Are Adult Educators and Learners ‘Digital Immigrants’? Examining the Evidence and Impacts for Continuing Education

Erika Smith

Abstract


Over the past decade, Prensky’s distinctions between “digital immigrants” and “digital natives” have been oft-referenced. Much has been written about digital native students as a part of the Net generation or as Millennials. However, little work fully considers the impact of digital immigrant discourse within the fields of adult learning and continuing education. It is promising that rather than being digitally challenged immigrants for whom new learning technologies are completely foreign, adults of different ages can bring valuable knowledge and skills to e-learning environments that enable them to achieve academic success. These are important findings, since e-learning is increasingly recognized as an important part of learning across the life-course. With the growing body of research evidence countering common digital native and immigrant distinctions and critiquing an underlying technological determinism informing such arguments, how might practitioners respond to these discourses in their own educational contexts? With a focus on digital immigrants, the purpose of this article is to provide critical consideration of current research evidence on digital native/immigrant distinctions that impact educators and learners within the field of continuing education.


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