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FLASHBACK: I'm a digital immigrant - Odessa American: Opinions

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FLASHBACK: I'm a digital immigrant

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Posted: Sunday, January 26, 2014 6:15 am

The other day, whilst visiting with a savvy younger person, I learned something. I am a digital immigrant. She, on the other hand, is a digital native.

What does that mean? The post-millennial “digital native” was a term coined by U.S. Author Marc Prensky in 2001, and according to a recent CNN story, is emerging as the globe’s dominant demographic of young techie types. The “digital immigrant” is a relic of a previous time who most likely remembers electric typewriters and the first Compaq computer.

So to explain: A digital native is someone who was born into the digital age, who has been surfing the net since they were a toddler and got their first cell phone in kindergarten. This is someone who was raised with computers, cell phones and all things high tech. Learning this stuff to them is second nature — like riding a bike or cleaning your 8-track was back in the day.

Digital immigrants — the group to which I belong — are defined as folks who have lived in the analog age and “immigrated” to the digital world. That’s the nice way to put it. Here’s the real truth: We are the people who were raised on rotary phones and remember when computers used discs the size of albums. And, oh yes … we remember albums or vinyl as the young folks refer to it. Some of us didn’t get our first cell phone until 10 years ago and since then, we’ve had to upgrade every year to keep up with the ever-burgeoning technology. In the past three to four years, I have been dragged, albeit kicking and screaming, into this high tech world we live in.

And now, I manage a newsroom full of digital natives and work side by side with a bunch of digital immigrants. And we are all trying to work together. We are the ones who remember how to look up a book in the library, while they can find anything on the Internet in a split second.

It is quite unbelievable how far we’ve come in a mere 20 years. For example, when I started at the Monahans News 20 years ago, we did not have the Internet at the paper. We cheered when we got some sort of set of Encyclopedia discs and all of that information was literally at our fingertips.

A year or so later, at the Brownwood Bulletin, the staff cheered when we got the first IMac. It was a cute, aqua all-in-one monitor with a brain inside and a matching aqua keyboard. It was the only computer in the newsroom with Internet, so typically there was a line of employees waiting to sign on. Then shortly thereafter, we got Internet on our computers, but it was dial-up so looking one thing up might take 30 minutes.

Fast forward to 2003 — that is when I got my first work cell phone — from the Abilene Reporter-News. It was a little Motorola with a SIM card. I had that thing for seven years. Just three years ago, my daughters begged me to upgrade so I could text. I fought that tooth and nail with the argument, “Why do I want to text if I can just call you?” Well, now, I’m a texting fool and I have even purchased a tablet. And for Christmas, I got one of those handy new-fangled speakers that magically links to your tablet to play music.

And, thank goodness, my oldest daughter signed me up for Facebook in 2010 — or I’d still be mastering that. And, lo and behold, I have a Twitter account and I tweet more than my kids do. All of this shows that this digital immigrant who has been forced to use technology and has followed the edict by one writer who said “adapt or die.”

I’m definitely coming of age in the digital universe and I’m adapting, but please, I’m not ready for the Google glass.

Odessa, TX

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