Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Web Secret 442: Digital native

Several months ago, I read a rather horrific New York Times article by Ashton Applewhite about age discrimination. Which for women starts at age 32. And though illegal, two-thirds of older job seekers report encountering it.

That was enough to piss me off, but then Applewhite wrote, "Recruiters say people with more than three years of work experience need not apply. Ads call for 'digital natives,' as if playing video games as a kid is proof of competence."

And I went wild with fury.

But let me digress. The term "digital native" was first coined in 2001 by Marc Prensky, in a rather brilliant essay "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" Pensky wrote, "What should we call these “new” students of today? ...the most useful designation I have found for them is Digital Natives. Our students today are all “native speakers” of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet."

Now as the parent of 3 digital natives, I will tell you that, unquestionably, they use technology differently than I do. I remember sharing an excellent bottle of wine with the kids at a restaurant. I started to laboriously type out the label in the notes app on my iPhone, while my oldest took a snapshot of the wine label in an instant. Whoa! Lesson learned.

Then there's checking the weather. I usually visit the weather app to find this out. My oldest temporarily moved in with us a month ago, and I heard him say, "Siri, what's the weather today." Second lesson learned.

Now back to my fury. Being a digital native doesn't automatically translate into workplace tech competence. Just like being a native English speaker does not automatically confer an ability to write well, or understand Shakespeare.

So here are things my progeny do not know how to do, despite being "digital natives."

1. Anything related to hardware. Eg printer jams - no clue how to fix them.
2. HTML. Fireworks.
3. Effectively searching for information on the Internet. Nyet. (Turns out that growing up with libraries and card catalogues confers special powers - an understanding about how research works.)

How about some other non digital qualities valued in the workplace:

1. punctuality
2. work ethic
3. "paying your dues"
4. preparedness

My digital journey started with IBM punch cards in the 8th grade. Careened through a Commodore 64. Learned MS Word and Excel from a VHS tape. Owned one of the first IBM Thinkpads. Navigated the dot com bubble. Palm Pilot anyone?

I may not be a digital native, but I have perspective. And deep knowledge.

Something you can't buy online at Amazon.

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