I keep hearing about digital natives.
I’d like to meet one.
From all I hear about them in the media, on Twitter, in education conferences and elsewhere one would think there were digital natives behind every tree in every forest.
Or behind every desk in every classroom.
Not any of the other classrooms in my school.
Maybe they’re all out in the suburbs.
I asked my 16-year-old son, a junior in a nice suburban high school, if he knows any digital natives. He doesn’t.
I really want to meet one.
So where are they?
I work with students who range in age from eleven to 16. I’d think that would be in the prime age-range for being digital natives, but no.
Maybe there aren’t any digital natives in the Bronx, home of the nation’s most poverty enhanced congressional district.
Maybe they’re all in Manhattan. Or Kansas.
Maybe they’re as rare as left-handed dentists.
Or maybe they don’t exist at all.
Just another figment of imagination, or perhaps just a neat phrase that inadvertently tripped off the tongue of some glib presenter somewhere and stuck.
Believing in digital natives is not as harmless as believing in the tooth fairly, though.
Thinking that all kids are digital natives means we don’t bother to teach them about digital things.
Thinking that all the kids are digital natives makes it easy to forget that there are a lot of kids from poor families who still do not have access to the most basic modern technology that most of us take for granted.
Out of the 85 or so students I teach, 26 say they don’t have any kind of computer at home. Of the 59 with computers, 14 say they don’t have access to the Internet.
Most of the remaining 45 say they just got Internet access within the past 18 months.
There may be digital natives somewhere.
But let’s keep in mind that there are digital have-nots right under our noses.