Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Digital Natives: Where is the Evidence?

In Digital Natives: Where is the Evidence?,  Ellen Helsper and Rebecca Eynon try to untangle what it means to be a "digital native" and, more specifically, whether this is determined by age, experience using the Internet and breadth of use of the Internet. They define a digital native as someone who multitasks, has access to a range of new technologies, is confident in their use of technologies, uses the Internet as a first port of call for information, and uses the Internet for learning.

Their findings, based on data collected in the UK,  are consistent with ours and contribute to growing body of evidence that debunks the popular net generation claims about a generation transformed by its immersion in the digital world. According to Helsper and Eynon, their data make it very clear "that it is not helpful to define digital natives and immigrants as two distinct, dichotomous generations. While there were differences in how generations engaged with the Internet, there were similarities across generations as well, mainly based on how much experience people have with using technologies....Internet use lies along a continuum of engagement instead being a dichotomous divide between users and non-users."

Helsper & Enyon conclude with a call for research that goes further than simply surveying users, that looks at what people are actually doing online, and how the use of digital technologies is connected to learning: "Reporting of use of the Internet is not the same as understanding the learning that may take place as a result of this use."

Unfortunately this article is published in the British Educational Research Journal which means, unless you have access through your institution, you will have to pay to read the article.