Thursday, February 26, 2009

Generation is Not the Issue

Here is the presentation of the results of the research that looked at how students at the BC Institute of Technology are using information and communication technologies. The results clearly show that generational differences are not the issue. Contextual issues such as the nature of the program are more important considerations when making decisions about the integration of learning technologies.

Here's the SlideShare version which allows you to control the slides. Note, however, the audio does not sync up properly when you use the slide advance.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Communication Preferences of the Net Generation

Further to the previous post on the BCIT research, we also examined our students' communication preferences. We wanted to find out how they were using information and communication technologies (ICTs) to communicate with their peers and with their instructors. We were also interested in finding out if there were any differences in ICT use and age.

Our survey of a random sample of over 400 BCIT students did find some statistically significant differences but overall, we found that net generation and non-net gen students were not using ICTs more than face to face communication to interact with their peers.

We found that net gen students were more likely to use instant messaging, text messaging, Facebook/MySpace and phone to communicate with peers than non-net gen students.

However, when communicating with instructors, the only significant difference in use of ICTs between net gen and non net gen was with WebCT. Non-net gen students were more likely to use WebCT than net gen students.

By far the most common mode for communicating with instructors for both net gen and non net gen sudents is talking in person.

Monday, February 23, 2009

More Evidence Supports the Need for Caution

Results of research being conducted that the BC Institute of Technology cast serious doubt on many of the Net Generation claims.

We surveyed a random sample of over 400 students to determine the extent to which the students in the net generation category exhibited the characteristics that have been attributed to this generation by people like Don Taspscott, Marc Prensky, and Neil Howe & William Strauss, and others. These characteristics include:
  1. Digitally literate
  2. Preference for structure and experiential learning
  3. Social
  4. Goal oriented
  5. Community minded
  6. Connected
  7. Multitaskers
  8. Preference for group work
  9. Aversion to reading and text
The results show that at BCIT there is no statistical difference between net gen and non-net gen students on items 1-5. But even for items 6-9, where there were statistically significant differences, the effect sizes were very small, representing only between 1.4% and 2.9% of the variance.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Google Generation Study Casts More Doubt

This comprehensive study of how young learners are searching for and researching content was commissioned by the British Library. While it focuses on the implications for libraries, it contains some valuable insights into how these learners use information technologies. The results tend to contradict much of the prevailing hype about the net generation. The study defines the "Google Generation" as anybody born after 1993.

Here are some of the claims about this group that the study refutes:
  1. They have zero tolerance for delay and their information needs must be fulīŦlled immediately
  2. They are the `cut-and-paste’ generation
  3. The find their peers more credible as information sources than authority figures
  4. They need to feel constantly connected to the web
  5. They prefer quick information in the form of easily digested chunks, rather than full text
  6. They are expert searchers
The study did find evidence to support the following claims:
  1. They are more competent with technology
  2. They have very high expectations of ICTs
  3. They prefer interactive systems and are turning away from being passive consumers of information
With respect the claim that this generation multitasks in all areas of their lives, the study concluded there is no solid evidence to support this but "it is likely that being exposed to online media early in life may help to develop good parallel processing skills. The wider question is whether sequential processing abilities, necessary for ordinary reading, are being similarly developed."

Thanks to Agnes Bosanquet and the McQuarrie University Learning & Teaching Centre blog for drawing my attention to this study.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Digital Wisdom or Digital Cynicism?

I've never liked the digital native/digital immigrant terminology because it is simplistic and inaccurate. It divides people into two categories and attributes behaviours, attitudes and ways of learning to them, based solely on when they were born. The person who coined those terms, Marc Prensky, has now come up with a new one, digital wisdom.

"Digital wisdom is a twofold concept, referring both to wisdom arising from the use of digital technology to access cognitive power beyond our innate capacity and to wisdom in the prudent use of technology to enhance our capabilities...Leaders are digitally wise when they use available techniques to connect with their constituents for polling and to solicit contributions and encourage participation, as Barack Obama did so well in the 2008 U.S. presidential campaign. "

Well, I'm not sure about this term either. My conception of wisdom doesn't include using digtial technology to convince people to give you money and vote for you. What is the difference between digital wisdom and digital literacy? For me, wisdom must have a moral dimension. Would Coca Cola be considered digitally-wise because it uses demographic data from social networking applications to increase its sales and market share?

Read the full article and judge for yourself.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

More on Generational Differences

Here's another review of the literature that raises serious questions about the conventional wisdom around generational differences. According to Thomas Reeves and Eujong Oh, "Generational differences are the subject of much popular speculation but relatively little substantive research. Among the speculations are suggestions that instructional designers should take generational differences into account when developing instruction and that games and simulations will be more effective learning environments with today's younger generation than they have been with earlier ones...Most of the popular literature on the subject...appears to rest on limited data, almost always conducted by survey methods characterized by a lack of reliability and validity data."

Read the full chapter from the Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology (2007), edited by J. Michael Spector, M. David Merrill, Jeroen van Merrienboer, Marcy P. Driscoll.

Thanks to Norm Friesen for drawing my attention to this.