Monday, December 15, 2008

We Still Need to Change

One point I don't make frequently enough is that I am not anti-technology. My critique of the net gen, digital native discourse is not meant to support the status quo but rather it is motivated by a desire to ensure that our decisions are based on evidence, not hype. We do need to change and adapt to the new technologies but we need to be sure we are making appropriate changes and not changes that are driven by a naïve view of who our learners are and what their needs are.

Anoush and Littlejohn make the case for change:

"As students look to their lecturers for clues as to how to use technology tools for learning, many lecturers are unaware of the potential of these tools, since they themselves are not using emergent technologies for their own learning and work. While some lecturers recognise the educational value of some emergent technologies, others view these as ‘fads’. This situation could become exceedingly problematic as many social technologies such as blogs, wikis, and virtual worlds are progressively adopted by organisations, where employees are required to use them regularly for knowledge sharing and communication. This raises the question as to how well universities are preparing students for employment if they continue to dismiss these tools and more importantly the processes and philosophies of learning and collective knowledge creation underpinning these tools. " (pp. 22-23)

Study questions the digital native discourse

Anoush Margaryan and Allison Littlejohn have released the full draft of the paper that reports on their study of student use of technology in two British universities. As reported earlier, their findings tend to contradict the prevailing view of the "digital native" as a sophisticated user of technology who has a fundamentally different approach to learning. For me, one of the most interesting findings is on student attitudes towards learning:

"students’ attitudes to learning appear to 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."

Other key findings:

"students use a limited range of technologies for both learning and socialisation. For learning, mainly established ICTs are used- institutional VLE, Google and Wikipedia and mobile phones. Students make limited, recreational use of social technologies such as media sharing tools and social networking sites...the findings point to a low level of use of and familiarity with collaborative knowledge creation tools, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies."

Margaryan and Littlejohn conclude:

"The 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."