Monday, December 21, 2009

A Critique of the Net Gen Discourse from Germany

In Is There a Net Gener in the House? Dispelling a Mystification, Rolf Schulmeister analyzes the evidence for the existence of a "net generation" and concludes many of claims are overstated or unsupported

"Generation: Multivariate analyses of the use of media always arrive at different contours of the users and describe their diversity rather than their unity.

The Use of Media: It turns out that the use of media alone is not sufficient for the existence of the net generation but rather that the motives for the use of media are essential in the context of such an analysis.

The Motivation for the Use of Media: The preferences of the young for specific internet activities provide information about the spectrum of their interests; the age distribution of their preferences suggests that the actual interests are influenced by socialization.

Socialization: An interpretation of youth people’s use of media is the result of the understanding of their ontogenetic development and socialization. This perspective agrees with the basic assumption of the Uses & Gratification-approach, which presupposes that the needs of youth determine the choice of the media and not, to put the cart before the horse, assuming that media make the young. The young take up the media they require in order to satisfy their needs.

Student Responses and University Didactics: students value live teaching and prefer a moderate use of media. Active self-determined participation required by Web 2.0 is only pursued by a minority of students."

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Research Questions Technological Determinist Net Gen Discourse

A study of first-year students' use of technology at five UK universities concludes there is much more diversity than is portrayed in the popular net generation literature. According to Jones & Ramanau (2009), "the broad brush approaches to generational changes obscure the subtle but important differences between students" of the same generation. And Jones & Cross (2009) argue that the net generation is more like a "collection of minorities with a small number of technophobic students and large numbers of others making use of new technologies but in ways that do not fully correspond with many of the expectations built into the Net Generation and Digital Natives theses".

Their study of about 600 first year students in five UK universities found widespread use of many digital technologies but found limited use of participatory digital technologies such as blogs, wikis and virtual worlds: "there is no evidence of a significant uptake of any of these technologies amongst the first students." The study was conducted in the Spring of 2008.

They conclude that educational policy makers in universities and government should be cautious about "adopting technological determinist arguments that suggest that universities simply have to adapt to a changing student population who are described as a single group with definite and known characteristics."