Digital Immigrants

Once upon a time , my friend Josephine and I were high school English teachers. Now Josephine is retired and one of the responsibilities I have at Campaign Consultation is to create online learning tools.

“I hope you don’t think that you are providing education,” she says.  Josephine does not believe that the internet has any value for real learning.

“It’s a fad,” she says.  “It will go out of fashion…and it’s ruining the way we communicate.”

Of course, we know that the internet is not going anywhere except up and out to more and more people, and it is an essential ingredient in our teaching and learning.

The difference is that Josephine and I are digital immigrants.  There are digital natives—those who are for the most part under thirty who learned the language of the internet as they were learning their first words—and digital immigrants for whom this language is not our native tongue.

I, for one, happen to have a high regard for immigrants.  My son-in-law, who immigrated to this country from Romania as a young teen, now practices medicine in Chicago.  There is the woman in my church who fled Liberia with her young daughter.  She worked for years as a janitor at night and now runs her own small business.  Also, Patrick Corvington, who came to the United States from Haiti as a teenager, now heads the Corporation for National and Community Service, which is often referred to as the “domestic “Peace Corps”.

Some immigrants plunge right in and do all that they can to learn a new language and new customs, while some give up in despair, or fear, or whatever negative feeling, and let the new order pass them by. I like to think I am part of the first group.  Whether we are natives or immigrants, building proficiency in internet language and communication provides access to knowledge and understanding—just like the classroom English education that Josephine and I provided to our students, hoping to provide them access to greater learning and understanding.

by: Sharon Rabb, Project Specialist