explorersThe labels, digital immigrant and digital native, have been floating around the blogosphere and education circles for a few years now. The digital natives are sometimes referred to as the millennial generation, current K-12 and college students, that have been immersed in a technological world. At a current, and young mind you, 43 years old I have been thinking where I fit into this picture, and I know where I am.

I was born in 1965, and just before my 4th birthday Sesame Street went on the air. For the most part I always remember having a television in my home. I remember my first digital football game, playing pong at a local eatery, my sister’s Atari 2600 video game system, our laser disc player, and the Apple IIe computers that entered our high school building pre-1984. From high school on out through the rest of the 80s, 90s, and now in the 21st century I have not known a time when I didn’t have access to a computer.

For those in my generation, late boom, early or pre-millennial, whatever you want to call it, we have feet placed on both sides of the digital immigrant and digital native worlds. I would say we are more native than immigrant, and we really don’t have an excuse when it comes to embedding technology into the curriculum. I am going to go so far as to say that if you were born after 1960, a digital native you are (As Yoda might put it!).

Starting in the 1980s we, the digital explorers I will name us, began attending and graduating from educational institutions that were digital, but pre-internet. We took each innovation into our lives and embedded it, we changed with the times, but we understood what a dial phone was, knew people who had actually grown up on farms, and had some compassion for those that couldn’t understand how to set the clock on the VCR. We helped our elders along the digital road and did it for our folks because they didn’t know how.

As the digital explorer generation, we hoped that our education system that we knew would be transformed, but after 25 years removed from my own high school graduation not much has transformed in the classroom. The internet connections are there now, much of the hardware and software is there, but too much instruction is the same as it was in 1984. Why?

As part of this newly named digital explorer generation I have a call to action. If we look around right now we may want to realize and notice, if we haven’t already, that we have reached the age of decision making. We are in a position to be great influences in generating a cultural shift that has failed to move as fast as we have always hoped it would. As educators we especially cannot rely on an excuse that we are digital immigrants, we are not. We are the digital explorers and the first digital natives.

My challenge to my generation of digital explorers is to set the example. Continue to embed technology in your classrooms, start embedding technology in your classrooms if you have been avoiding it (we really have no excuse as we know the language and the customs already), and we must help digital immigrants embed technology in their classrooms. I do, because I am a digital explorer and one of the first digital natives, and we are the generation that knows how to change. As for the younger digital natives they expect something different, and we must help forge the trail because we have been the digital explorers and know the way.

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