Monday, 15 December 2008

The Myth of the Digital Native?

In 2006 Anoush Margaryan , Kathryn Trinder and I led a project funded by the UK Higher Education Academy exploring the notion of learners as 'Digital Natives': Learning from Digital Natives . The final report was released earlier this year (2008).

Anoush has been reanalysing the data to find out the nature and extent of students’ use of digital technologies for formal and informal learning and socialisation. We have also been focusing on lecturers’ perceptions of the educational value of these tools and their views on the barriers and enablers for using technologies to support learning.

Our findings suggest that, compared with older students (so called Digital Immigrants) younger students do, indeed, make more recreational use of social technologies such as media sharing tools and social networking sites. However, their use of and familiarity of collaborative knowledge creation tools, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies for learning is fairly limited.

The study has not found evidence to support the claims in relation to students adopting radically different patterns of knowledge creation and sharing. In fact students’ attitudes to learning may be influenced by the teaching approaches adopted by their lecturers.

Far from demanding lecturers change their practice, students appear to conform to fairly traditional pedagogies, albeit with minor uses of technology tools that deliver content. These outcomes suggest that although the calls for radical transformations in educational approaches may be legitimate it would be misleading to ground the arguments for such change solely in students’ shifting expectations and patterns of learning and technology use.

Some results are summarised in a presentation and a draft paper Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Goals and self-regulation again

In discussing self-regulated learning with colleagues – focusing on Boekaert’s 2002 paper - I incautiously remarked that the teacher needed somehow to bring the students’ goals in line with academic goals – and was immediately pounced upon for being old-fashioned and teacher-centric in my views. This incident highlights for me one of the fundamental problems with self-regulated learning and the concomitant idea that by developing students as self-regulated learners we improve their employability. The problem is that one can take a very student-centred approach to learning, and be entirely symmetrical in ones view of student-teacher interactions (indeed, this is my preference), and may have highly self-regulated students. However, the definition of “learning” is still asymmetrically in the hands of the institution, as interpreted by the teacher or assessor, just as the definition of “employable” is ultimately in the hands of the employers. Even if student-teacher interactions are symmetric, the contextual definition of learning is not. Highly self-regulated students may have goals that are very different from those the institution or employer would wish them to have - in this case they will not be recognised as self-regulated learners and may appear totally unemployable. Equally, they may adopt the goals of an HE institution and count as very competent self-regulated learners, but never adopt the goals of an employer and remain unemployable (or vice versa). Because of this contextual asymmetry, if the hallmark of a successful teacher is that their students become self-regulated learners, then it still seems to me that this is probably due to something the teacher has done to encourage (somehow) the student to adopt the institution’s or teacher’s goals. A fundamental issue, then, in developing self-regulated learners or employable graduates is the study of how or why students adopt an institution or employer’s goals as their own.