digital world?

My nephew loves sports and with the exception of the occasional sports video game, he would rather be out playing a sport or watching one on TV. He is not texting his friends, updating a facebook profile, or surfing the web on an iPhone. Ok, so I am not doing those things either. But I do live more in the digital world. Whether it is communication (email, blogging, twitter), information (blogs, rss, search), or work (coding, multimedia, remoting), I operate in a world dominated by digital technology.

I am not saying that I am a native nor as an immigrant that I do not have an accent. But to attribute a gap in one's adoption of the digital world to age is too simplistic and as we create programs that address this gap, we will do well not to make assumptions based on one's age.

BTW - I don't print my email, but my accents shows when it comes to IM - I just don't get its appeal.

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