Created by Ruth Elliott

Welcome! Join me as I reflect on my learning journey with Web 2.0 tools. I'm sure I will find bandwagons to jump on along the way. Let's enjoy the trip.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Digital Pioneer Buys Grey Cup Tickets

Canadian Football LeagueImage via Wikipedia

During the Canadian Football League's regular season, I bleed green. My team, the Saskatchewan Roughriders, wears green and white. We have season tickets and drive three hours to attend all of the home games for our team. This year, for the first time in decades, the Riders finished on top of the Western division. As we traveled to the Western division final game, visions of the Grey Cup (Canada's version of the Super Bowl game) danced in our heads. If we beat the Calgary Stampeders, we would be off to the Grey Cup the next week. Since the big game was taking place in Calgary, Alberta, we could actually drive there from our home in Saskatoon. The tricky part would be getting Grey Cup tickets. Since Calgary fans were hoping to see their team in the big game, tickets were sold out long before November of 2009.

As we drove to the game, I suggested to my husband that we should consider driving to Calgary for the Grey Cup. I used our cell phone to call my brother-in-law to ask him to start looking for tickets for us. We cheered our hearts out at the game in Regina. We beat the Stampeders and were off to the Grey Cup. Wow! Now we needed tickets. As we drove back to Saskatoon, we checked with my brother-in-law about tickets online. He gave us some prices for tickets. We realized that thousands of Rider fans across Canada would also be trying to find tickets.

After our three hour drive, we went online to check out prices and availability of tickets. Our daughter, who is living in Calgary, called us on Skype. She suggested we use Kijiji Calgary to find tickets. She was copying links into Skype so we could check out the various ticket offers. I emailed two people. One man responded right away and said I was the first to reply to his ad. He asked me to call him. I phoned to discuss his location in Calgary. Our daughter was still on Skype. We discovered that she was living a few blocks away from the man's location. We made arrangements for her to pay for and pick up our GREY CUP TICKETS!!!!! We were on our way to the Grey Cup game. (For those of you who don't follow the CFL, the Riders lost to the Montreal Alouettes because of a last second penalty for "too many men on the field" which allowed Montreal to kick a field goal. I still have a broken heart twibbon on my Twitter avatar. I have not yet read my local newspaper from the day after the game.)

Why have I shared this story with you? This week, for a class assignment, I have been asked to consider the concept of the "digital native" and the implications for teachers and schools. This story demonstrates the power of technology as used by a range of age groups for various purposes. We used cell phones, Skype calls, and landlines to communicate with other people. We used Kijiji and email to access and share information. Who were the digital natives and immigrants in this story? Are these terms adequate to categorize people and their range of interactions using technology?

I recently attended a presentation by Sir Ken Robinson. He suggested that technology is anything that has come into existence since you were born. For my parents, the old black telephone with a rotary dial would have been technology. For myself, a touchtone phone would represent technology. For my children, a cell phone would be an example of technology. However, as we think about digital technologies, who are the digital natives and who are the immigrants? Are these terms useful or do they obscure some of the realities for digital technology users today?

Digital Natives: In 2001, Prensky wrote an article about digital natives and digital immigrants. John Barlow may have been the first one to use the term "immigrants" to describe those who are newcomers to technology. In his "Declaration of the Independence of Cyberspace" (1996), he said:

"You are terrified of your own children, since they are natives in a world where you will always be immigrants. Because you fear them, you entrust your bureaucracies with the parental responsibilities you are too cowardly to confront yourselves. In our world, all the sentiments and expressions of humanity, from the debasing to the angelic, are parts of a seamless whole,the global conversation of bits. We cannot separate the air that chokes from the air upon which wings beat."

Prensky suggested that digital natives have grown up in a world of computers and digital technology. It must be recognized that the digital literacy of these natives may vary (Jorgenson, 2010). Jenkins (2007) suggests that using the term "digital native" as a metaphor for this group will reveal some realities while masking other realities. While some may be adept at social networking (via Facebook or Twitter), others may comment upon and create YouTube videos. Still others may shun digital productivity tools while reveling in the entertainment provided online.

Many educators are part of the "digital immigrant" group (Prensky, 2001). These are individuals who grew up without computers and have now learned (in some cases) to speak digitally. There are those teachers who are not yet comfortable with using technology as a teaching tool. They are on one side of the digital divide while their students are on the other side. They don't seem to speak the same language.

As I considered these two camps (natives and immigrants), I wondered where I fit in. I am part of the baby boomer generation who grew up in a world without computers. However, I believe that two skills provided my foundation for comfort with computers. Starting at the age of 6, I learned to play the piano. Then in high school, I took two years of typing classes. (The eye-hand coordination from playing the piano carried over into the ease of typing.) In 1985, when we bought our first computer (a Commodore 64), I was adept at the keyboarding aspect of computer use. With each new computer, I have built upon the early foundation of digital literacy. I realized that I am neither a native nor an immigrant. What am I?

Other educators have had the same dilemma. Kathy Schrock (2008) calls herself a "digital pioneer", one who "did not grow up with technology. It grew up with me, and I was there every step of the way." Like Schrock, I developed my skill set with technology after years of risk-taking and experimentation. In 1987, when I worked in a college bookstore, I advocated for the creation of a computer database for all of our books. I took all of the handwritten records of our stock and entered it into a database. I created the first website for my school in 1999 and then taught others to continue its upkeep. I continue to add to my technology repertoire. I don't know everything but I do know a lot. I am a digital pioneer.

Many people have pushed back against Prensky's concepts of the native and the immigrant. Some dislike the generalizations which paint a black and white picture. As Jenkins (2007) states:

"Talking about youth as digital natives implies that there is a world which these young people all share and a body of knowledge they have all mastered, rather than seeing the online world as unfamiliar and uncertain for all of us."

Shirley, the leader of our class discussion this week, provided us with a matching game in which we were asked to match these quotes with the ones who said them:


1. No, I don't really want an iPhone. It seems too complicated. I just want a simple phone and will buy a Koodoo.

2. I get offended when people don't return my emails. I consider them to be like phone calls. I want a reply!

3. Sure, I would like to buy an iPad. I want to get caught up!

4. I have an iPhone, 3 computers, 2 iPods, 3 digital cameras, and have an iPad on order. Can't wait!

5. I hate Twitter! I even went off Facebook for a time.


a. 23 year old university student

b. 80 year old grandma

c. Baby Boomer Mom

d. Baby Boomer Dad

e. 20 year old university student

Challenge yourself to match the speaker with their quote. (I will give you Shirley's answers at the bottom of this post underneath the References.)

As my classmates and I attempted this matching game (quotes were from real people in Shirley's world), most of us were woefully inept at predicting who said what. This reveals the problem of generalizing. People are individuals--no one fits the mold. Harris (2010) suggests that the native and immigrant distinction is "malarkey" and that we should instead think about a continuum from "needing to be digitally nurtured" to "naturally digital". Each person's position along the continuum should be respected. Those who are naturally digital have an innate curiosity along with the ability to learn and adapt. If they are shown new technology they will figure it out on their own.

Here is an example from my life. I was watching a Flat World workshop taking place in Hong Kong last summer. Students and teachers were working together in learning and presenting information. I overheard a student mention that they could use WallWisher to share their research with others in the group. I looked this up on the internet and used WallWisher as a presentation tool for a class assignment in the fall. It wasn't actually the best tool to use because it ended up as a rather messy, chaotic bulletin board full of digital post-it notes. However, I had fun learning how WallWisher worked and have a new tool in my tool chest.

Those who need to be nurtured digitally are those who need more support and structure in learning to use technology. They need someone to guide, coach, and demonstrate the use of the tools. Last year I attended a workshop about PowerPoint. The instructor provided no handout and simply took us step-by-step through the creation of a PowerPoint slide. This was not an issue for me but many teachers in the class went away confused and uncertain of how to use this tool.

Another issue for those who are digital natives is that many of their most useful tools must be left at the school door. This leads to a disconnect between the world of the classroom and the world outside of school.

There are many implications for those who are teaching digital natives. I think that many digital natives are adept at using Web 1.0 tools (the static use of the Web) but not all are skilled with Web 2.0 tools (social media tools). Michael Wesch (2010) pointed out that most of the social media tools are less than five years old so that we are all digital immigrants with those tools. (Kathy Schrock would probably say that we are digital pioneers with those tools.)

Last summer I read an article (Piedra, 2009) outlining a vision of Web 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. We need to prepare our students for moving beyond simple use of technology to more complex and interactive uses. This article suggests that the next frontier lies in metatagging data so that "resources on the web can be described and linked in a way that it is possible to determine their meaning and allow reuse through many applications." An example of this use of Web 3.0 occurred after the recent earthquake in Haiti. People were tweeting out their distress calls or the cries for help from others. Once a protocol for using specific Twitter #hashtags was instituted, computers could quickly collect these distress calls and direct help to specific locations. Even the United States government began to look to Twitter, Facebook, and blog sites to assist them in knowing where aid was required.

Teachers need to teach for connections, otherwise students are left with random bits of information bytes. Recently we looked at standards for technology learning. In Alberta, technology is integrated within the curriculum. Therefore students are not learning to make a video. They are learning about the history of First Nations people in Alberta and then using various technology tools to uncover and present their information. Michael Wesch (2010) suggests that the subject to be learned should be at the center of the community. Then teachers and students can work together to investigate the subject. Each can use their strengths and learn from others in the areas of weakness. Bell (2010) says that the best way to learn about new technology is to "keep a kid around". Jenkins (2007) says that we need to recognize our own gaps and ask our students to teach us. We also need to recognize our students' gaps and teach them. I like the idea of the ripple effect in technology. As I learn something, I will teach you. Then you in turn can teach someone else.

Last year, I taught my grade one and two students how to use computers for learning and productivity. In the spring, my class taught the other grade one class how to use computers. The grade 7 class assisted my class with downloading digital photographs for use in a class powerpoint. In the future, I would like to set up a project with senior citizens who would come into the school. I would teach them some computer skills. Then they would assist the kindergarten, grade one and two classes with logging on and using computers. I would also love to see a partnership between middle years classes and senior citizens with using computers to do research together. Possibly, middle years students could help seniors research trips to warm destinations in the winter. They could compile information about the culture and customs of the countries where the seniors may visit. When the seniors return from their trips, they could report back to the class. They could also Skype from their destination country. Through engaging in this type of authentic learning, we would create a digital melting pot (Collier, 2009; Stoerger, 2009) which combines those who speak a variety of technology languages. Everyone would have the opportunity to acquire, refine, and update their technology skills.

One study (Bell, 2010) found that digital natives are weak in the areas of:

1) Searching - Students often "bounce" from resource to resource without thoroughly reading any of their online resources. Some people might call this "link flow" but only if you are picking up on the most important information. Students need help with online searches. They spend as much time navigating as they do in collecting information. Unfortunately, students are generally dissatisfied with the help of librarians with online searches. (Law, 2009) Many librarians want to teach the proper way to do searches (akin to "Eat Spinach Syndrome" or "eat your spinach, it's good for you). Students want just a little help and guidance, given as rapidly as possible.

2) Evaluating - Digital natives are "voracious content consumers" (Manafy, 2010) in a venue in which "quality arguments are irrelevant because...the market will decide" (Law, 2009). These users subscribe to the "wisdom of crowds" in which information is "more democratic and less authoritative" (Law). We need to help our students develop critical thinking skills so that they can evaluate information. (Braun, 2009).

3) Staying safe - As Barlow's (1996) declaration points out, it is tempting to put so many restrictions in place for the use of technology, that the baby can be tossed out along with the bath water. Many teachers have expressed their frustration with the firewall that their school systems have erected to protect their students. Often, this wall is keeping out many useful resources. I have read about many ways to get around a block on YouTube since teachers want to use some of the posted videos for teaching and learning in class.

Last year I listened to a presentation by Vicki Davis' (2010) students with the results of their examinations of social sites for younger children online. These grade 9 students were encouraged to disobey the rules to see what type of monitoring was in place on the various sites. Davis believes that the best type of filter is the one between the student's ears. She teaches students the skills to use when evaluating sites and for staying safe on the internet. I believe that this could be an effective model for other students. Older students could be asked to find safe sites for younger students to use.

One last issue for digital immigrants who are teaching digital natives is the issue of lack of training. Today I read a blog post (Still, 2010) which incredulously quotes a comment from a teacher who says that "teachers at the local high school are very tech savvy. They can do things like attach files to emails." These "tech savvy" teachers are somewhere on the digital continuum but neither Still nor myself would term them "tech savvy" in this day and age.

As I look at my school division, I see many computers, digital cameras and projectors, and even some Smart Boards (although I can see the latter may lead to "sage on the stage" interactions). However, there is a lack of professional development opportunities for those wishing to use technology and to teach its use to their students. This is a widespread problem as "far too many schools...will spend..on equipment and software and then fail to provide time and resources for training" (Bell, 2010).

Where are you along the digital continuum? Are you willing to share what you have learned and to ask for help from your students?

As I think about that continuum, I think of Kathy Cassidy's students and their reflections on media literacy, both tech and non-tech. (Kathy is a grade one teacher in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan.)

At the other end of the continuum in age is Ivy Bean (Twitter, 2009). Ivy is a British senior citizen who lives in a care home in England. She tweets using the Twitter name of IvyBean104. She is 104 years old. I have been following her on Twitter for six months. I came across an article in the Maclean's magazine from June of 2009 which mentioned Ivy. Ivy has been on Twitter longer than I have (I only started tweeting in July of 2009). She is a true Digital Pioneer.

In conclusion, let's not get caught up in glorifying or dissing the technology skills of others. Let's keep moving along the digital continuum while finding meaningful ways to interact with others. Engage in the global conversation along with Ivy Bean and Kathy's grade one class.


Barlow, John Perry. (February 8, 1996). A declaration of the independence of cyberspace. Online at

Bell, Mary Ann. (January/February 2010). What kids know (and don't know) about technology. In MultiMedia and Internet @ Schools, 17, 1, 39-42.

Braun, Linda. (November 22, 2009). Take the risk: Give teens the chance to think for themselves. In Technology.

Collier, Anne. (December 3, 2009). Not just digital natives and immigrants. In NetFamily

Davis, Vicki. (January 28, 2010). Super social safety: Digiteens share the best (and worst) in social sites for kids. In Cool Cat Teacher Blog.

Frank, Thomas. (February 1, 2010). Social media play part in recovery efforts. USA Today (Mexican Caribbean Edition).

Goldman, Hilary. (March/April 2008). Preparing teachers for digital age learners. In Learning and Leading with Technology.

Greenhow, Christine. (September/October 2008). Who are today's learners. In Learning and Leading with Technology.

Harris, Christopher. (February 2010). Dumping on "Digital Natives". In School Library Journal, 56, 2, 14.

Jenkins, Henry. (December 5, 2007). Reconsidering digital immigrants. In The Official Weblog of Henry Jenkins.

Jones, Sidney & Fox, Susannah. (January 28, 2009). Generations online in 2009. Pew Internet & American Life Project.

Jorgenson, Shirley. (February 5, 2010). Discussion post for EDES 545. University of Alberta (Blackboard).

Law, Derek. (December 2009). Waiting for the (Digital) Barbarians. In Information Outlook, 13, 8, 15-18.

Manafy, Michelle. (January/February 2010). The old news and the good news: Engaging the digital native in the value of news. In EContent, 33, 1, 30-34.

Piedra, N., Chicaiza, J., Lopez, J., Tovar, E., & Martinez, O. (2009). Open educational practices and resources based on social software, UTPL experience. American Conference On Telematics and Information Systems: Proceedings of the 2009 Euro American Conference on Telematics and Information Systems: New Opportunities to increase Digital Citizenship, Prague, Czech Republic, Article 34, DOI:

Prensky, Mark. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. In On the Horizon, 9, 5.

Schrock, Kathy. (October 12, 2008). Digital natives, digital immigrants, and digital pioneers. In Kathy Schrock's KaffeeKlatsch.

Still, Beth. (January 24, 2010). What does it mean to be tech savvy in 2010? In Nebraska Change Agent. Online at

Stoerger, Sharon. (July 6, 2009). The digital melting pot: Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide. In First Monday.

Twitter's oldest Brit user blogs casseroles. (no author) (June 1, 2009). Maclean's.

Wesch, Michael. (2010). The (Digital) Writing on the Walls (and why the walls don't matter anymore). Presentation at the University of Regina. (Video). Online at

(Answers for Match Quote with Speaker from Shirley Jorgenson
1. No, I don't really want an iPhone. It seems too complicated. I just want a simple phone and will buy a Koodoo.

e) My 20 yr old tech savvy daughter's plan was up. She was offered her Dad's Blackberry. No thanks. What about an iPhone? I just want a simple phone. I don't want to have to think abut it.(She has a iPod and lap top)

2. I get offended when people don't return my emails. I consider them to be like phone calls. I want a reply!

c) Baby boomer Mom. Applying the old phone etiquette of...if the phone rings you say hello.

3. Sure, I would like to buy an iPad. I want to get caught up!

b) 80 year old avid reader has been following the hype and has declared that this will be the place where she will jump in. She is jealous of her fellow seniors who keep up with their adult kids via email. She has lost status in the Lodge because of her digital poverty and wants to rectify this.

4. I have an iPhone, 3 computers, 2 iPods, 3 digital cameras, and have an iPad on order. Can't wait!

d) That was Boomer Dad!

5. I hate Twitter! I even went off Facebook for a time.

a) The 23 year old university student.


  1. Ruth,

    Great article, and I truly believe you are a Digital Pioneer!


  2. Thanks, Ruth. You have done a good job here and I like your intro story--a nice hook! I like how you were able to incorporate much of your extra curricular reading/viewing into this post.

  3. Wow Ruth. What an amazing and comprehensive look at this issue. I appreciate so much how you bring your personal classroom experiences to your writing.

    Well done!