National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Published in Journal of the National Collegiate Honors Council 10:2, Fall/Winter 2009


Copyright 2009 by the National Collegiate Honors Council


In an influential 2001 essay, Marc Prensky discusses the vast divide that exists between two generations, what he terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants.” The former group consists of students who have lived their entire lives with computers, cell phones, video games, “and all the other toys and tools of the digital age,” whereas the latter group is made up of everyone else, those adults who have adopted these new technologies as they have come online (“Digital” 1). While “natives” like our current students move seamlessly among the many devices of the digital age and appear entirely comfortable employing such paraphernalia, immigrants (a group that includes the majority of faculty currently involved in honors education) learn to operate these tools along the way but never fully shed their immigrant status, using the technologies in slightly improper, awkward, or gauche ways, like printing out a document rather than editing it onscreen, for example. Prensky designates such clumsy behaviors “accents,” markers that make the discourse of immigrant instructors seem almost like a foreign language, and then alarmingly proposes that “the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language” (“Digital” 2).