Rob Wall just posted a great blog entry about the myth of the "digital natives" - he (rightly) says:

People are learning in the same way that we always have - mostly from each other, but in some cases we learn in formalized learning institutions. The elements that make for sound instruction, whether formal learning with a teacher teaching a math class to grade nines or informal learning with an apprentice welder learning the trade from a journeyman, have not changed. Indeed they cannot change since they are so deeply dependent on the way our brains work.

I agree, that the nature of learning in and of itself has not changed. We learn in roughly the same way as cavedwellers did millennia ago. ("how catch deer? thog show.") What has changed is the nature of communication, for some of the students. Their reach has been amplified by pervasive, interactive, and global media. The scale and scope of their community has changed such that while they are learning mostly from each other, the number of individuals they can potentially learn from is much greater than it was for us "immigrants".

The use of the term "digital natives" is misleading. I'm as "native" as possible. I cut my teeth decades ago (at the age of 12) on the Vic-20, then the C-64, C-128, Amiga 1000, Macintosh II, etc... (anyone remember COMPUTE! Magazine? Before the Internet, that's how we communicated, and we liked it)

I don't remember a time when I wasn't doing something with a computer. But that's not what is changing things. The real agent of change isn't familiarity/expertise with computers or applications. It's not about computers. They are just an enabling tool. While I grew up with computers, I did not grow up with the Internet. I spent a lot of time on the precursers (BBS, FidoNet, and many false starts which I've since forgotten), but the real agent of change isn't hardware, it's the always-on, global social network of individuals and communities that is enabled by that hardware.

I think the real paradigm shift is with the "internet natives" - people who just assume they have access to their peers at any time, from any location. And they assume they have instant access to any information or communication resource they could need, at any time, from any location. This, in effect, amplifies the effect of things like connectivism, where an individual's "knowledge" is spread across a network - if you have access to a better/faster/bigger/smarter network, your effective knowledge (or at least the data and processes to provide that knowledge) is greater.

Also, I don't think there needs to be a distinction between "internet natives" and "internet immigrants". While I am most certainly an "internet immigrant" - in that I wasn't exposed to the Internet until I was 18 (and it wasn't the WWW, sonny!) I've incorporated the 'net in such a way that it's just a reflex. It's built-in now. Perhaps something more useful than a native/immigrant distinction (which is arbitrarily and artificially divisive) would be an understanding that there is a spectrum of incorporation of the network into the individual.