even with digital natives, teachers know more about technology

The term “digital native”, coined by Marc Prensky in 2001, refers to post-millennial children (3rd generation) who have never been without technology. Prensky defines digital natives as those born into an innate “new culture”. “Digital immigrants”, in contrast, are old-world settlers, who previously lived in the analogue age and immigrated to the digital world. A good amount of teachers in the US fall into the digital immigrant category while all of their students from pre-K through college are now digital natives.

Because young people are practically born with an iPad in their crib, it would be a logical assumption that students know more about technology than their teachers. On average, children are 12.1 when they receive their first mobile device. Chances are they’ve been borrowing their parents’ tablet for years before that, though. A 2013 study by Common Sense Media found that 75% of children under 8 years old had used a handheld digital device on a regular basis, and 38% of babies under 2 years old had used tablets. (What?!)

So, if kids are using technology from birth and driving their own devices in middle school, they must have a huge tech knowledge advantage over their teachers, right? Well…studies show that the most popular uses for devices with kids of all ages are games and social media. Although post-millennials have more access, knowledge, and use of technology in general than their “old” teachers and parents, their knowledge lies in usage for entertainment, not learning.

Teachers know more about technology for education

Even though the digital native generation has technology ingrained into their culture, it is teachers who know the most about utilizing that technology for educational value, says Shiang-Kwei Wang of the New York Institute of Technology. In fact, the study concluded that if it weren’t for the coaxing of teachers, most students would never use their devices for more than listening to music and messaging their friends.

For this study Wang investigated the tech skills of 24 science teachers and 1,078 middle school students from 18 different schools in two states. It was found that although students had a rich digital life outside of school, most were not familiar with common tools designed to make information production and sharing easier. Their teachers, regardless of age or technological skill level, were quite savvy with digital resources for problem solving, learning, and researching.

Teaching the use of digital resources for knowledge

While the studies previously mentioned conclude that teachers, although digital immigrants, know more about utilizing technology to gain knowledge and resources, there is still a divide between the current usage and teaching of digital resources and their potential opportunities. In order to bridge that gap between technology usage inside and outside the classrooms, teachers must learn how to use technology for problem solving and creative thinking.

“School-related tasks usually require students to use technology limited to researching information and writing papers. Rarely do teachers provide opportunities to allow students to use technology to solve problems, enhance productivity, or develop creativity.” (

According to a study by Tom VanderArk & Carri Schneider, digital learning promotes a deeper learning experience, which is why teachers need to facilitate use of technology for this purpose.

Digital Learning Resources:


ST Math – teaches math visually, promoting conceptual understanding

Phet – science simulations and game-based history course

Edmodo – social media-like platform teaches collaboration



How Digital Learning Contributes to Deeper Learning

Using Technology to Teach Creativity

Managing technology while teaching

Impero knows that managing devices in classrooms is the first order of business when incorporating digital learning into lessons. If devices aren’t managed, teaching critical thinking using iPads isn’t going to work! For more information about classroom technology management contact us.