Thursday, October 22, 2009

5.1.3: More on the Net Gen

Mark Bullen's blog Net Gen Skeptic links to a 2009 article by Neil Selwyn (Institute of Education, University of London) called The digital native - myth and reality. The terms 'exaggeration' and 'inconsistency' and criticism of methodology in Net Gen studies give some idea of where Selwyn's article goes. As a literature review Selwyn's paper gives an excellent summary of how the Net Gen's innate potential has been built up beyond reality. He writes that
much of the writing around the digital native theme is concerned less with documenting young people's use of specific digital technologies per se, than the general practices and dispositions that digital technologies support and facilitate within their lives (p.366).
Naturally, this approach leads to exaggeration and misleading conclusions. It's like suggesting we are all global travellers because there is a local airport. Selwyn is highly critical of the 'common sense' association often made with reference to Prensky's work. All of this is rather old hat now, but Selwyn's paper is a well-written piece that includes some useful argument related to the value of formal education. Pointers to studies based on more careful methodologies confirm the coverage in E-Primer 5:
If anything young people's use of the internet can be described most accurately as involving the passive consumption of knowledge rather than the active crewation of content - leading, at best, to what Crook (2008) terms a 'low bandwidth exchange' of information and knowledge, with any illusion of collaboration described more accurately in terms of co-operation or co-ordination between individuals... technology use at school or at home remains rather less expansive and empowering than the rhetoric of the digital native would lead us to believe (p.372).
In sum, the Net Gen needs guidance, even direction in their use of technologies for the purposes of education. Selwyn also addresses the 'guide on the side' vs 'sage on the stage' issue... all in all, a very worthwhile paper!

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