Category Archives: Digital Natives

Emerging technologies for learning

A new multi-authored report online from BECTA:

‘Emerging technologies for learning’ aims to help readers consider how emerging technologies may impact on education in the medium term. The publications are not intended to be a comprehensive review of educational technologies, but offer some highlights across the broad spectrum of developments and trends. It should open readers up to some of the possibilities that are developing and the potential for technology to transform our ways of working, learning and interacting over the next three to five years.

The different chapters each have a different author, with contributors including Marc Prensky and Stephen Downes. The page also includes last year’s report and a link to related discussion forums. As per usual, I haven’t managed read any of the chapters yet – but hope to do so soon-ish.

The Polychronic Student

Anthony Fontana writes about Polychronic and Monochronic approaches to learning in his blog, The Polychronic Classroom.

A post here outlines why this categorisation of students differs from the ‘Digital Native-Digital Immigrant’ methaphor. As a way of categorising students or workers, I agree with the commentator on the blog that the terms suffer from not being immediately transparent – its not totally obvious what the terms mean without a definition on hand. Positively, the terms do not carry so many connotations (students are not all lumped into the one category with teachers into the other) and the scale is a continuous rather than binary one – recognising that individuals are individuals.

Another positive aspect of the monochron/polychron view is that the differences are about ways of interacting with others and working practices rather than about differences in a ‘native’ understanding of technology.

Multi-tasking impairs performance

Cover article in this week’s New Scientist is on multi-tasking. It cites research rounded up in a paper with the snappy title “Capacity limits of information processing in the brain” from volume 9 of the very respected journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Last year they had another piece about the effect of interruptions during work, which I commented on here.  This latest piece reinforces my belief that multi-tasking is not as great as its cracked up to be – and provides more hard evidence…

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Enraged and Engaged redux

I can’t believe I missed this debate on Prenky’s “Engage me or Enrage me” till now. Here on Dennis Fermoyle’s blog and here on Chris Lehmann’s. Both are good reads. Found these via another page of discussion here on Scott McLeod’s blog, which I think I might re-visit later…

One interesting thing, reading the comments especially, is the degree to which people interpret Prensky’s writings in different ways. This is I guess something that has come up here before – is Prensky merely describing how students have changed (and how accurate is his description?) or is he celebrating it?

Anyway, the discussions include a number interesting anecdotal examples and stories, so worth reading through.

Another big report… "Their Space"

Found this via the Futurelab Flux blog. Demos (a UK think-tank) produced an 80 page (large print!)  report on “Education for a Digital Generation“. Initially I thought this was going to be a hyper-bolic celebration of digital-youth, but it keeps a balanced perspective. Material criticising the myths found in mass-media hysteria on the ill-effects of digital media is balanced with a critique of the utopian counter view-point (page 41) :

There is also a set of positive myths demonstrating ‘blind faith’ in the power of technology. The more extreme versions caricature a whole generation of young people as digital natives and cyberkids, all equally confident users of technology. Meanwhile, staunch defenders of gaming and web 2.0 risk presenting all digital practices as equally valuable, hailing each wave of technology as full of revolutionary potential.

The authors also conducted many interviews with children, revealing a range of attitudes towards and capabilities for using technologies. Clear distinction is made between those who really explore and pioneer new technologies and those who simply use IM’s and similar to keep in touch with existing friends. The report finishes with recommendations for using technology effectively within educational settings. Quotes from these are scattered through the report, and usefully illustrate many of the points.

I have to admit skimming large portions of it… if people can stop producing new and interesting 80 page reports I might find the time to clear my backlog of the things!

Moderation in all things

Interesting piece in The Scotsman by Nicola Morgan – related to a couple of books she has written – How to wean them off their computers (Thanks to Kevin Thompson for finding this!). It argues for a balanced lifestyle for children, where computer and video games are an accepted part but which don’t dominate their lives and spare time.
Quote:

None of these activities is valueless. All, unlike television, are interactive, not passive; many require focus, concentration, skill. Games involve strategy, dexterity, mental speed, hand-eye co-ordination, intuition, perseverance; some involve role-playing and creativity.

And another:

However, there are important negatives. All stem from one factor which makes these activities, particularly computer games, different from other things that occupy our children’s time: time itself. It’s so easy to spend an inordinate number of hours playing computer games or being online. If they spent only half an hour a day, or treated it like any other hobby and did it for a couple of hours once or twice a week, we wouldn’t worry. But it’s the hours and hours that worry us.

There are several good points, even if it does read like a sales pitch at times. Something that has not gone unnoticed by some of the commentators at the end of the piece.

When Students Attempt to Multitask in the Lecture Hall…

Pointed to this article in Chronicle Careers, on the effect of modern distractions in the lecture hall, by yet another post on the Second Life Education Mailing list. For a short article, it covers a lot of ground – and some of the points are quite thought provoking. More below.

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Teens and social networking sites: Two views

The common view of the Digital Native is of a tech-savvy computer and web literate individual with a blog, a MySpace page and regular uploads to YouTube. I’ve argued in this blog that this view is misleading in many ways. That the ‘Natives’ may be users of technology, but might not be very literate in its use and that they may be making less use of Web 2.0 features than many pundits claim.

Now, on the back of the latest study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project, which found that 55% of online teens use social networks, I have noticed two quite different ways of interpreting these results…

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