Monday, August 24, 2009

Multitaskers Bad at Multitasking

A study just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that people who consider themselves multitaskers aren't actually very good at multitasking.

"Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set. These results demonstrate that media multitasking, a rapidly growing societal trend, is associated with a distinct approach to fundamental information processing."

BBC News article

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Digital Elites and Digital Apartheid

Besides the lack of a solid research base for the digital native/immigrant (or net gen) discourse, one of our other critiques has been the fact that it represents a very North American view of the world and particularly of education. So from South Africa comes an insightful critique from Laura Czerniewicz who explains why it is a problematic discourse for her country:

"In the South African context, and indeed in many post colonial contexts, the term is loaded with baggage and problematic connotations. There exists another whole set of discourses to do with natives and settlers, native laws etc to which we do not wish to be party. And indeed, while the term has been reclaimed in some instances (such as The Native Club), there seems to be no sense of irony in the present use of the term digital native."

Monday, August 17, 2009

Digital Native/Immigrant Distinction Not Supported by Evidence

Here's another study that contradicts the widely-held view about the existence of a "digital divide" between so-called digital natives and digital immigrants. Guo, Dobson and Petrina (2008) collected data from over 2,000 pre-service teachers between 2001 and 2004 and concluded:

"there was not a statistically significant difference with respect to ICT competence among different age groups for either pre-program or post-program surveys. This study implies that the digital divide thought to exist between “native” and “immigrant” users may be misleading, distracting education researchers from more careful consideration of the diversity of ICT users and the nuances of their ICT competencies. "

Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants: An Analysis of Age and ICT Competency in Teacher Education

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Digital Textbooks and the Snark Syndrome

I think I now do most of my academic and professional reading online so I have no doubt there is a place for digital text. I am not sure I would want to read an entire textbook online but having a digital version certainly makes the content much more accessible. But I get concerned when the motivation for moving to digital textbooks and digital resources is based on the unsupported claims about the net generation and its supposed digital literacy.

This article from the New York Times provides an example of the Snark Syndrome at work as the move to digital textbooks is justified by one school district official on the grounds that kids today are "wired differently". According to Sheryl R. Abshire, chief technology officer for the Calcasieu Parish school system in Lake Charles, La, “they’re digitally nimble. They multitask, transpose and extrapolate. And they think of knowledge as infinite. They don’t engage with textbooks that are finite, linear and rote." Really?

By all means, let's use digital resources but let's do it on the basis of an identified and appropriate need not an unsubstantiated generalization that, because it has been repeated several times, is treated as fact.