Summarizing the Information (Lesson A)

Our goal in this Study Room is to produce a critical comparison of Marcus Wohlsen’s 2014 article “Digital Literacy is the Key to the Future, but we still don’t know what it means” and Marc Prensky’s 2001 article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.”

A successful critical comparison depends on a strong understanding of the arguments and assumptions of the articles to be compared. Our first step will be to review a reverse outline of Wohlsen’s article, and our second step will be to develop a reverse outline of Prensky’s argument.

For a more in-depth lesson in reverse outlines and summary, please check out the lessons in Study Room 1.


You do not need to have completed Study Room 1 to enjoy and benefit from this lesson. If you haven’t completed it, however, you should take some time now to read Wohlsen’s article before you continue.

Wohlsen, M. (2016). Digital literacy is the key to the future, but we still don’t know what it meansWIRED. Retrieved 14 April 2016, from’t-know-means/

Outline for Wohlsen’s Article

Let’s begin by reviewing an outline of the key points from Wohlsen’s article. If you haven’t read Wohlsen’s article yet, you should read it now before you begin.

As you read over the outline linked below, especially consider how each of the key points helps Wohlsen to support his main idea about the topic.

Reverse Outline of Wohlsen’s Article (Reference)

Outline for Prensky’s Article

Now, our task is to read, understand, and create a reverse outline for Prensky’s article. When we have finished this step, we will have two outlines ready for comparison.

It’s your turn to produce an outline, using the template offered, to develop a reverse outline of Marc Prensky’s article. You can use the example on Wohlsen as a guide and, remember, if you need more help, review the lesson in Study Room 1.

  1. Scan the article “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” and complete the Reading for Context questions.
  2. Read the article and complete the Reading for Content questions to generate a reverse outline.

Reverse Outline of Prensky Article (Sample Answers)

Reading for Context

  1. What am I reading? When was it written?
      • On the Horizon is a peer-reviewed journal associated with a university press.
      • More significantly, a quick internet search will reveal the pervasive influence on this article on debates around digital literacy and education.

    The article is now 15 plus years old; students must take this in account when assessing Prensky’s conclusions and making comparisons. A lot can change in the field of digital education in 15 years.

  2. Who is the author?
    • An internet search on Marc Prensky will reveal his pervasive and sometimes controversial reputation as a leading thinking on issues of education and technology.
    • His primary focus has been on how to shape curriculum to take into account the realities of our digital age.
    • Some controversy surrounds his generally positive acceptance of the potential for digital tools in learning, including game-based learning.
    • See his bio here.
  3. Why was it written?
    • As the title suggests, Prensky defines a difference between so-called “digital natives,” a younger generation raised on digital technology, and “digital immigrants,” an older generation who have had to learn to use digital technology.
    • As he defines these two groups, we can assume he will develop some kind of argument about the differences between them and why they are significant.
    • Have you heard these terms before? What do these terms suggest to you?Prensky’s article has been very popular. Take a few minutes to go online and read some summaries of his argument.

Reading for Content – Reverse Outline Template


Prensky is concerned with the effectiveness of the education system to provide students with the knowledge and experience they need.

More specifically, he wonders whether the education system is responding adequately to the realities of emerging digital technology.

Main Idea:

Prensky argues that students today are much more digitally literate than their teachers. And so, he argues, for the education system to be effective, teachers have a responsibility to improve their approaches to teaching in order to engage today’s more digitally literate students.

Key Point #1


Describe the key point. What does the author say?

The first point Prensky makes is that today’s students are “radically” different from those of previous generations.

As a result of digital technology, today’s students, he argues, “think and process information fundamentally differently.”

He labels these new students “digital natives,” suggesting they are “’native speakers’ of the digital language of computers, video games, and the Internet.”

The older generation becomes, thus, “digital immigrants,” those who have had to learn and adopt the new digital ways of thinking.


Explain why this information has been included in the article? How does it help the author develop the main idea?

This opening point functions as the initial assumption of Prensky’s argument. He needs us to first believe that students have radically different ways of thinking because of exposure to digital technology in order for the rest of his argument to be logical.

Key Point #2


The central problem in the education system today is the gap between what “digital immigrant” teachers have to offer and what “digital native” students need and want to learn.

He notes that the traditional approaches to teaching with step-by-step logic do not engage the younger student raised on fast and fragmented digital multitasking.

If we don’t fix this problem, he argues, the education system will have nothing to offer the younger generation and, so, will fail to prepare them for the future.


This is the central problem that motivates Prensky to build his argument. This is the problem he wants his readers to understand and that he wants to solve.

Key Point #3


Prensky concludes that the responsibility is on “digital immigrants,” the older generation, to change how they teach to meet the needs of todays’ radically different students.

Specifically, teachers today must change their methodology–to educate students in a style that suits their preferences.

They must also change the content of education; traditional content should be reviewed for relevancy, and new content related to the realities of the digital world should be embraced; this might include knowledge of computer software and hardware, and the political and social issues associated with their role in society.


This is his solution to the central problem he presents.

Key Point #4


Prensky’s final step is to provide an example of the kind of solution to the problem of education that he proposes. He provides an example of how education practices could be changed to better meet the needs and preferences of “digital natives.”

Specifically, he promotes the use of video games for teaching, and describes examples his own projects to support this.


He justifies his solution to the problem by using his own curriculum development project as an example.

Final Thoughts

Prensky uses a central metaphor of immigration to build his article. He suggests that the gap between older and younger generations using digital technology is similar to the experience of immigrants and their children who are born into the new culture.

Do you think this is a fair and useful metaphor for Prensky’s argument? Consider his conclusion that digital immigrants must change. Would the same type of argument be relevant and acceptable in a cultural context? Should cultural immigrants be forced to change?

Henry Jenkins writes an excellent critical response to Prensky’s article “Reconsidering Digital Immigrants” which focuses on these issues. You are encouraged to read the article here.

Download Sample Answers

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