Friday, November 28, 2008

More Mythbusting Evidence

Two British researchers have just completed a study of undergraduate students that found "many young students are far from being the epitomic global, connected, socially-networked technologically-fluent digital native who has little patience for passive and linear forms of learning." Instead, the study found that students use a limited range of technologies for both formal and informal learning and that there is a "very low level of use and familiarity with collaborative knowledge creation tools such as wikis, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies."

The study was conducted by Anoush Margaryan and Allison Littlejohn at Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde Universities in the UK. Here is a summary of their findings. A full article is in the works.

This study investigated the extent and nature of use of technologies – primarily communication technologies, social software and mobile devices – by undergraduate students in two disciplines, social work and education, in Glasgow Caledonian and Strathclyde Universities in the UK. The study included a questionnaire survey of 160 students, followed up by in-depth interviews with 8 students and 8 staff members at both institutions. The findings show that many young students are far from being the epitomic global, connected, socially-networked technologically-fluent digital native who has little patience for passive and linear forms of learning. Students use a limited range of technologies for formal and informal learning. These are mainly established ICTs - institutional VLE, Google and Wikipedia and mobile phones. Students make limited, recreational use of social technologies such as media sharing tools and social networking. Findings point to a very low level of use and familiarity with collaborative knowledge creation tools such as wikis, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies. The study did not find evidence to support the claims regarding students adopting radically different patterns of knowledge creation and sharing suggested by some previous studies. This study reveals that students’ attitudes to learning appear to be influenced by the 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. In fact their expectations were that they would be “taught” in traditional ways – even though many of these students were engaged in courses that are viewed by these Universities as adopting innovative approaches to technology-enhanced learning. The study didn’t find age differences in patterns of technology use – the young students were just as likely to be conservative in the extent and nature of technology use as the older ones. Margaryan, A., & Littlejohn, A. (2008). The myth of the digital native: Students’ use of technologies. Presentation at an Academy Horizons Seminar, Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University. Available online at

View SlideShare presentation or Upload your own. (tags: digital_natives seminars)


Tom Abeles said...

There are a number of issues here:

1)There is a mind set and a sensibility that the digital native metaphor is not only a Myth but it serves no useful purpose for serious engagement with these issues

2) There is a willingness to condemn books, not in a scholarly manner but in an off handed condemnation of the publisher's hype on the back cover

3)If, indeed, the digital native is a Myth, then someone better tell those who are investing and spending millions of dollars on games/sims, wii's and virtual worlds for kids and tweens as well as for older individuals as well as those who spend significant time in these arenas. In fact surveys show that many college students spend more time in these arenas than studying for their courses.

3) the digital native studies cited on this site are not parsed based on cross cultural information such as the US and Europe compared with Great Britain nor by other demographics such as income etc.

It particularly does not include what is happening in China where i can buy a language course to be downloaded to my cell phone for pennies or the more sophistcated uses in Japan or the iPhone and touch screen smart phones which are entering the market at an interesting rate.

There is no mention of the rate of increase in online courses and programs at all levels from primary to post secondary- but that may be only in the US?

Unfortunately the latest posting here is a study of students who, as a class, may not be the top of the entering students in universities.

robsalk said...

Just came across your blog and have been studying your posting history. In my own work on this subject, I used evidence from several broad-based studies including the Pew Internet and American Life project, annual surveys by Forrester research, and the 2006 NetGeneration survey conducted by Reynol Junco and Jeanna Mastrodicasa (reported in their book, Connecting to the Net Generation).
I also attended the recent conference by Don Tapscott's group, nGenera, where they detailed their NetGen research project. All of these studies seem to me to be broad-based and reliable, and they all point to changing modes of media consumption, and concurrent changes in social attitudes and behaviors, by people in the NetGen cohort (born after 1981).

I think it's reasonable to be skeptical of the more extravagant claims, and it's always useful to point out the broad statistical trends are not universal. However, I am wondering where your singular hostility to the whole concept of a relationship between young people and digital media comes from. There is plenty of evidence to suggest a large, growing and global population of "digital natives." If you are concerned about the implications for education if we take too many steps to accommodate the alleged changes to their learning styles, I would be interested to see some data showing why traditional methods remain more effective than those that rely on Web 2.0, collaborative content, and digital delivery. That would seem to be your real argument.

Mark Bullen said...

Thanks for these comments Tom and robsalk. To be clear, I'm not questioning the claim that, in general, the post 1982 generation has a different relationship to digital technology than the pre-1982 generation. As I think I said somewhere, every generation is different and the the growth in computing and the emergence of the Internet are bound to have an impact. What I am questioning are, among other things, the claims that this means that this generation necessarily learns, differently, that they want more of this technology in their classes, and that educational institutions need to completely rethink how they teach and support this generation. I have yet to see credible research to support those claims. My review of the research has not turned up anything and the published literature review I cite confirms this. In my view, the most credible research tends NOT to support these claims. If you have some research to the contrary, please send it to me.

Chris said...

Appreciate the work you're doing here and look forward to tracking back through earlier entries. I'm doing research in this area as well. I've written a few blog posts related to the topic.