An Immigration once again…

What do you want kids to do with technology? Wrong and right answers... - Bill FerriterI was doing some writing over the weekend and came across a well referenced paper revisiting Mark Prensky’s 2001 construct of digital immigrants and digital natives.

It is called The Digital Native Debate in Higher Education: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Literature and the PDF (18 pages) may be accessed here. The author is Erika E. Smith from the University of Alberta.

How many of us have that heart-sinking experience when a presenter talks at us older people as immigrants and the younger as natives, when in fact, we are all in this together.

In reality how many people younger and older can call themselves truly digital natives?

The ownership of a Smartphone does not make one a creator, no more than the possession of a book make you an author.  Nor does it make you a critical thinker or a challenger of society.

If anything the Smartphone may be the self-centered filter-bubble that I have written about previously (here).

Smith has one really interesting piece in her work that I will let you think about

Rogers et al. (2011) present quantitative results from their online survey of 1,370 undergraduate learners at degree granting institutions across Canada, and make the following conclusions from their data analysis:

These do not quite sound like the views of the “digital natives” we have heard so much about. Far from preferring to be immersed in a digital world of self-directed learning, students seem to still have an enormous desire to learn directly from a “sage on the stage.” The advantage they see in e-learning resources is that they give them the freedom to make occasional mistakes – missing class, forgetting a textbook at home, etc. – with less fear of falling behind. However, while this all provides grounds for suspicion with respect to glib claims about digital natives, there is not enough evidence here to dismiss the notion entirely. (pp. 17-18).

While further research on these claims is needed, initial information from the Rogers et al.’s HESA report highlights that, though there are substantial impacts of digital technologies in higher education settings, a more careful examination of the reasons why learners may value some technologies over others is needed. (My emphasis).

My context is secondary-education and I agree absolutely that we must find technologies and digital applications that students value.

I was reminded again over the weekend, by a past-pupil, that universities in Ireland are beginning (slowly) to move to a portfolio-based approach for entry to some faculties (e.g. Dublin City University here).

We can help students value technologies for creation rather than consumption, if there is motivation for them to do so.

We are really restricted by a traditional examination model in many subjects that fail to unleash creativity.

I am afraid of technologies that allow the freedom to make occasional mistakes rather than the freedom to fail and allow the learning gained through failure, become the learned ability to do better the next time.

Now, how well would that sound at a portfolio interview?


Smith, E 2012, ‘The Digital Native Debate in Higher Education: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Literature’, Canadian Journal Of Learning & Technology, 38, 3, pp. 1-18, Education Source, EBSCOhost, Accessed 27 October 2013.

The paper is published under the Open Journals Systems though I came across it on EBSCOhost, provided free to registered teachers, by the Irish Teaching Council.

Image from Scott McLeod Pinterest page here Well worth a look!


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