Are you a “digital native” or a “digital immigrant”?

Are you a “digital native” or a “digital immigrant”?

At age forty, I qualify as a digital immigrant.

Although I grew up with computers (if my beloved Commodore C-64 can be called a computer by today’s standards), those days are far behind.

I had yet another lesson in just how far behind during a session I attended recently here at COSI.

The very talented Alonzo Edmundo and Wali Crowder with Clarity Creative Institute gave a presentation to a group of interested COSI team members titled Hip-Pop Culture: A Media Awareness Seminar. The seminar’s idea: bring us old(er) folks up to speed on how teenagers are communicating with each other, help us translate what they’re saying, and inspire us to keep up.

And we have to: COSI is rolling out new programs for teenagers all the time now. We need to reach teens. Places like COSI have lots of great stuff for them. It’s a good thing we have people like Alonzo and Wali, and COSI’s own Teen Advisory Council, to advise us. Without them, we’d be up a creek.

For example, let’s say your organization has a teen event coming up and you’re looking to promote it. Email, you think, might be a solid way of spreading the word.


Email is for adults in offices. Teens text. According to a 2011 Huffington Post article, teen email use fell 59% among users aged 12-17, as well as 8 percent overall, in 2010. Here at COSI, we had to remind our Teen Advisory Council members to check their email for messages from us, their geriatric staff advisors. Email is useful to us, but they’ve moved on.

Another headline from yesterday’s news: teens post, like, and share on Facebook, still the 500-pound gorilla in the room. When we ask attendees at COSI’s own teen events how they heard about a program, Facebook is far and away their top response.

There’s a glimmer of hope at least for old school marketing: we’ve been printing glossy postcards (yes, printed…on paper) promoting upcoming events. Our Teen Advisory Council members share them with their friends at school, and they do go fast.

Teens also have their own online language that constantly evolves. In our session the other day, Alonzo and Wali threw “DFW” at us.

If you received a text from a teen that read “DFW,” what would you think?

Well, I thought, DFW is the airport code for Dallas / Fort-Worth.

Nice try, old man.

To a teen, “DFW” means “down for whatever.” If you’re under twenty, you probably knew that.

Of course, all this has happened before. If you didn’t grow up with telephones, television, or any of the other ever-expanding variety of communication devices powered by electricity, you’d be playing catch-up with those who did. There was a first generation to grow up the telegraph, the record player, with the television, the cell phone, even with magazines delivered by mail that brought news of the world to remote spots.

Each generation in turn used, became familiar with, and improved these technologies.

Each generation has been empowered by communications technology and infrastructure, which has had the effect of broadening horizons, offering more and more information about the world at our fingertips, and making communication easier, faster, and cheaper than ever before.

So in a sense, we are all digital natives – all part of the ongoing revolution in electronic communication that began more than 150 years ago.

The trick is to try and keep up. Put COSI DFW.

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