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Recovering backpacker, Cornwallite at heart, political enthusiast, catalyst, writer, husband, father, community volunteer, unabashedly proud Canadian. Every hyperlink connects to something related directly or thematically to that which is highlighted.

Friday 1 March 2013

You Can't Learn From Mistakes If You Refuse to See Them

The ability to observe, absorb and adapt is a cognitive one.  It requires mental flexibility, the willingness to accept that maybe, your existing approach isn't correct, that you have something to learn.
Those who are so utterly confident that they hold the corner on truth, frankly, are delusional.
Everything gives, in time - and that which can't adapt doesn't survive.  That's what evolution is all about.

The Political Paradox of Perception

Backroom of a restaurant wrong place for mayor and his allies to meet 

The London Free Press

Politicians love to talk in cliches.
Perhaps they should listen to them sometimes.
Take this cliché, for example: Perception is reality. Mayor Joe Fontana and about half of his council need to pay careful attention to that one.
Put aside, for a moment, exactly how six members of the mayor’s voting bloc and the mayor managed to end up in the backroom of the same restaurant at the same time just days before a budget vote.
Or doing a different kind of math, how four of the six economic-prosperity committee members ended up in that backroom to chat about economic development.
Imagine, if you love fantasy, that it was indeed just a remarkable coincidence or the mayor’s innocent desire to enjoy a burger with friends.
Even if it all this were a coincidence or innocent, wouldn’t you expect that at some point one, or two, or four or all seven council members would be struck by the fact the whole thing looked bad?
Wouldn’t you expect someone to say, “Hey, you know what? People might think politicians in a backroom equals back-room politics.”
Wouldn’t you expect that someone might say, “You know, we got in trouble a year ago for doing the same thing.”
Apparently those thoughts did not cross anyone’s mind. Or, if they did, they didn’t care. Either ignorance or arrogance, or a measure of both, seemed to put seven council members in a backroom, despite the rules about secret meetings.
Arrogance is likely the larger factor. The mayor freely admits he invited three other members of the prosperity committee to have a lunch to chat about “economic development matters.”
Coun. Stephen Orser dismissed concerns the Ontario Ombudsman might investigate, again. Coun. Bud Polhill blamed the media for causing trouble. Coun. Dale Henderson said he just happened to be there.
Did they not think someone would notice? Did they not think the Ontario Ombudsman might pay attention? Do they simply not care what the public thinks?
Do they think we are all fools?
Never mind, they’ve already answered that question.

Shared Solutions: Mental Health, Schools and the Workplace

Social media.  Youth.  Proactive engagement.  Safety - and mental health.  In the workplace, even.
Here's three projects that can only benefit through collaboration:
Ontario's Ministry of Labour is holding a video contest for secondary school students or youth aged 18-24. Use your creativity to develop an original video, up to two minutes long, to stress the importance of working safely on the job or about your rights to be paid fairly for the work that you do. The contest closes on April 5th. To apply, please visit
Children's Mental Health Ontario is holding their annual Change the View video contest, encouraging youth to make a video demonstrating what students' schools can do to create a supportive environment for students experiencing mental health issues and addictions.
The Federal Ministry of Labour has created a set of voluntary standards to promote psychologically safe workplaces; a great initiative that needs to be advertised as far and wide as possible.
You simply can't ask for better opportunities to develop shared solutions, find efficiency of resources and get best bang for your buck.
This has to happen.

It's Time to Get Smart About Mental Health

The average person responds to life.  The entrepreneurial person will proactively pursue their own interests.  The strategic person will proactively seek to improve the system.
We want to avoid crime.  We want to manage down health care costs.  We're supposedly after increased productivity and innovation and are trying to do something about the growing mental health crisis. 
Yet the great initiatives that have emerged in the past couple years are all reactions to a problem, like trying to identify and cure lead poisoning instead of taking the lead out of the pipe in the first place.
Yes, we have to try new approaches in how we deal with mental illness - but more than that, it's time we change our entire approach to mental health.
When you look at mental health holistically and not just as a problem, a proactive approach to fostering mental fitness becomes a key part of the solution.
We can do this - we can all move past this social barrier of stigma, but only when we're all on the same side, pushing forward together.

Heather Mallick Connects the Dots

On this blog, I try to discuss interwoven themes like the impact of social media and new tech on personal accountability, the importance of thinking through the broader consequences of one's actions and how in control we truly are of the choices we make.  I've even focused on Vic Toews as a study case.
I feel almost a sense of relief when I read a piece like this that makes all these connections in a clear, concise fashion.  Systems theory isn't about wasting time on "peripherals" - it's about efficiency and sustainability. 
Thank you, Ms. Mallick, for writing this.

Tom Flanagan puts personal liberty ahead of victims’ pain: Mallick

By: Columnist, Published on Fri Mar 01 2013

Watching child porn no crime, says Tom Flanagan, former mentor to Stephen Harper
Tom Flanagan was Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s soulmate, his mentor, the architect of the plans Harper carried out to turn Canada towards the hard right.
But Harper must be mightily steamed today, apoplectic. Berserk maybe. Canadians are “either with us or with the child pornographers,” Public Safety Minister Vic Toews thundered last year. Who knew Flanagan himself was off-message?
Flanagan is presumably hiding in his basement until it’s safe to come out, which it never will be.
Flanagan said it. Someone recorded him on a cellphone and posted it on YouTube. It’s a sex tape, sort of, if you like your child porn arguments dry and theoretical. “I certainly have no sympathy for child molesters, but I do have some grave doubts about putting people in jail because of their taste in pictures,” Flanagan said Wednesday during a lecture at the University of Lethbridge. “I don’t look at these pictures.”
Flanagan has wondered aloud about this before, but not, I think, on air.
“It’s a real issue of personal liberty,” he said, amid cries of “That’s disgusting” from the largely First Nations audience who had come for another kind of discussion entirely. “To what extent do we put people in jail for doing something in which they do not harm another person?”
Flanagan was dumped from the CBC, condemned by Harper and rightly so. But that obscures a more important point, which is that Flanagan is sincere.
For he is an ideologue, and ideologues are always sincere. It’s what makes them dangerous. Concepts like untrammelled liberty are clear spring water to them, and real life, as it is lived by small soft-limbed splayed children weeping with pain and terror on camera, is irrelevant.
Take freedom of speech. Ideologues don’t think there should be limits, which is why they so dislike Human Rights Commission rulings for black people barred from restaurants. Take personal liberty, which ideologues say is infringed on by the long-gun registry, by border guards finding child porn on the laptops of travelling Catholic bishops.
Flanagan is saying that watching child porn is a passive crime. Police worldwide say with all the passion they can muster that it’s not. Online porn exists because there is a market for it. If pedophiles didn’t watch child rape and often pay for the privilege, there wouldn’t be a huge online porn-sharing network. Children are mutilated, psychologically and physically, for strangers’ pleasure.
Those who make it are bestial. Those who watch it are feeding the beast. Those who defend their right are free to do so but they should understand whose cause they’re serving. If you praise Flanagan’s logic, then you are saying child victims of sexual torture are being illogical. Why can’t they just get over it?
You have to put some real effort into a Flanagan level of naiveté about the extent of online child porn. Since the 1990s, it has spread like spores, like poison gas. According to American journalist Emily Bazelon, there are hundreds of thousands of child porn websites worldwide and 22 million public IP addresses “offering photos or videos via peer-to-peer file sharing.”
These aren’t avatars. They are images of real children, traded like baseball cards. New York Times MagazineBazelon wrote in the New York Times Magazine in January about a new attempt at victim restitution.
In 1998, when the FBI began tracking online child porn, Bazelon reported, they found one particular case, photos of a little girl with emails like this: “do me a favor . . . take a pic of her in nothing but stockings pulled down below her (genitals.) The photographer obliged.
The FBI traced the photographer to a small-town home and recognized the basement room where the photos were taken. But where was the little girl? The FBI agent saw her, playing in the yard across the street. “It something I’ll never forget,” he told Bazelon.
The little girl, Amy, grew up, her pedophile uncle jailed. And then she began to get crime-victim notices from the Justice Department. Every time a porn arrest revealed a shot of tiny, naked Amy, she was notified. Her lawyer came up with the idea of forcing convicted pornographers to pay “royalties” of a sort.
Such is the extent of file-sharing that the notices kept arriving and the payments mounted up from often wealthy defendants. Amy was paid a total of $1.6 million by more than 150 men.
If Flanagan thinks child porn is victimless, he should know that Amy will spend the rest of her life knowing that men worldwide are looking at ghostly images of her as a child, naked, trussed up, penetrated, bleeding. It will continue after she dies.
Flanagan likes personal liberty. There will be none for Amy.
Let Flanagan be vilified by former friends or defended by the distasteful. All that matters is that we understand “porn logic” for the heartless fraud it is.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Doug Ford on Cognitive Dissonance:

Ignorance, Personal Freedom, Social Responsibility and Tom Flanagan

We live in a world that encourages bullet-point messaging and bare-bones detail.  It's expected, we're told, that if people want to dig down a layer deeper into whatever topic's being discussed - the impact of poverty on self-confidence, the social cost in foreign countries of our Western addiction to cheap products, etc - they'll ask.  To assume they want to know is to be disrespectful of their time.
The devil, though, is in the details.
Tom Flanagan is simply the most recent, egregious example of how this narrow-focused, one-step approach plays out.  Flanagan is focused on the surface layer, individual freedoms - it is wrong for society to tell an individual they can't look at child porn.  People should have a right to view whatever they want.  If you disagree with his perspective, well, you're wrong and deserve to be dismissed or isolated.
Of course, nothing comes from nothing - you can't look at pictures of exploited children unless those children were exploited in the first place.  It's kinda like saying that it's okay to be a cannibal, so long as you didn't kill what you're eating.  When you refuse to think about where the kiddy-porn pictures you feel you have a right to consume come from, you are isolating the victims at the far end of the production chain.  That makes you part of the chain of culpability.
Think about that for a second - what are we directly and personally responsible for these days?  We don't grow and slaughter our own food.  We don't harvest resources and make our own clothes, homes or personal goods.  We've even managed to physically remove ourselves from the wars we fightTeachers educate our kids, doctors manage our health - we are simply too busy these days to be all things.  There are costs to each of these products and services that we aren't covering with our dollars, because they're being taken out of other people or natural resources in other ways.
Somewhere along the way we've taken to justifying our ignorance by declaring ourselves apex predators - consequences are things born by lesser creatures, like our unseen neighbours.  Or perhaps we feel our lifestyle is the only godly one, so the Other needs to be vilified - no in-depth understanding required. 
Whether you describe this dehumanization of the Other by calling them the 47% or a political brand, it amounts to the same thing - stigmatization.  There are lots of other terms that describe this perspective including bigotry, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, hatred.
None of us want to accept that we are bigots or willfully ignorant - so, we bridge this cognitive dissonance with confabulated notions like Flanagan's.  That's why it's possible to be both libertarian and anti-gay marriage, anti-government and yet micro-manage bureaucracy or pro-transparency and yet intentionally mislead the public.
We do this by falling back to the safe ground of "I've got rights" - including the right to ignorance, intolerance and inaction.  We do this at the expense of social responsibility.
The problem with the personal rights trump all approach is that no person is an island - in fact, we all live in the same place.  What impacts one of us impacts all of us, to one degree or another, in myriad ways.  We can't afford not to pay attention.  Not when the consequences can be so dire. 
If Edmund Burke were writing today, he might say "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to decide they're too busy."

Sorry, Tom, but ownership isn't laissez-faire and you don't get your freedoms at the expense of children - and trying to turn government into security guards only makes the world a prison.

IR4: Here There Be Dragons

The Internet is a bit like Sid Meier's Civilization - a digital world mapped on top of the physical one with new realms to explore and other cultures to encounter.  There will be conflicts, competition and the e-equivalents of Guns, Germs and Steel.

But that won't be the whole story. 
This age of digital exploration will be both led and funded by a broader swath of individuals and groups than led the great Age of Exploration.  People's passions aren't just for conquest or products - there's a desire for meaningful contribution, as well. 

These explorers aren't just men seeking glory and fortune - they are people of varied gender and a multiplicity of backgrounds that are only possible in our increasingly blended world.  We just don't call them explorers anymore - today, they're called Social Entrepreneurs.
Their patrons aren't only governments bent on territories to conquest, financiers looking for new resources to exploit or churches looking for converts.  There are NGOs, Angel Investors and Conscious Capitalists who care more about leaving behind a positive legacy than what they can take for themselves.
In the Knowledge Economy, it's ideas we look to harness - not just the intellectual property that's out there right now and ripe for the picking, but the ideas that lie in the heads of innovators that can be extracted through incentive rather than force.  As we revisit the shrunken cultures of minorities devastated by Western expansion, we can look to the resources we missed when we focused on tree, wood, gold and labour - culture, myth, world views. 
There still be dragons in the blank spaces on our digital map - this time, they're not dangers to be feared, but opportunities to be harnessed.


Review of Chris Anderson's Makers: The New Industrial Revolution

These days, when our slow recovery from recession seems like a full-employment program for pessimistic pundits, it's great to have a new book from Chris Anderson, an indefatigable cheerleader for the unlimited potential of the digital economy. Anderson, the departing editor in chief of Wired magazine, has already written two important books exploring the impact of the Web on commerce. In The Long Tail, he argued that companies like Amazon that faced distribution challenges arising from having large quantities of the same kind of product would thrive by "selling less of more."
Corporations didn't have to chase blockbusters if they had a mass of small sales. In Free: The Future of a Radical Price, he argued that giving stuff away to attract a multitude of users might be the best way eventually to make money from loyal customers. Anderson has also helped found a Web site, Geekdad, and an aerial robotics company. From his vantage point, in the future more and more people can get involved in making things they really enjoy and can connect with others who share their passions and their products. These connections, he claims, are creating a new Industrial Revolution.
In a 2010 Wired article entitled "In the Next Industrial Revolution, Atoms Are the New Bits," Anderson described how the massive changes in our relations with information have altered how we relate to things. Now that the power of information-sharing has been unleashed through technology and social networks, makers are able to collaborate on design and production in ways that facilitate the connection of producers to markets. By sharing information "bits" in a creative commons, entrepreneurs are making new things (reshaping "atoms") more cheaply and quickly. The new manufacturing is a powerful economic force not because any one business becomes gigantic, but because technology makes it possible for tens of thousands of businesses to find their customers, to form their communities.
Anderson begins his new book, Makers, with the story of his grandfather Fred Hauser, who invented a sprinkler system. He licensed his invention to a company that turned ideas into things that could be built and sold. Although Hauser loved translating ideas into things, he needed a company with resources to make enough of his sprinklers to turn a profit. Inventing and making were separate. With the advent of the personal computer and of sophisticated but user-friendly design tools, that separation has become increasingly irrelevant. As a child, Anderson loved making things with his grandfather, and he still loves creating new stuff and getting it into the marketplace. Makers describes how today technology has liberated the inventor from a dependence on the big manufacturer. "The beauty of the Web is that it democratized the tools both of invention and production," Anderson writes. "We are all designers now. It's time to get good at it."
Here's where social networks come in. By sharing design ideas, we improve performance and find efficiencies. Communities of makers -- whether they care about sprinklers, 3-D printers or flying robots -- exchange ideas, correct one another's plans, and together make something worth having (and that many are already invested in). Anderson sees a revolution in the contemporary preference for amateur content, and he approvingly cites Web entrepreneur Rufus Griscom's talk of a "Renaissance of Dilettantism." This is a "remix culture" in which everything can be customized. Web culture reveals the "long tail of talent," and with barriers to entry rapidly disappearing, Anderson sees a new, more open playing field in which inventor-entrepreneurs (makers) will fuel economic development while creating fulfilling, less hierarchical communities.
This is heady stuff, and Anderson is an excellent guide to companies that make niche products for an international market. There are, apparently, enough folks interested in products like hammocks, weapons for Lego sets, and cool flying machines to support producers whose design and manufacturing costs are kept very low. Most of Anderson's product examples are the kinds of things boys like to play with, and there is something of the "I found other kids like me" joy in his descriptions of community-building through the social networking of makers. The new industrial revolution, apparently, will have less to do with confronting poverty, disease and climate change, and more to do with inventing better, cooler toys. It will also be, like the last one, very male.
A firm believer in the wisdom of crowds, Anderson doesn't take time to explore the dangers -- or the limits -- of wired dilettantism. He counts on networks to uncover error rather than to reinforce prejudice, and he has faith that real talent will be recognized more easily by those invested in solving a problem than by those seeking somebody who is merely properly credentialed.
Anderson is a good storyteller, and these anecdotes effectively highlight changing economic dynamics. Take Jordi Munoz Bardales, who went from hacker-hobbyist to CEO just a couple of years after graduating from his Tijuana high school. Bardales's posting online of his design innovations to a toy helicopter was proof enough in Anderson's eyes that he had the right stuff to be the leader of a robotics firm. It just didn't matter where he went to school. It mattered that he had the skills and a capacity to share them.
In Anderson's view, the Web creates an arena in which inventive people can connect with one another and figure out ways to turn their designs into things that will succeed in the marketplace. This will "unlock an economic engine" as thousands of small enterprises find new ways to be sustainable. Anderson convinced me that these enterprises will indeed succeed in making cool things that are fun to play with or that offer heightened convenience.
And I even have some hope that these new powers of making might address some of the major problems that still plague us from the last Industrial Revolution. Making hope in the future may be the most important product of the dynamic Anderson describes in his inventive new book.
This post originally appeared on
MAKERS: The New Industrial Revolution By Chris Anderson Crown Business. 257 pp. $26

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Society: Solutions Gone Viral

There's been an historic effort in the Americas to solve "the Indian problem."  It's a paternalistic approach that undermines the value of aboriginal culture and tradition to aboriginal peoples themselves, but also to the dominant societies on the continent.  Concepts like the medicine wheel (picture above) provide a different view on healthcare and social services - two areas where it's safe to say we're in need of some changes if we want these sectors to be sustainable.  Yet we don't go looking for solutions in out-of-the-box places like this, do we?

Why is that?  Why have successive governments at all levels not actively tried to explore aboriginal culture as a way to build bridges, but also seek opportunity for policy innovation?

Coincidentally enough, as a First Nations politician is making headlines for abuse of a female partner, there are parallels between "the Indian problem" and "the feminism problem."  Traditional wisdom had it that women were too emotional to vote, therefore men shouldn't proffer them the opportunity.  However, this belief exists in tandem with the notion of the temptress - women who have such control over men that they can sway male thoughts.  This rationale has been applied to the case of South African sprinter Oscar Pistorius: Former Nigerian government minister Femi Fani Kayode suggested that Pistorius “was provoked into a murderous rage by his pretty little lover (who) played on his insecurities and inadequacies.”

I think it breaks down like this - the ruling society has to solve the minority question.  The ruling gender has to deal with the other one.  You could carry the trend further into politics, language, culture, religion, any sector of human society - when the people at the top are of one group, they are going to share the same perspective.  It takes the addition of diversity to mix up the thinking and provide additional viewpoints, some which will inevitably bring value to the table.

Problem is, we're not hard-wired to seek alternatives - in fact, evidence suggests we're motivated primarily by a desire to be effective.  Effectiveness implies efficiency, which requires a clear trajectory.  We're bridging the gap between points A and B as directly as possible.  You can't do that if you don't have a clearly established destination that you have confidence in.  The concepts of "truth" and "perfection" don't exist in nature any more than the notion of nothingness does - therefore, we create definitions ourselves.  The degree to which we're confident in our own perspectives determines how flexible or intransigent we are in realizing them.
If you're supremely confident that the destination you seek is the only valid one, then everything that distracts from your clear path is extraneous.  Like opposing views.  Like Parliaments.  Like minority perspectives.  From this perspective, there can only be two choices - your way or the highway.  Those who don't think or operate the way you can only seen as problems to solve.

Which brings us back full circle: homogeneous, unchallenged leadership results in unconsciously rigid thinking.  Of course the Indians are the problem - they aren't us.  Naturally, women are the problem - what's the alternative?  It's the socialists and the separatists that threaten a singular vision of a traditional Canada.  Multiculturalism is a non-starter.  When it's an us or them thing, though, the Other that threatens a clear trajectory most be eliminated, if possible, or at the very least isolated.  Failing these two options, you can always wall yourself off.
I tend to pick on the political right, but the truth is all Parties fall victim to this approach - look at the challenges progressives in Canada have had in uniting behind what should be an easily-realized common set of values.

We have lots of cyclical conflict, but resolution continues to elude us. 

Except - the long-term trend shows that diversity is creeping into the mix regardless of how we feel about change, as are alternative perspectives.  As our leadership becomes more diverse, it also becomes more receptive to differing voices and approaches.  Perspective continues to evolve - we are increasingly recognizing that the world is not just round, it's connectedEverything from heliocentrism to modern medicine to flex hours at work are reflective of this trend towards cultural adaptation and innovation. 

Individually, we can argue that alternative perspectives are like viruses that need to be fought off, but in practice, a bit of challenge absorption is a good thing, because it forces reconcilliation and adaptation to a changing world.  That world, after all, keeps on evolving - you gotta run even to stay in the same place.  Socially, it doesn't matter whether we like the changes we see or not - they continue to happen.
We can continue to focus on personal/micro-level symptoms and discomforts that come along with an increasingly integrated societal system and ignore the elephant in the room.  If we don't want to go the way of other civilization dodos, however, there's value in getting ahead of the curve and adapting proactively - which is what  social services like education and health promotion enable us to do.
Nothing comes from nothing - it's as true in policy as it is in art.  If you want to innovate, get ahead, perhaps lead the pack, you have to look for opportunity and seek to learn from, not defeat, difference. 
It's when you start to view the world thusly that problems start to look like solutions in waiting.

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants (Marc Prensky)

Marc Prensky Digital Natives Digital Immigrants ©2001 Marc Prensky _____________________________________________________________________________

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants
By Marc Prensky


On the Horizon (MCB University Press, Vol. 9 No. 5, October 2001)
© 2001 Marc Prensky


t is amazing to me how in all the hoopla and debate these days about the decline of education in the US we ignore the most fundamental of its causes. Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.
Today‟s students have not just changed

incrementally from those of the past, nor simply changed their slang, clothes, body adornments, or styles, as has happened between generations previously. A really big discontinuity has taken place. One might even call it a "singularity" – an event which changes things so fundamentally that there is absolutely no going back. This so-called "singularity" is the arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century.
Today‟s students – K through college – represent the first generations to grow up with this new technology. They have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age. Today‟s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV). Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.
It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today‟s students

think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors. These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize. "Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures, " says Dr. Bruce D. Perry of Baylor College of Medicine. As we shall see in the next installment, it is very likely that our students’ brains have physically changed – and are different from ours – as a result of how they grew up. But whether or not this is literally true, we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed. I will get to how they have changed in a minute.
What should we call these "new" students of today? Some refer to them as the N-[for Net]-gen or D-[for digital]-gen. But the most useful designation I have found for them is

Digital Natives. Our students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet.
So what does that make the rest of us? Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many

Marc Prensky Digital Natives Digital Immigrants ©2001 Marc Prensky _____________________________________________________________________________ 2
or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be compared to them,

Digital Immigrants.
The importance of the distinction is this: As Digital Immigrants learn – like all immigrants, some better than others – to adapt to their environment, they always retain, to some degree, their "accent," that is, their foot in the past. The "digital immigrant accent" can be seen in such things as turning to the Internet for information second rather than first, or in reading the manual for a program rather than assuming that the program itself will teach us to use it. Today‟s older folk were "socialized" differently from their kids, and are now in the process of learning a new language. And a language learned later in life, scientists tell us, goes into a different part of the brain.
There are hundreds of examples of the digital immigrant accent. They include printing out your email (or having your secretary print it out for you – an even "thicker" accent); needing to print out a document written on the computer in order to edit it (rather than just editing on the screen); and bringing people physically into your office to see an interesting web site (rather than just sending them the URL). I‟m sure you can think of one or two examples of your own without much effort. My own favorite example is the "Did you get my email?" phone call. Those of us who are Digital Immigrants can, and should, laugh at ourselves and our "accent."
But this is not just a joke. It‟s very serious, because the single biggest problem facing education today is that

our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.
This is obvious to the Digital Natives – school often feels pretty much as if we‟ve brought in a population of heavily accented, unintelligible foreigners to lecture them. They often can‟t understand what the Immigrants are saying. What does "dial" a number mean, anyway?
Lest this perspective appear radical, rather than just descriptive, let me highlight some of the issues. Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics

before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to "serious" work. (Does any of this sound familiar?)
But Digital Immigrants typically have very little appreciation for these new skills that the Natives have acquired and perfected through years of interaction and practice. These skills are almost totally foreign to the Immigrants, who themselves learned – and so choose to teach – slowly, step-by-step, one thing at a time, individually, and above all, seriously. "My students just don‟t _____ like they used to," Digital Immigrant educators grouse. I can‟t get them to ____ or to ____. They have no appreciation for _____ or _____ . (Fill in the blanks, there are a wide variety of choices.)

Marc Prensky Digital Natives Digital Immigrants ©2001 Marc Prensky _____________________________________________________________________________ 3
Digital Immigrants don‟t believe their students can learn successfully while watching TV or listening to music, because they (the Immigrants) can‟t. Of course not – they didn‟t practice this skill constantly for all of their formative years. Digital Immigrants think learning can‟t (or shouldn‟t) be fun. Why should they – they didn‟t spend their formative years learning with Sesame Street.
Unfortunately for our Digital Immigrant teachers, the people sitting in their classes grew up on the "twitch speed" of video games and MTV. They are used to the instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on their laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging. They‟ve been networked most or all of their lives. They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step logic, and "tell-test" instruction.
Digital Immigrant teachers assume that learners are the same as they have always been, and that the same methods that worked for the teachers when they were students will work for their students now.

But that assumption is no longer valid. Today‟s learners are different. "" said a kindergarten student recently at lunchtime. "Every time I go to school I have to power down," complains a high-school student. Is it that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, or that they choose not to? Often from the Natives‟ point of view their Digital Immigrant instructors make their education not worth paying attention to compared to everything else they experience – and then they blame them for not paying attention!
And, more and more, they won‟t take it. "I went to a highly ranked college where all the professors came from MIT," says a former student. "But all they did was read from their textbooks. I quit." In the giddy internet bubble of a only a short while ago – when jobs were plentiful, especially in the areas where school offered little help – this was a real possibility. But the dot-com dropouts are now returning to school. They will have to confront once again the Immigrant/Native divide, and have even more trouble given their recent experiences. And that will make it even harder to teach them – and all the Digital Natives already in the system – in the traditional fashion.
So what should happen? Should the Digital Native students learn the old ways, or should their Digital Immigrant educators learn the new? Unfortunately, no matter how much the Immigrants may wish it, it is highly unlikely the Digital Natives will go backwards. In the first place, it may be impossible – their brains may already be different. It also flies in the face of everything we know about cultural migration. Kids born into any new culture learn the new language easily, and forcefully resist using the old. Smart adult immigrants

accept that they don‟t know about their new world and take advantage of their kids to help them learn and integrate. Not-so-smart (or not-so-flexible) immigrants spend most of their time grousing about how good things were in the "old country."
So unless we want to just forget about educating Digital Natives until they grow up and do it themselves, we had better confront this issue. And in so doing we need to reconsider both our methodology and our content.


First, our methodology. Today‟s teachers have to learn to communicate in the language and style of their students. This d

oesn’t mean changing the meaning of what is important,
or of good thinking skills. But it

does mean going faster, less step-by step, more in parallel, with more random access, among other things. Educators might ask "But how do we teach logic in this fashion?" While it‟s not immediately clear, we do need to figure it out.
Second, our content. It seems to me that after the digital "singularity" there are now

two kinds of content: "Legacy" content (to borrow the computer term for old systems) and "Future" content.
"Legacy" content includes reading, writing, arithmetic, logical thinking, understanding the writings and ideas of the past, etc – all of our "traditional" curriculum. It is of course still important, but it is from a different era. Some of it (such as logical thinking) will continue to be important, but some (perhaps like Euclidean geometry) will become less so, as did Latin and Greek.
"Future" content is to a large extent, not surprisingly, digital and technological. But while it includes software, hardware, robotics, nanotechnology, genomics, etc.

it also includes the ethics, politics, sociology, languages and other things that go with them. This "Future" content is extremely interesting to today‟s students. But how many Digital Immigrants are prepared to teach it? Someone once suggested to me that kids should only be allowed to use computers in school that they have built themselves. It‟s a brilliant idea that is very doable from the point of view of the students‟ capabilities. But who could teach it?
As educators, we need to be thinking about how to teach

both Legacy and Future content in the language of the Digital Natives. The first involves a major translation and change of methodology; the second involves all that PLUS new content and thinking. It‟s not actually clear to me which is harder – "learning new stuff" or "learning new ways to do old stuff." I suspect it‟s the latter.
So we have to invent, but not necessarily from scratch. Adapting materials to the language of Digital Natives has already been done successfully. My own preference for teaching Digital Natives is to invent computer games to do the job, even for the most serious content. After all, it‟s an idiom with which most of them are totally familiar.
Not long ago a group of professors showed up at my company with new computer-aided design (CAD) software they had developed for mechanical engineers. Their creation was so much better than what people were currently using that they had assumed the entire engineering world would quickly adopt it. But instead they encountered a lot of resistance, due in large part to the product‟s extremely steep learning curve – the software contained hundreds of new buttons, options and approaches to master.

Marc Prensky Digital Natives Digital Immigrants ©2001 Marc Prensky _____________________________________________________________________________ 5
Their marketers, however, had a brilliant idea. Observing that the users of CAD software were almost exclusively male engineers between 20 and 30, they said "Why not make the learning into a video game!" So we invented and created for them a computer game in the "first person shooter" style of the consumer games

Doom and Quake, called The Monkey Wrench Conspiracy. Its player becomes an intergalactic secret agent who has to save a space station from an attack by the evil Dr. Monkey Wrench. The only way to defeat him is to use the CAD software, which the learner must employ to build tools, fix weapons, and defeat booby traps. There is one hour of game time, plus 30 "tasks," which can take from 15 minutes to several hours depending on one‟s experience level.
Monkey Wrench

has been phenomenally successful in getting young people interested in learning the software. It is widely used by engineering students around the world, with over 1 million copies of the game in print in several languages. But while the game was easy for my Digital Native staff to invent, creating the content turned out to be more difficult for the professors, who were used to teaching courses that started with "Lesson 1 – the Interface." We asked them instead to create a series of graded tasks into which the skills to be learned were embedded. The professors had made 5-10 minute movies to illustrate key concepts; we asked them to cut them to under 30 seconds. The professors insisted that the learners to do all the tasks in order; we asked them to allow random access. They wanted a slow academic pace, we wanted speed and urgency (we hired a Hollywood script writer to provide this.) They wanted written instructions; we wanted computer movies. They wanted the traditional pedagogical language of "learning objectives," "mastery", etc. (e.g. "in this exercise you will learn…"); our goal was to completely eliminate any language that even smacked of education.
In the end the professors and their staff came through brilliantly, but because of the large mind-shift required it took them twice as long as we had expected. As they saw the approach working, though, the new "Digital Native" methodology became their model for more and more teaching – both in and out of games – and their development speed increased dramatically.
Similar rethinking needs to be applied to all subjects at all levels. Although most attempts at "edutainment" to date have essentially failed from both the education and entertainment perspective, we can – and will, I predict – do much better.
In math, for example, the debate must no longer be about

whether to use calculators and computers – they are a part of the Digital Natives‟ world – but rather how to use them to instill the things that are useful to have internalized, from key skills and concepts to the multiplication tables. We should be focusing on "future math" – approximation, statistics, binary thinking.
In geography – which is all but ignored these days – there is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokémon characters with all their characteristics, history and evolution can‟t learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world. It just depends on how it is presented.

Marc Prensky Digital Natives Digital Immigrants ©2001 Marc Prensky _____________________________________________________________________________ 6
We need to invent Digital Native methodologies for

all subjects, at all levels, using our students to guide us. The process has already begun – I know college professors inventing games for teaching subjects ranging from math to engineering to the Spanish Inquisition. We need to find ways of publicizing and spreading their successes.
A frequent objection I hear from Digital Immigrant educators is "this approach is great for

facts, but it wouldn‟t work for „my subject.‟" Nonsense. This is just rationalization and lack of imagination. In my talks I now include "thought experiments" where I invite professors and teachers to suggest a subject or topic, and I attempt– on the spot – to invent a game or other Digital Native method for learning it. Classical philosophy? Create a game in which the philosophers debate and the learners have to pick out what each would say. The Holocaust? Create a simulation where students role-play the meeting at Wannsee, or one where they can experience the true horror of the camps, as opposed to the films like Schindler’s List. It‟s just dumb (and lazy) of educators – not to mention ineffective – to presume that (despite their traditions) the Digital Immigrant way is the only way to teach, and that the Digital Natives‟ "language" is not as capable as their own of encompassing any and every idea.
So if Digital Immigrant educators

really want to reach Digital Natives – i.e. all their students – they will have to change. It‟s high time for them to stop their grousing, and as the Nike motto of the Digital Native generation says, "Just do it!" They will succeed in the long run – and their successes will come that much sooner if their administrators support them.
See also: Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 2: The scientific evidence behind the Digital Native’s thinking changes, and the evidence that Digital Native-style learning works!

Marc Prensky is an internationally acclaimed thought leader, speaker, writer, consultant, and game designer in the critical areas of education and learning. He is the author of Digital Game-Based Learning (McGraw-Hill, 2001), founder and CEO of Games2train, a game-based learning company, and founder of The Digital Multiplier, an organization dedicated to eliminating the digital divide in learning worldwide. He is also the creator of the sites , and . Marc holds an MBA from Harvard and a Masters in Teaching from Yale. More of his writings can be found at . Contact Marc at