Tuesday, April 27, 2010

New Study Debunks Digital Native Myth...or does it?

One of my critiques of the net gen discourse is that it has been fuelled in large part by non-academic research. Many of the claims emerge from proprietary studies that have not been vetted through the academic peer review process. The authors of these studies are not required to disclose important details such as methodology, funding sources, and potential conflicts of interest. Without this kind of detail it is difficult to assess the quality of the research and the validity of the findings. Despite this, the conclusions are disseminated far and wide using social media and soon become entrenched.

Well, we have a new study that purports to show that digital natives aren't as technologically savvy as people like Tapscott and Presnky would have us believe. Our research certainly supports this conclusion but the trouble with this new study is that:
a) it was conducted by a private consulting company, Cengage Learning so, as far as I know, there was no requirement for peer review;
b) only very limited methodological details have been publically released.

Despite that, the headline that is appearing in the blogosphere is something like "Digital Native Myth Debunked". If we look at the data that this conclusion appears to be based on, it is pretty thin: "65 per cent of instructors think students are tech savvy when it comes to using digital tools in the classroom. Conversely, only 42 per cent of students believe there is enough support for educational technology, evidence of a perception gap in how adept students are versus how savvy they are presumed to be." Hardly myth-debunking evidence. What is more troubling is all we know about this study is that data was collected via a survey of 765 students and 308 instructors. We don't know where these instructors and students were, what the response rate was, how they were selected or what the actual survey questions are.