My friend Alan Wolf sent me a link to an article by Jaime McKenzie in From Now On that makes a pretty searing critique of Marc Prensky and the way that his concept of digital nativism has been picked up by many of those writing about the differences between young and old in how they respond to and use technology.
Critiques of Prensky are way overdue. At a conference I attended Marc Prensky was introduced to a friend of mine who is a wonderfully insightful, productive (and I might add technologically hip) professor of instructional design. On being introduced the first comment out of his mouth was that she was "one of the fun suckers." Arguably his comment was teasing and intended as a joke but it always struck me that a lot of what he writes about is produced in the same sort of way. A shoot from the hip stereotyping based on a very superficial understanding.
Jaime McKenzie's article starts to demonstrate exactly how that is the case. His critique focuses on the thinly supported claims made by Prensky (that what we're seeing is a radical discontinuity) and the poor quality of the citations that Prensky does use to support his assertions. Mckenzie also shows how actual empirical evidence out there contradicts much of what Prensky is arguing.
But go read the article.
My one criticism of the piece is that it starts off strong and ends weakly and Mckenzie allows himself to engage in a little bit of techno-bashing that starts to sound a little like the somewhat hysterical critiques of technology use by the young that we read in convention media eg "Those who substitute FaceBook for face-to-face communities suffer many of the consequences....
We should not substitute one form of stereotyping for another.
On a side note Prensky's misuse of cites is clearly not that uncommon also among real academics. In today's Inside Higher Education there is an article about some research done that shows that roughly 30% of citations are incorrectly cited or misrepresent the findings.