Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Spanish Study Finds Generation is Irrelevant

To date the published results from the international research project, Digital Learners in Higher Education, have been based on data from one North American post secondary institution. Now we have the first results from one of our European partners, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC). In Do UOC Students Fit the Net Generation Profile: An Approach to Their Habits in ICT Use, Marc Romero and colleagues sought to determine whether or not UOC students fit the popular Net Generation or Digital Native profile and whether there were any generational differences in how they perceived their social, academic and professional uses of ICT. Their results add to the growing body of evidence which is increasaingly showing that generation is not relevant in trying to understand the impact of digital technology in higher education. Romero et al. conclude: 
"Taking into account the difference between the UOC’s Net Generation students and non-Net Generation ones regarding their use of ICT in academic and social activities, our findings seem to support the irrelevance of the age factor: We could not find any general and significant difference between the two groups in the vast majority of items...The analysis of the data gathered demonstrates that the difference among our students is produced more by their use of ICT than by their age."

Read the full article in the International Review of Research in Open & Distance Learning.

Friday, May 10, 2013

An Asian Perspective on the Digital Learners Discourse

One of our criticisms of the digital natives discourse has been that it was originally grounded almost entirely in a North American context. The critical reaction to this discourse has tended to be more geographically and culturally balanced with research coming from a number of European countries as well as Australia. To date, however, there has been little research conducted in developing countries or in Asia. David M. Kennedy and Bob Fox have started to fill that gap with their research conducted at the University of Hong Kong.
In Digital natives’: An Asian perspective for using learning technologies, the authors investigated how first year undergraduate students used and understood various digital technologies. Their findings are consistent with the findings of our research: while they found the first-year undergraduate students at HKU were using a wide range of digital technologies, they also found they were using them primarily for "personal empowerment and entertainment" and that the students were "not always digitally literate in using technology to support their learning. This is particularly evident when it comes to student use of technology as consumers of content rather than creators of content specifically for academic purposes"

Friday, March 8, 2013

Crossing Boundaries: Digital Learners and the Social and Academic Use of Technology in Higher Education

Phase 2 of the Digital Learners in Higher Education project has uncovered some important insights into how learners in higher education are thinking about and using digital technologies for social and academic purposes and how they separate and integrate their uses.
We have submitted an article for publication but given how lengthy the scholarly publication process is, we have decided to release it here for feedback and comment.
Crossing Boundaries: Digital Learners and the Social and Academic Use of Technology in Higher Education
Tannis Morgan, Mark Bullen

This article reports on a study that used third generation Activity Theory as a framework to investigate how postsecondary students think about and use digital technologies in their social and academic lives. The results confirm the fallacy of the digital native stereotype but go further by uncovering important insights into how students at one institution can have quite different approaches to the use of digital technologies and different use profiles. We identified three dynamic and evolving use profiles: instrumental, separator and integrator. The aggregation of these profiles provides a starting point for understanding the nuances of digital learners in higher education.
Download the full article.

Friday, January 25, 2013

New Directions for the Digital Natives Discourse

In her thoughtful analysis of the digital natives literature (The Digital Native Debate in Higher Education: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Literature), Erika Smith concludes:
Much of the criticism regarding the digital native debate underscores a lack of research that
authentically maps not only the rapidly shifting technology developments, but also the emergent
nature of the perceptions and viewpoints informing the learner, educator, and researcher
assumptions and beliefs underlying such debates.
. She goes on to urge researchers to "move beyond the digital native debate toward other authentic understandings of today’s learners" (as we have with our Digital Learners in Higher Education project) and suggests a focus on the following questions researchers focus on the following questions:
  • What is the role of the language in both informing and reflecting our perceptions of and
    experiences with emerging technologies in education, to which Prensky (2001a) and
    Seely Brown (2002) allude?
  • If there is a new teaching and learning ecology, as Seely Brown (2002) states, how can
    we authentically understanding and engage with this ecology beyond the binaries of
    digital native/immigrant?
  • Rather than simply considering technology usage and digital emergences, how might we
    further understand the various perceptions, values, and perspectives.