Summarizing notes on: The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence - Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L.
- outlining the ongoing debate about ‘Digital Natives’
- assessing the claim that digital natives use technology in different ways from their predecessors and as such, education reforms should be made based upon utilising the significant skills that the children have gained.
» The authors suggest that claims about ‘Digital Natives’ are based on assumptions that are weak in empirical and theoretical foundations.
- that a distinct generation exists
> estimated to have been born between 1980 and 1994
- that education must change fundamentally to meet their needs.
> It is said that these children possess distinct characteristics from exposure to technology (toys and tools) as an integral part of life. This makes them a generation who are more optimistic and team-oriented. They are experiential multi-tasking learners, and are dependent on ICT to connect with others and access information.
> In comparison those born prior to 1980, digital immigrants, are less familiar and lack fluency in technology. The disparity between the technological tools available in education and the level of interaction these children need is brought into focus with literature that indicates it is ‘the biggest single problem in education’.
- Owing to the fluidity of use within technology, digital natives are said to “think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors”. Their discovery-based learning occurs at high speed, makes seemingly random connections and processes information through game-based activities.
- Literature reveals descriptions that current students are disappointed, dissatisfied and disengaged, and educational environments appear outdated and irrelevant. Arguably, education reform should be student-led or face obsolescence. Downes’ study indicates pre-teens found greater opportunity for exploration through the use of home computers rather than teacher-led instruction.
- generalisations that children do use online connectivity constantly are affirmed;
- only a small percentage of the group (n=4374) were involved in creating their own content compared to the significant proportion who showed no such skills for a digital native;
- there are variations between natives’ skills and talents; and
- access, use and skill in technology as it relates to age and socio-economic background requires further research.
- The authors suggest that multi-tasking is an option for all people, but note that it may not be beneficial when results show loss of concentration.
- The cognitive differences between age levels are of significance to the developing capacity of short-term memory. Capacity increases with age, and a correlation is seen in ability to process information. Research into classifying styles and preferences of learning to a particular generation should not be seen as static. Theory acknowledges variability between individuals. Students change their approach to new tasks depending on related experience and the perception of what is involved. The authors suggest that there is a lack of evidence in literature defining the existence of the digital native as a generational occurance or as a result of ICT exposure.
- The authors state that while the use of technology differs between home and educational environments in use and role, research on students in post-compulsory education indicate they are not requesting greater use of technology. The authors point out that the relevance of personal research conducted by middle school students does not reflect the required research skills for a school project. Critical thinking skills are not employed studies indicate, so technology practices cannot directly translate into academic excellence without further structuring in supporting learning. The authors request caution in going forward.
> A moral panic has ensued “ … the form public discourse takes … to explain how an issue of public concern can achieve a prominence that exceeds the evidence in support of the phenomenon … [s]uch claims coupled with appeals to common sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change”.