Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Generational Explanation is a Gross Oversimplification

There is a growing body of solid research-based evidence that contradicts the popular view of the digital native as part of a technologically-savvy generation that differs fundamentally from previous generations. The latest evidence comes from a special issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Desribing or Debunking: The Net Generation and Digital Natives. The four articles in the special edition reject the popular view as a gross oversimplification and argue that the issues at play are more complex and nuanced that we have been led to believe. The articles show that generation is not a useful or accurate variable and that technology adoption and use is much more varied within the net generation age group than the popular discourse suggests. For example, in the article, Beyond Natives and Immigrants: Exploring Types of Net Generation Students, Kennedy et al. identified four statistically robust types of student technology users: Power, Ordinary, Irregular, Basic. All of these were within the net generation age group. This, they say, confirms previous research that found widespread diversity in students' technology experiences. They conclude: "the clear implications of these findings is that large scale changes in curriculum or teaching approach based on assumptions about the technology experience of this generation of students as suggestted, for example, by Prensky (2001a) snd by Oblinger (2008) cnnot be justified."

I haven't read the other three articles but, based on the abstracts, they appear to provide some new and more useful insights into the issue.

Table of Contents:
Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of students' technology experiences, S. Bennett and K. Maton
Beyond natives and immigrants: exploring types of net generation students,
G. Kennedy, T. Judd, B. Dalgarno and J. Waycott
Net generation students: agency and choice and the new technologies,
C. Jones and G. Healing
Debunking the ‘digital native’: beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy,
C. Brown and L. Czerniewicz

Journal of Computer Assisted Learning: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jca.2010.26.issue-5/

The only shortcoming of this special journal issue is it is not open access.

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