As a writing professor who has had the privilege of teaching students from diverse linguistic, cultural, and economic backgrounds, I have learned that it is never a good idea to label students or make assumptions about them. Regarding their skills levels, I am generally able to glean each student's level of language proficiency and subject knowledge from the diagnostic assessment I give at the beginning of a course. However, as the semester progresses, I begin to get a clearer picture of each student's strengths and weaknesses which helps me target instruction towards relevant areas.
One of the areas I have come to realise many freshmen in university fall short is in the use of computer for academic writing, specifically researching reliable sources and word processing. Consequently, an assumption that our millennial students are digital natives is flawed because it suggests that they all possess a high level of digital literacy. However, using Internet ( cellphones, social media, Ipad, etc.) from a young age does not equal proficiency in use of computer for academic purposes. In fact, a significant number of millennial students lack the computer skills needed for tertiary education - which some so-called digital immigrants possess. It is, therefore, wrong to have preconceived notions of students' digital literacy levels based purely on generational consideration. It is a great disfavour to students, especially those who did not receive a commendable amount of exposure to the use of computer for research and word processing in high school.
After careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that a more comprehensive way of describing a digital native or digital immigrant should incorporate level of digital literacy, not mere ability to use cell phones and mobile apps. Hence, a millennial student may be a digital native or digital immigrant based on their ability to use the computer for multiple purposes, not based on whether they belong to the Millennial generation, Generation X, or Baby Boomers.
So, why don't we blur the lines and make it about digital literacy, discover the current level of each student, and leave a positive dent in their journey in the land of academe?
That way, they will become more proficient in their use of the computer as a tool for academic research and word processing.