Friday, August 22, 2008

A Critical Review of the Net Gen Evidence

According to three Australian researchers, our skepticism of the grand claims made about the "net generation" and the supposed impact on education is well-founded. According to Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin, the claims that this generation of learners is so different from previous generations that a fundamental change to our educational systems is needed "have been subjected to little critical scrutiny, are undertheorised, and lack a sound empirical basis"(p. 776).

In their article in the latest issue of the British Journal of Educational Technology (Vol. 39, No. 5, 775-786). The three researchers from the University of Wollongong and the University of Sydney review the evidence and analyze the debate. They conclude that "...rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a 'moral panic'" (p. 775).

The idea that a new generation of students is entering the education system has excited recent attention among educators and education commentators. Termed `digital natives' or the `Net generation', these young people are said to have been immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisticated technical skills and learning preferences for which traditional education is unprepared. Grand claims are being made about the nature of this generational change and about the urgent necessity for educational reform in response. A sense of impending crisis pervades this debate. However, the actual situation is far from clear. In this paper, the authors draw on the fields of education and sociology to analyse the digital natives debate. The paper presents and questions the main claims made about digital natives and analyses the nature of the debate itself. We argue that rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a `moral panic'. We propose that a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate `digital natives' and their implications for education.

The full article is accessible online through library e-journal databases.

Thanks to George Siemens for alerting me to this article.

No comments: