Debunking Digital natives

Christopher Scanlons piece in the Australian thows more cold water on the anthropological ‘natives’ theory (ref  earlier comments). Scanlon’s observations as a lecturer in journalism at Charles Sturt Uni give us more cause to dispute the assertion that the natives have any natural ability in the use of online technologies. Scanlon notes with his own students that few have blogs, use Flickr or create their own websites. Their use of search engines for research is also unsophisticated. 

Conducting recent workshops on blogs and wikis for NSW DET, also confirmed my growing impression that it is the more experienced teachers who are becoming the early adopters of new technologies. These teachers are comfortable with their teaching practise and have mastery of their subject domains and are now seeking new challenges to enhance their teaching.

Scanlon comes up with a few theories on why the native theory has taken root. These include Prensky’s original observations using an elite group of students (Harvard) and his business interests. But more critically it is perhaps the superficial observations made of the ‘gen Yers’ working with new tech that has been misinterpreted. The trap of older observers seeing the use of social networking tools and believing it constitutes  sophisticated online practise. Rather as Scanlon notes the use of these technologies requires no more ability than using email. Expose them to having to develop non wizard based products and they are as befuddled as the rest of us. An therin lies the problem- we have false expectations on these students which could set them up for failure.


About thand

I'm a currently working at NSW Departrment of Education & Training, Connected Classrooms Program, Sydney.
This entry was posted in digital natives, Net Gen, Web2. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Debunking Digital natives

  1. Kevin O'Gorman says:

    It’s a case in point that adults even teachers through their own unfamiliarity with technologies mistake surface usage of ICT by students with a deep understanding of the underlying concepts. There is a substantial body of research work in the discipline of information science over the last twenty years to show that the ‘Google generation’ have not significantly advanced in their information literacy skills.
    While it is evident that technology is being used by people in many societal transforming ways it is not evident that effective ICT practice in education has reached a point where it has began to reshape teaching and learning activities in schools and universities. Good pedagogical practice with a clear understanding and creative use of ICT by teachers continued to be a vital component for the successful use of technology in education.

  2. Tony Searl says:

    “laptops laptops everywhere and not a pedagogical change in site!”

    Does this =

    more technology sprinkled on top?
    potential expensive digital pencils?
    fundamental transformative learning devices?

    In light of the post I was just wondering, thats all.

  3. thand says:

    Thanks Tony- The devices are only an access enabler- the real transformative technologies are of course the applications, and learning tools and resources which underpin the rollout. More on that later but TaLe is already a beachhead.

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