Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Elaborating on the Digital Native/Digital Immigrant debate

Distinguishing between the two groups of digital natives (DN) and digital immigrants (DI) might seem helpful to education on the surface, but needs to move beyond the attitude of radical change.

Indeed, learning systems need change, prompted by research and feedback, but the DI/DN argument should be recalibrated within more of a notion of digital literacy. Furthermore, some people (young or old) have high capacity to use various ICT tools in school and work, whereas others simply never learned. This does not mean that all people born after year XXXX are better or worse regarding digital literacy.

Some questions prompted by the research (Bennett, et al, 2008; Kennedy, et al, 2008) I found which should be asked by instructional designers:
1. Does DN usage, and supposed expertise of ICT tools, merit a fundamental change in education?
2. Even though DN use lots of ICT tools in their daily lives, what can they actually do with them?
3. What are the misassumptions of DN?

Some generalizations of DN include:

- The notion that they learn differently and have a preference and learning style which fits more into a constructivist framework (experiential learning, multi-tasking, problem solving, etc.

However, can educators then assume that DN want these types of learning structures. Furthermore, Bennett, et. al., (2008) commented on the fact that multi-tasking is not a new phenomenon in learners and that regarding knowledge acquisition, multi-tasking could cause ‘cognitive overload’.

- They possess sophisticated technological knowledge
o This may be true, but as Bennet states, their sophistication does not translate into content creation. For instance, a person who chats on the internet is not necessarily creating webpages.
o Another important point to consider is the socio-economic status of different students. Some may not grow up with a computer in their homes.

- The idea that a DN is net savvy – but being able to use a computer is not the same as being information literate

Education should use various technologies in curriculum, but not just assume that DN are capable, nor really want to, use the technology. Information literacy should be emphasized in learning, and not assumed - teaching ways to develop critical thinking skills.
Next week, more on information literacy.


Kevin Forgard said...


Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (forthcoming, 2008). The 'digital natives' debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology

Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T.S., Churchward, A. Gray, K., & Krause, K. (2008). First year students' experiences with technology:Are they really digital natives? Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108-122.

Strightenupflyright said...

This is an interesting argument but necessity in the mother of invention. DI would tend to stay away from IT because that is the background and they are comfortable with the way they do things. Unless something emerges that requires them to learn a new skill they likely will not.

Kevin Forgard said...

Perhaps you are correct Mike. However, as an adult educator I am trying to figure out ways to reach people who avoid technology. It might just be a matter of resistance or lack of motivation, but I dont think its a matter of capability. Part of motivation in learning new technologies should not only be to keep one's job. Instead training should be about how to critically choose which tools are most useful for certain tasks. I think that making the DI/DN distinction creates a bad attitude from the beginning, but the information literacy definition is much softer. Therefore, instruction should focus on developing a set of core information literacy skills.

Yan Huang said...

1.Does DN usage, and supposed expertise of ICT tools, merit a fundamental change in education?

I think it changes a lot. In my university day, there was once the electricity went out, my teacher said the teaching content are in the computer and the class can't go without it. So we were dismissed... I can't imagine this could happen in my primary school.

2. Even though DN use lots of ICT tools in their daily lives, what can they actually do with them?

They are tools, take advantage of the sharpest edge of the tools.

3.What are the misassumptions of DN?
I think Kevin has give a detailed ans to that.

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