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

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