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H800 68 Activity 4a: UK students and the Net Generation

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Saturday, 14 May 2011, 16:51

Read Selwyn (2008) ‘An investigation of differences in undergraduates’ academic use of the internet’.

As you read make notes about the differences and divisions he finds between students. Like Kennedy et al. (2008), Selwyn identifies a minority of students who are not fully engaged with new technologies.

What implications do you think this might have for designing learning environments that make use of new technologies?

Write a short posting setting out your thoughts on Selwyn’s article and the question raised in the previous bullet point.

  • Wider Interent Use
  • Access
  • Expertise
  • Year of study
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Ethnic Background
  • Educational background

These are the variables going into the survey.

Why not asked 'what do you parents do?'

Children see you using the technology at home what are they likely to want to do? Even if your parents are together ... if you are looking after dependents and so on.

There are many reasons that are deep beneath the surface that require a lengthier approach to uncover.

All of these are assumptions going into the survey, which is why for the social sciences I far prefer in depth qualitative research rather than what can be shallow quantitative research that cannot cater for the questions that isn't asked i.e. open questions to winkled out the evidence, rather than number crunching through a set of initial assumptions.

There is not, nor was there ever a 'generation Y' or 'digital natives'.

Reasons identified for differences in attitude and skills using the technology:

  • reliability of access
  • cost
  • 'Digital choice' rather than 'digital divide'
  • perceptions of usefullness
  • ease of use
  • other psychological attitudes (Chung and Huang, 2005; Hong et al, 2003; Joiner et al, 2006)
  • not just access, but whether public or private (Hassania, 2006)
  • nature of institutional and faculty support (a postive or negative factor) (Eynon, 2005)

Significance of being a novice or expert at surfing ... simply put, you either know your stuff or you don't. ANd even more significant those who had PRIVATE access to a computer i.e. there is a need to learn alone in your own time at your own pace.

I liken it to two people joining a youth orchestra for the first time.

One student can neither play an instrument yet, or owns one; while the other student has not only played their instrument for some time, but they own it.

Should we be unsurprised, and even pleased that there were no significant differences in terms of students' ethnic background, age, year of study or educational background (in terms of A'level grades).

Here's a challenge ... you present the entire cohort with a device that non have them used before. Even here you'd find, surely, those who take the challenge and conquer it quickly, while others struggle?

Where does personality or aptitude for certain things come into any of this?

The truth is that the authors who believe there is a Net Generation or Google Generation (many don't, they just use it in the headline to get your attention) fail to acknowledge the extraordinary variety and complexity of human nature and the myriad of circumstances that result in the person who finds themselves presenting themselves on day one to an undergraduate, postgraduate or any kind of course.

The differences between disciplines is interesting ... but is it the discipline per se, or the calibre and kinds of learning designers, or the nature of the content .. or the investment in them. The idea that those studying architecture may have been making less use of these technologies surprised me.

Lessons learnt?

A distinct minority need support

Do you concentrate on the 'bright young things' who may excel if they get your special attention, or those who struggle. The professional thing has to be that each receives the same degree of attention, though it will be different for each person.

Play to people's strengths, not their weaknesses.

And treat them as individuals, never a cohort, and certainly don't be so patronising as to treat them as a generation.

The evidence that there is a divide between male and females in relation to using the Internet for content research surprised me.

The call for further research is a given; in a commercial enterprise you have to keep your eye on the ball always. Those who are best at predicting the future all less likely to fall victim to fads and shifts; I daresay they also build a long term following.

 

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