Digital Natives…The Talent Within

I have always loved the Marx Brothers, and their movies.

There is no funnier “One Liner” comic than Groucho. In the film “Duck Soup”, Groucho is handed a document to read. When asked if he understood the document, he states “Why a four year old can understand this. Get me a four year old, I can’t make heads or tales of it”.

That just about sums up life in our modern times. The older generation has had to continuously adapt to new and quickly changing technologies. No sooner do we finally figure out how to usePerryScopeLogo some new gadget, and next thing we know, it’s been replaced. Now we have to start over.

The latest generation, born after the year 2000 (about) is being referred to as “Digital Natives”. They grew up on touch screens, computers, and smart phones. A friend of mine has a young daughter, 4 years old. She was at my house one day, and went to my computer screen. She reached out to control the program by touching my screen. It is a traditional computer screen, and not touch enabled. She reached out to touch it, and it did not respond. She looked back at me and said “it’s broken”. “Dumb screens” that are not touch and do not respond are foreign to them. Digital Natives are so comfortable with technology, they seamlessly adapt to new products almost instinctively.

Those are our students today. They are so born using technology, and can do things we can’t. In so many ways, today’s students are way ahead of the instructors. This can be intimidating for an instructor. If the student knows more about technology, how can we as teachers help them? The answer is Perspective.

You see, we have a larger library of life experiences. We can guide them with our knowledge and help them produce meaningful content. Just because someone can drive a car, doesn’t mean that they are ready to drive on the street. There are rules, and situations a driver will encounter, that the only way to address them properly is using our experience of how that situation was handled last time.

The same holds true for video content. Because someone can shoot and edit a video better than the instructor, doesn’t mean they can make a more meaningful video. It’s not the mechanics of video production that makes a quality video. It’s the content. It needs to have perspective, based on experience. And that is where the expertise of a good instructor enters.

Helping the student find a topic they are passionate about, and then helping them flush out that idea is a very important step in storytelling. I find that students of today tend to lean on special effects and fancy production techniques to tell a story. More often than not, the story is overshadowed by the special effects the students use. They are more comfortable with the technology than the actual process of storytelling.

When the first generation of Digital Natives mature, and become professional filmmakers, it will be interesting to see how they approach the process. As educators, as our teaching methods evolve to address the advanced competencies of today’s generation, the students will become better at what they do, and at a younger and younger age. But it’s that perspective that cannot be replicated by them without a teacher’s guidance. That is the value a good teacher brings to the table.

The Digital Natives can teach the older generation how to use the latest technology. And it is the teachers that can show them how to find their perspective to maximize those techniques. Helping them focus on the message is the guidance they really need. In that, there is no replacement for life’s experience.


PerryHeadshot-175Perry Goldstein is a veteran of the electronics industry, with both consumer and Pro A/V electronics experience. He is also a professional speaker, and writer for the electronics industry. He has won numerous awards for product design. Perry is currently the Director of New Digital Technologies for Marshall Electronics and MXL pro audio division, as well as an instructor of digital marketing at the higher education level.