Designing successful strategies for digital immigrants

Sep 7, 2011   //   by Joshua Montanye   //   Articles, Blog  //  No Comments


According to Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks: The Luxury of Digital Abundance, from the Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy “All teachers, digital immigrants and digital natives alike, will be expected to tackle and embrace the general understanding of technology coupled with a capability to use, manage, and assess the technologies that are most relevant in one’s life”.  If digital immigrants are to succeed in today’s job market, it will be necessary for them to learn to stay current on technological trends. Therefore will be important for teachers to develop strategies designed specifically to help ease the transition of digital migration.

Linear to Non-Linear Information Patterns

Matthies (2010) stated, “Business information, indeed most information is no longer created linearly” (p. 1).  Digital immigrants are faced with a dramatic shift in information sources from a linear to non-linear format. RSS feeds, blogs and Wikis have replaced traditional forms of information such as books, newspapers and news reports (Matthies, 2010). Digital aptitude in the education community has revolved around a metaphorical dichotomy.

According to Harris (2010) the dichotomy of digital natives and digital immigrants was not an accurate evaluation of digital aptitude.  Harris (2010) stated, “one solution is to look back to the classic nature vs. nurture argument” (p. 1), and suggested that being naturally digital is about possessing, “an innate curiosity and ability to learn and adapt” (Harris 2010 p.1). In summary digital aptitude is determined by cognitive learning skills and not simply by an existing exposure to new technologies.  Learners who do not posses this ability to adapt required more structure and support (Harris, 2010). Students’ mindsets needed to be nurtured to focus on the benefits of learning a new technology (Harris, 2010, p. 1). Therefore a successful strategy must motivate and appear attainable to students.

In research by Wolsey and Grisham (2011) it was found the popular metaphor of the digital native/immigrant was, “outdated and in danger of constraining innovative teaching” (p. 2).  Wolsey & Grisham (2011) introduced a new metaphor of the digital tourist/ambassador with four principles incorporated.  These four principles outline a strategy for learning media literacy. The first principle stated a digital tourist must set out to learn new technologies with the intent of using it to develop professional skills (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011). The second principle explained a digital tourist must also be able to learn from those more skilled in new technologies around them (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011). The third principle pointed out that a digital tourist must realize the potential new technologies possess in communicating ideas (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011). And, finally the fourth principle was a digital tourist must continually compare new technologies to gain a better understanding (Wolsey & Grisham, 2011). Research by Salajan, Schonwetter, and Cleghorn (2009) found that there were age related differences in how students used digital technologies but these differences do not apply to all forms of technology.


Web 2.0 Tools

Cifuentes, Sharp, Bulu, Benz and Stough (2010) stated, “read/write Web technologies in learning environments are particularly well suited to address a community’s needs by supporting the accomplishment of intelligence” (p. 1).  Their study demonstrated how Web 2.0 tools could be used to address general problems using a sixteen-point guideline.  By focusing on a user center designed site, they found that Web 2.0 tools could be used to create a collaborative tool to pool intelligences (Cifuentes 2010). In a similar study Goh, Chin Joo and Ong Kim (2010) found that web blogs have four factors: efficiency, deliberation, de-personalization, and collaboration that are beneficial to learning.  Berk (2010) suggested that students that are naturally proficient in technologies prefer to learn by doing rather than being told what to do or reading text or manuals. His research also inferred that these students were natural multitaskers (Berk 2010). Therefore, these tools were important to incorporate into the design of educational resources for digital immigrants. According to Olarian (2009) Web 2.0 tools were useful because they focused on user input and allowed for students to work at their own pace. However, Olarian (2009) went on to warn that Web 2.0 tools can also be unreliable if educational institutions did not design them. Research by Olarian (2009) also found that culture could also play a major role in the effectiveness of using Web 2.0 tools in teaching.



Knobel and Lankshear (2009) stated, “through collaborative interaction and participation, the contributions of all progressively enhance the quality, richness, and usefulness of the affinity space, and enrich participants’ personal and collective competence and knowledge” (p. 631). Networking is a powerful tool that can provide access to a wealth of information. Many students have faced similar challenges as digital immigrants and through networking they’ve shared their experiences. Cohen (2010) stated that even the Federal Communications Commission has used various social networking tools to collect information from citizens. The ability to collect, evaluate and share information gained from networking can have many benefits for educators and students.

According to Jones and Lea (2008) “at present, universities worldwide are investing heavily in a new generation of technologies, social networking tools and the affordances offered by Web 2.0 technologies” (p. 208). According to Muijs, West and Ainscow (2010), the concept of networking addressed the social health and psychological needs of students on a level that would not be possible for most schools. A practical example of this was the “provision of more effective and scalable Continuing Professional Development (CPD) activities” (Muijs et al., 2010, p. 7).

Social capital is the “ability to harness resources held by other actors and increase the flow of information in a network” (Muijs et al., 2010, p. 10).  Networks are necessary to increase the effectiveness of sharing these resources. According to Muijs et al. (2010) networking was effective for managing anomie. In other words, networking will become essential when designing a teaching strategy for dynamic topics such as technology.



In order to create successful strategies for fostering media literacy in an adult education setting, the educator must understand a few core concepts.  Information is not designed to be delivered in a linear fashion anymore. Also, a student’s age played no significant role in their ability to learn new technologies. A student’s level of digital literacy is only as successful as the strategies they were taught to learn from current trends. Additionally, the Internet provided a platform where students can use tools, such as Web 2.0 applications, to foster a better understanding of non-linear information and network with others to collaborate on new learning strategies. Networking and collaboration created social capital that students can use to foster and strengthen new skills that go beyond the scope of a classroom. Therefore a strategy specifically for digital immigrants could be created with these principles in mind will ensure a smoother transition into today’s growing job market for students.



Berk, R. (2010). How do you leverage the latest technologies, including web 2.0 tools, in your classroom?. International Journal of Technology in Teaching & Learning6(1), 1-13. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Cohen, A. (2010). Social networking and open government. Futurist44(4), 8-9. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Cifuentes, L., Sharp, A., Bulu, S., Benz, M., & Stough, L. (2010). Developing a web 2.0-based system with user-authored content for community use and teacher education. Educational Technology Research & Development58(4), 377-398. doi:10.1007/s11423-009-9141-x.

Goh, J., Chin Joo, Q., & Ong Kim, L. (2010). An investigation of students’ perceptions of learning benefits of weblogs in an east asian context: a rasch analysis. Journal of Educational Technology & Society13(2), 90-101. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Harris, C. (2010). Dumping on ‘digital natives’. School Library Journal56(2), 14. Retrieved June 19, 2010  from Academic Search Premier database.

Jones, S., & Lea, M. (2008). Digital literacies in the lives of undergraduate students: exploring personal and curricular spheres of practice. Electronic Journal of e-Learning6(3), 207-215. Retrieved from Education Research Complete database.

Knobel, M., & Lankshear, C. (2009). Wikis, digital literacies, and professional growth. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy,52(7), 631-634. Retrieved from Academic Search Premier database.

Matthies, B. (2010). Using i-google to help digital immigrants manage business information. Searcher, 18(5), 28-54. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Muijs, D., West, M., & Ainscow, M. (2010). Why network? Theoretical perspectives on networking. School Effectiveness & School Improvement, 21(1), 5-26. doi:10.1080/09243450903569692

O’Brien, D., & Scharber, C. (2010). Teaching old dogs new tricks: the luxury of digital abundance. Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 53(7), 600-603. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Olaniran, B. A. (2009). Culture, learning styles, and web 2.0. Interactive Learning Environments, 17(4), 261-271. doi:10.1080/10494820903195124

Salajan, F., Schönwetter, D., & Cleghorn, B. (2009). Is generational digital-divide a myth? a comparison of student and faculty attitudes toward digital learning technologies. Proceedings of the International Conference on e-Learning, 450-458. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

Wolsey, T., & Grisham, D. L. (2011). A nation of digital immigrants: four principles. California Reader, 44(2), 1-9. Retrieved from EBSCOhost.

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