A.J. Hunter can't start the day without first pulling out his laptop. Each morning, the 21-year-old Ball State University junior downloads his schedule onto his Mac Powerbook G4, which — along with his iPod and cellphone - is always close at hand.

Hunter, of Uniondale, Ind., is a typical tech-savvy college student. He can access the social networking site Facebook from his cellphone. He uses e-mail and instant messaging anywhere on the wireless campus. He downloads music to his laptop and his iPod, and he uses a 1-gigabyte flash drive provided by the university to transfer files and songs and to access his digital portfolio.

An elementary-education major with a concentration in technology, he says the portfolio includes lesson plans and other documents illustrating his progress in his field. He transfers files to his folder on the university's iLocker to save storage space on his computer.

Technology is so second-nature, "I can't even think of when I use it and when I don't. It's such a part of life," he says.

Hunter isn't a techno-geek. He's just a "digital native" — a term that has been used to describe millennials, the first generation who grew up in a world filled with computers, cellphones and cable TV.

These young people think, act and react much differently from how their parents and grandparents did, often because their childhoods were in large part shaped by technology, say tech researchers and those studying this generation.

"This is so core to their social experience - to their identities - to what it means to be a young person and a student in 2006," says Richard Katz of the non-profit Educause, which promotes the use of information technology in higher education.

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