Friday, October 29, 2010

The Digital Future of Higher Education

The evidence is clear: when it comes to the use of digital technologies in higher education, generation is not the issue. Portraying technology use in generational terms is simplistic and potentially costly. This is the conclusion of our research and of many other studies. But that doesn't mean our work is done. We still need to gain a fuller and deeper understanding of what impact the pervasive use of digital technologies is having on students and their learning. This is what we are now focusing on in the second phase of our Digital Learners in Higher Education research project. And it also one of the themes of an interesting one day conference that is being organized by Norm Friesen at Thompson Rivers University. Debating the Digital Future of Higher Education will feature keynote presentations by Anya Kamenetz, author of DIY University, and Professor Michael A. Peters, author of Knowledge Economy, Development and the Future of Higher Education and a debate on the net gen issue with yours truly.

The conference takes place Feb 22. Check out the website for details. Early bird registration starts from only $99.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Special Issue of Journal of Computer Assisted Learning

The Journal of Computer Assisted Learning has published a special issue on the Net Generation. It contains four excellent articles that move beyond simplistic notions of generation and provide a more nuanced and theoretically-grounded understanding of digital technology use. Unfortunately JCAL is not an open access journal so unless you have access to an institutional subscription, you will have to pay to read these articles. Why do we keep giving away our publically-funded intellectual property so publishers can sell it back to us?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Visitors and Residents

One of the problems with The Net Gen discourse is that assumes that all people in this age group (which is not consistently defined) have the same set of characteristics, skills and aptitudes, particularly with respect to digital technologies. This simplistic, generationally and technologically deterministic perspective hides much more important differences in how people use and understand technology and particularly the social web. David White's visitors and residents principle is an excellent example of how moving beyond age provides us with an opportunity to get a deeper understanding of how people use and understand digital technology. I am a bit uncomfortable with labeling because people rarely fall neatly into the conceptual boxes we create but this framework is a much more meaningful way of thinking about the use of the social web and as David White emphasizes, it should be viewed more as spectrum rather than two discrete categories.

According to White: "The resident is an individual who lives a percentage of their life online. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. These are people who have an persona online which they regularly maintain. This$ persona is normally primarily in a social networking sites but it is also likely to be in evidence in blogs or comments, via image sharing services etc"

"The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises. They may book a holiday or research a specific subject. They may choose to use a voice chat tool if they have friends or family abroad. Often the Visitor puts aside a specific time to go online rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain their presence at any point during the day."

The research that David White and colleagues are doing suggests that age has nothing to do with whether you are a visitor or a resident. Once again, generation is not the issue.

Watch David White's engaging presentation on the visitors and residents principle.

Thanks to Terry Anderson for bringing this to my attention.