The Digital Immigrant- Extreme Version


My grandmother was born in 1924 (that makes her 89). She grew up on a farm and brought up her children on a farm. The only form of modern technology to her was a “party line” that enabled her to know if someone was calling her, or the neighbor up the road. They had milking machines on the farm, which was a BIG deal. The antenna on the roof provided the 3 basic channels needed to hear the news, watch Laurence Welk and see the hockey game.

My grandmother is a “Digital Immigrant” by today’s terminology. As a matter of fact, most of us who’ve been teaching for at least 15 years are also digital immigrants in some way because we  just missed the Internet explosion in our education in 1996. By that time, I was just finishing up university, and honestly, was very intimidated by venturing down in the basement of my dormitory to the computer lab. I barely knew how to turn a computer on for that matter!

In 2001, Mark Prensky, an author who popularized the phrase “digital immigrant” and “digital native”, wrote about how this digital age of technology will impact the way teaching and learning takes place. That was 12 years ago. I think about how much has changed in the past 12 years as far as teaching, learning and technology are intertwined. It’s unfathomable!

Anyways, the whole purpose of this post is to highlight my 89 year old grandmother who started her first computer class today. Yay Grandma!!! She has never touched a mouse, typed on a computer keyboard, has no understanding of the Internet or how a message can be sent by pushing a button.

These were her comments to me last night as we spoke on the phone…it cracked me up!

  1. I’m too old for this…what am I thinking?
  2. I found out that when you type, you push a button to start a new line rather than hearing a bell and pushing a lever to move the carriage.
  3. I discovered the button that you use when you make a mistake.
  4. I’m going to put my foot through the darned thing!!!
  5. I wish that you were here to teach me.

No matter how old we are, there will always be something new to learn. My Grandma is taking her learning to new heights, taking risks, venturing to the unknown and jumping in feet first. I’m proud of her.


Learner, Thinker, Writer: Marsha Harris serves the Trinity School community as the Lead Instructional Technology Specialist. @marshamac74

6 thoughts on “The Digital Immigrant- Extreme Version

  1. Maryellen Berry

    Marsha, love your grandmother! She understands her fears but is brave and determined and not willing to be bound by what she doesn’t know! I also remember the party line at my grandmother’s house. What a long way we have come.

  2. Ginny Perkinson

    What a great story and reminder about trying to keep up. I hope that I am brave enough to keep trying new things like your grandmother does.

  3. Marsha, your post reminds me so much of teaching my own grandmother about computers. (My favorite memory is of Yaya touching the mouse to the glass of the computer screen in order to make the “darned thing” work.)
    I’m so impressed that your grandmother had the initiative of her own to take a technology class!

  4. I learned from Jack on Friday that Newton invented Calculus before the age of 26. Today, your grandmother impressed me with her willingness to learn at age 89. How often do we use age as an excuse NOT to do something (“I’m too young to try that” or “I’m too old for that”). Doesn’t sound like a good excuse to me anymore!

  5. So, I LOVE that I have just happened upon this amazing Trinity School showcase of learning! What a collection of learners, thinkers, and writers!

    I can’t wait to go back and review these thoughtful and intriguing posts…what a great first post to “stumble upon” as well — a reminder that we are all learners.

  6. Go, Grandma! It is so easy to use the “I’m too old” excuse. I am not very old but I, too, am a digital immigrant and often feel flustered my how much I don’t know about technology. Sometimes I forget about how much I do know, and that I have to jump in if I’m going to to further my learning.

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