Trust Me. I’m a Digital Immigrant.


I admit it. I didn’t know much about Marc Prensky or his 2001 article on digital natives until about, oh, 2006. Though I find his article fascinating and the conversations and research that it sparked equally interesting, I want to bring a slightly different and lighthearted perspective to this conversation.

I have found that there is often an assumption that digital immigrants have little or nothing to teach digital natives. This assumption is grounded in the notion that what is worth knowing has to do with the digital world.

Okay. The digital world is important. I know it. You know it. We don’t need to discuss it. And while I email and Tweet and FB and gram the instant and bank online and shop online and all that other awesome stuff, I can tell you that the digital world is not all that.

How do I know this? Simple. I still miss my typewriter.

And just in case you’re having a hard time connecting what a digital immigrant knows with what you, the digital native, know, I’ve created this handy dandy table for you. You’re welcome. Yes, you can share it with your parents. It could help at the next family dinner.

Stuff that digital immigrants know. Stuff that digital natives know about the stuff that digital immigrants know. So?
How to write a cheque. Or, for my American friends, a check. It’s like filling in a field. Online. Only not. Google “traveller’s checks”. You will be stunned and amazed at the perils of pre-digital travel finances. Ask me about the Amex office in Madras. Pour me a drink first.
How to tear paper from a fax machine. People used to fax stuff. And print stuff. And sort it. And store it. Early faxed documents looked like the worst art project from elementary school. Ever. Only worse. Fax machines were used when people were easily impressed. When people longed for widespread email and scanning – though they may not have articulated this as they did not know that there ever really would be widespread email and scanning. Their hopes were based on ignorance, comic books and 80s pop music.
Where to place a stamp on a postcard. Instagram is the name. How they came up with “Instagram” and what it has to do with the life of a digital immigrant … I know. You don’t care. If people want to collect sticky little bits of paper that have glue and saliva on them, well, I guess that’s their business. Sounds unsanitary.
How to mail a letter. I thought those boxes on legs were public art installations. No, the boxes are not full of sticky bits of paper, glue and saliva?
Using an iron to dry papers. What’s an iron? Perhaps this has something to do with a woman your Grandma thought was funny. Lucy somebody.
How to make a paperclip chain. Paperclips as crafts are one of the markers of the demise of the pre-digital era. I look forward to making area rugs out of chargers.
TGIF Thank Goodness, It’s Friday. People used to seek and keep jobs they hated just because it was expected of them. It’s likely this condition will appear in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual in the very near future.


Tracy McCabe is part of the GovLoop Featured Blogger program, where we feature blog posts by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Blogger posts, click here.

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