What it Means to Be a Digital Native
This course is designed to turn internet newcomers into digital natives. If you almost never use the internet, are not comfortable finding online resources on your own, and don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. If you already have a general lay of the land, we recommend perusing our more advanced courses.
For the purposes of this course, a digital native is someone who:
- Has access to the internet
- Is willing to learn how to use it to their advantage
- Has a general lay of the land
Digital natives’ demographics are as diverse as their motives and use cases. A digital native may be an eight-year-old girl in New Delhi or an 88-year-old retired man in New Hampshire. They may use the internet to learn dance moves, discover the basics of particle physics, or figure out how to launch a small business. They may access the internet through a $3,000 laptop from a $4 million dollar house wired with high speed internet access or a $99 smartphone drawing a USB solar power charger and a weak 3G signal.
What matters is that digital natives have the open mind and willingness to learn required to make the most of the online world’s vast and ever-changing resources.
The better you are at:
- Critical thinking
- Taking initiative
- Maintaining an open mind
The better equipped you will be to reap significant benefits from the internet.
Perks of Being a Digital Native
Major benefits of enjoyed by digital natives include:
- Access to unfathomably large amounts of information
- Access to a litany of free services
- Access to countless useful tools
- Access to a diverse array of educational resources and online courses
- Access to an impressive amount of free entertainment
- The ability to easily send and receive messages
- The ability to easily purchase goods and services from a fixed location
- The ability to broadcast opinions, entertainment, and information to large numbers of people
As an added bonus, most of these perks come with no or little cost. Most informational and educational resources online are free. A great deal of online entertainment is either free (and supported by ads), or available at a very reasonable cost. It is often less expensive to purchase something online than it is to drive to a store and pick it up independently.
Myths about Being a Digital Native
Common myths about digital natives include:
- You have to be young to be a digital native: Younger generations may be digital natives by default, but this by no means prevents older generations from using the online world to their advantage
- You have to be tech savvy to use the internet like a pro: You don’t need to know how everything works to use the online world to your advantage; you simply need to know how to find help when you need it
- You must have a computer to use the internet: Many people access the internet almost exclusively through tablets and mobile devices; given how advanced they have become, one really need not have an expensive machine to make use of the internet’s top resources
- Everyone is on the internet: While most people in the United States have internet access, millions still don’t
- Websites give tons of entertainment, information, and services away for free, asking for nothing in return: Most websites need to make a profit to keep running; when online services and tools are free to use for you to use, you (your attention to ads, your personal data) are often the product that someone else (an advertiser, a company interested in your data, etc.) is willing to pay for
- “The internet” is a trustworthy source: While some find it shocking that people would just go on the internet and tell lies, it happens all the time; most internet-based information, especially information shared through blogs, forums, and other sites not affiliated with large brands staffing fact-checking editorial teams, should be taken with a grain of salt
- The internet is full of lies: Just because the internet hosts inaccurate information does not mean that there is no truth to be found; even crowdsourced informational resources like Wikipedia (presumably a great place to find lies) was found in 2005 to be nearly as accurate as Encyclopedia Britannia
Important Online Trends
More Mobile Browsing
In 2012, Cisco reported that “Global mobile data traffic… was nearly twelve times greater than the total global Internet traffic in 2000.” They project monthly global mobile data to surpass 10 exabytes by 2017- compare that to the 0.9 exabytes measured in 2012, and you will agree that’s a significant shift (for more detail, see Cisco’s Visual Networking Index: Global Mobile Data Traffic Forecast Update for 2012 to 2017).
Internet browsing used to involve sitting in front of a large, expensive computer and devoting one’s full attention to the screen. Today, people are adopting far more dynamic means of accessing the online world. We poke around the internet on our phones while watching TV, cheering our favorite teams at sports games, riding the bus, and attending business conferences.
Websites are adopting to higher proportions of mobile traffic by creating more mobile-friendly designs that make it easier to find, access, and consume information (not to mention interact with others, share images and video, and create new content) while on the go.
What does this mean for you? Internet browsing should not be seen as a stand-alone activity, but rather a means by which you augment your life in real time, no matter where you are.
More Online Shopping
Online shopping, while already a big deal, will only gain precedence in the coming years. Internet Retailer, reporting on eMarketer statistics from April 2013, suggests that online sales will grow from $225.5 billion in 2012 to $434.2 in 2017.
In addition to a general growth in sales, more stores will accommodate mobile shoppers.
What does this mean for you? The internet will play an increasingly prominent role in your shopping experiences in coming years; you can benefit from this shift by becoming a savvy online shopper (which involves knowing not only where to look for deals, but how to identify scams and misleading commerce sites- something we will show you how to do in an upcoming lesson).
More Online Entertainment
The online melange of amateur and professionally-made entertainment is continuously growing- both in volume and viewership. Using entirely free tools, you can create your own recorded shows, videos, comics, or books that can be distributed to millions of people. A new generation of artists- be they video producers, podcasters, comic artists, musicians, or authors, are sharing their work independently online, without help from studios, record labels, and publishers.
Online entertainment destinations such as Hulu and Netflix are creating independent series that rival those produced by old-school cable channels- plus taking some shows of mainstream channels’ hands. Traditional providers are following suit, making their shows and channels increasingly available to online viewers.
What does this mean for you? In addition to having plenty of alternatives to expensive, traditional entertainment channels, you have the opportunity to entertain large audiences of your own.
Growth in Online Education
Though people have been turning to the internet for information for decades, the online world now hosts more formalized education than ever. Ad-hoc educational sites like Wikipedia and YouTube are being supplemented by an ever-growing number of MOOCs- massive open online courses- that offer structured classes, often crafted by professors at prestigious universities, many of which are free.
Interest and use of MOOCs, as you can see, is on the rise.
It should be noted that you don’t need to enroll in formal academic courses to learn new skills. In fact, if you want to develop practical professional skills, you would still do better at this point by assembling an ad-hoc education using online guides, cases, and one-off tutorials. The important thing to note is that you have choices, and whether you prefer a formal environment, complete with lectures, essays, or quizzes, or an informal environment, complete with independent online fact finding and curation, you can piece together a robust education without paying for anything beyond internet access.
What does this mean for you? If you need to learn a new skill, you can get a great head start by using free, readily-available online courses and learning materials.
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Only take this lesson’s quiz if you are enrolled in the course and want to prove your skills and earn official credentials. Credentials related to a course are useful if you would like to find work related to this course’s career, as we direct businesses and entrepreneurs to our membership page when they approach us looking for specialists.
Finally, make sure you have reviewed this lesson’s required reading (displayed at the top right of the page) before taking the quiz- you will be tested on information covered in those guides!