Exciting lesson ideas, classroom strategies, book lists, videos, and reproducibles in a daily blog by teachers
























Digital Immigration Reform

By Christy Crawford on September 8, 2010
  • Grades: PreK–K, 1–2, 3–5, 6–8


If you have no idea what the above term means, you may be a digital immigrant. 

If you have an interactive whiteboard and prefer to use it as a place to hang your students' artwork, you are definitely a digital immigrant.

Don't be offended. I, too, am a digital immigrant. I learned how to type on a typewriter — not a laptop or a word processor. And when I type, I type words, not clever texting abbreviations such as LMBO, IDK, or TTYL. (Fellow immigrants, you had to stop and think about IDK and TTYL, right?)

If you are over the age of 28 and did not grow up with the kind of technology kids have today, you are probably unfamiliar with ever-changing 21st century technology.

So here's the secret to navigating the new digital world: PLAY. PLAY AROUND.


1. PLAY AROUND with a kid, especially one over the age of 9, on some type of digital equipment.

2. Don’t look for the manual for the Kindle, Flip Video Camcorder, the interactive whiteboard, or any other equipment. 

3. Don’t wait for your tech-savvy co-workers to hold your hand. 

4. Throw all those things you learned about being a “good” student out the window. Press any and   every key on your new equipment and see what happens.

5. Remember the kid you assigned to turn the computers on and off in your classroom? That same   child would love to have lunch with you at school and show you some tricks. Listen, watch intently, and imitate. 

Avery & Pancy with Flip Cams

If you carve out 30 minutes in your work week to play with a child on a computer, you will close the immigrant/native gap. If you carve out 60 minutes in your work week to play with technology, somebody might actually mistake you for a digital native! Marc Prensky, author and digital maverick, defines a digital native as “the student of today”  or a "‘native speaker’ of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.”  

Fellow immigrant, get ready to assimilate. Invest in an iPhone. Take the iPhone and a child with you to the doctor's office or any place with lots of waiting time. By the time you get in to see the doctor, that tech-savvy kid will have shown you how to 

  • play a game on your phone; 
  • take a photo of the two of you with your iPhone and upload it to Flickr for instant sharing with relatives;
  • download an application to make fart noises to embarrass the rest of the waiting room;
  • Google second and third opinions on your malady before you leave the physician's office.

Christyintechroom Imagine the endless learning possibilities if you took a laptop with you and your children to the airport.  Long security lines or flight delays could become free learning seminars. Free airport Wi-Fi, a wall outlet, and your child, godchild, niece, or nephew who is dying to show off their digital knowledge is all you need to start your assimilation.

You could pay hundreds of dollars for new media or Web 2.0 classes online or you could spend $4 on an ice cream cone for your nephew's knowledge. And your nephew will no longer see you as just another "old head," but as the cool auntie or uncle who truly listens and values their youthful wisdom. 


You, digital immigrant, acting as an authoritarian or as an expert in a classroom with up-to-date technology is just not going to work. Kids will sniff you out. Any technology teacher will tell you that the digital age is literally forcing pedagogues to allow youth to contribute to, control, and change lessons midstream. There are thousands of ways to complete just one function on a laptop and kids have endlessly messed with and played around with so many buttons that they can show you all of themIt is their job to play! You can't beat people who spend countless hours exploring and talking about the technology that you are too busy to even touch.   


We can learn from this humbling 21st-century role reversal. The Digital Age will once and for all prove that children are not empty vessels. Perhaps the rest of us will prove that old dogs can learn new tricks.  

Keeping up with the digital natives in your classroom is dependent on two things — time and attitude. Let's support each other. Consider this blog Digital Immigrants Anonymous.

  • Try spending just 20 minutes in the upcoming week with a tech-savvy kid on a computer, iPhone, Kindle, or any new technology. 
  • Use a silly screen name like “Foreigner in a Foreign Land” in your comment and tell us what you’ve learned.  

For those teachers who are already tech-savvy, even you don’t know every useful trick, site, or app that the very young student mastered months ago. Share with us what your students taught you. If you dare, invite a timid technophobe (you know the teacher in your building that I’m talking about) to join you as you milk your young students for their digital knowledge. I can’t wait to hear your results!


Comments (11)


Yes! You are totally right! Talk about change-- I can't get over the number of scrapbooks I made. iphoto has totally changed my life; those old Hallmark scrapbooks are out the window. So funny to think we've lived through so many changes, adapted and didn't even think twice about it. All that stuff "WAS easy"!

Thanks for your funny and truthful comments!

Agreed, just go for it, press some buttons and see what happens. Instruction manuals are for wimps...hehe, or LMAO as the "cool" kids text and instant message. When your afraid or resistant to new technology just think about how much technology you already conquered. Do remember the pre-historic days with no cell phones, when you actually had to write or worse, remember peoples phone number if you wanted to call them? Or carry a huge address book with you? Do remember the days when you couldnt watch and record two of your favorite shows at the same time? Or when you actually had to walk to a mailbox to pay your bills. If you can conquer cell phones, DVR, and online shopping, then you can conquer a interactive white board. Just think, back in the day they probably were saying the same things about microwaves as they are about some of the new technology out there..."i cant learn to use this thing." Look at you now! You want some popcorn?, just shove it the microwave, close the door and press a button. In a short time you can be saying the same thing about a smartboard as you do after you use a microwave..."That was easy." (another phrase already taken!)


Hysterical! Don't you love kids?! I think it is wise to train classes of children to use the interactive white boards, while teaching the teachers to use the boards. Having 25 friendly faces to support any new learner (even an older one) can't be so bad... can it?

Thanks for commenting!


Our school recently installed interactive white boards (SmartBoards) in every classroom. The teachers might have taken your advice and spent some time with a child and a piece of technology...but they didn't have a chance, the kids in every classroom, K through 5, have grabbed the teachers by the hand and dragged them into the present!

Hilarious! This is so ME!

Hi Christy, I,m honored tht you have taught my daughter,and that she has learned so much in her early years in the Bronx new school.I,m learning so much with the computer and feel this is a wonderful site. good luck

Thanks for sharing this and keeping a former student informed on your scholastic triumphs. You are such an inspiration for so many, young and matured -- this is great!!

That's the attitude! Just do it! ( I guess that phrase is already taken).

Fear is the enemy. For most teachers, even the smallest success will establish them as the "tech expert." Continued "trial and error," make that "trial and learn" efforts really will make them tech-enabled.

And...if you avoid using technology for fear of breaking something, remember: If you break something that is going to otherwise sit on a shelf and gather dust, it is better off broken.

Thanks for this article. I too have experienced the "fear of technology," which for me seems to be some type of unconscious irrational way of thinking ("I might break something if I press the wrong key," for example) that can prevent me from fully exploring the possibilities that technological advances can offer--but only if I allow it to do so. I think us "digital immigrants" have to summon a little bit of courage and embrace the technology instead of being scared by it.

WOW Christy, I am so glad that I can be a part of the wonderful work that you are doing with children in our school. Keep up the great work. Paul

As a former colleague of Christy's, I witnessed first hand that she practices what she teaches. As a producer, Christy was known for her sense of wonder and curiosity. Her students are blessed to have a teacher with a gift to learn and a desire to teach. I am blessed to try and emulate her teachings. And so too will you! Thanks Scholastic and Christy for this terrific insight!

Post a Comment
(Please sign in to leave a comment. Privacy Policy)
Back to Top