How Does the Concept of Digital Native Affect the Early Years of Learning?

Mei Wang, Sheridan College


Prensky proposed the concept of Digital Native in 2001 to describe the young generation born in a technological era characterized by their frequent use of technology as a necessary part of their life. This paper explores how this concept affects early learning classrooms in the physical environment, communication, policy, and curriculum from educators' perspectives. In order to explore this question, a case study research design and a cross-comparative data set was used, consisting of two groups of educators born before and after the 1980s which aligns with Prensky’s digital native hypothesis. Semi-structured interviews were used as the method to elicit educators’ perspectives on using technology in the early years’ classroom. The data showed that digital natives had different experiences using technology in the classroom, including changing the physical environment in early years classrooms. The data also showed that educators believed that technology had affected communication between educators, parents, and children and, finally, the impact of technology on policy and curriculum and how those aligned with educators' beliefs and practices. The data suggested that educators' attitudes toward using technology have less relevance to their birth years which contradicts Prensky’s concept of the digital native. Therefore, this study emphasizes the need to reconsider the concept of the digital native as an educator’s ability to adjust to the development of technology that integrates a digitalized curriculum into their practices in scaffolding children’s early learning in the future that is not just a question of age, but that of exposure to, and experience of technology.