Friday, 18 April 2008

Growing up with Google : what it means to education

There is an excellent article by Diana Oblinger (Educause) in Emerging Technologies for Learning , vol.3 2008. She summarises common Web generation characteristics. "An increasing number of students - and their parents - expect academic success wuth little academic effort". They "prefer to learn by doing rather than by telling or reading. Don't just tell us - let us discover". This is very much borne out by my experience here at University of Bedfordshire in the way we are approaching the first year Business Studies curriculum. Very interestingly she sees the Web Generation as the harbingers of change - where they are today, tomorrow we shall be.I think that has been shown by the take-up of Web 2.0 technologies by librarians over the past year. She emphasises that students seem more at home with images, and this visual characteristic of the Web Generation was also picked out in a presentation I heard recently by Joan Lippincott. She acknowledges that a second-level dital divide may exist on PC age, connectivity and user support."Not all students have computers, not all are skilled users, and not all want to use technology". She also doubts whether the Web generation is naturally reflective. This is very important for academics and librarians alike as reflective practice looms so large in so much of academia.

She asks the crucial question :

"how do we ensure that information fluency becomes a habit of mind rather than of an isolated library requirement if parents, teachers, and staff do not integrate into their daily interactions with students?"

I'm not going to comment on the rest of the article, save to say that it gets more and more revolutionary!

Well worth reading!


Sheila Webber said...

Hmmm, perhaps I'm just feeling grumpy but I found this a fairly woolly document with a lot of the same old generalised stuff about students e.g. early on
"To illustrate, one student described how she learned about video. “Well…I opened up the camera box, started messing around, and then figured out how to upload it. Took a while. Had to Google it a few times to figure out how to splice stuff together. Just took an hour or so.” They teach themselves how to use technology – or learn it from peers."
This might be how SOME students might respond, but certainly not all: you couldn't build a coherent learning and teaching strategy on assumptions that this learning style etc. is everyone's. And I say this as someone who appears to have more in common with these types of student than do some of my actual students (as I try to drag myself away from uploading photos of my SL avatar to my Flickr account). Admittedly she does get into points about the need for education about information literacy, synthesis and other difficult things later on, but it does all rather lost under the rest. And why is this in the "Research Series" of BECTA publications?

Peter Godwin said...

I think you're being a bit hard on the author, Sheila : she does actually say "no group is entirely homogeneous.Not all students have computers, not all are skilled users, and not all want to use technology". Maybe she has seen the Rowlands report...

David said...

I do agree this article is a bit woolly, and a little inconsistent, but it makes some good points.
It points out that many of the delays is because many of these skills do not relate to current assessment practices or getting an "A" so are not priorities for education systems or parents.
It does specifically say that not all students are "digital natives" - my most hated phrase as it reflects a great deal of intellectual laziness by academics. It acknowledges that while many students use technology easily and flexibly, at least as many don't. About time too, the mass of articles that assume students have high IT skills are just so much waste paper/email in my opinion. More than 50% of those at my school cannot do an advanced search (and are really grateful when taught it) and struggle with the advanced elements of most software and do not develop them independently.
It does highlight the fact that education systems still haven't addressed the core problem of identifying and teaching core elements. We still haven't decided whether this is possible or desirable, despite lots of talk and lots of articles. It is good that it encourages us to do this, but it has already been a long time, coming with lots of discussion but very little action to date.
Thank god some of these stupid underlying assumptions about students that have plagued ICT curriculum development are disappearing - digital natives?? bah, humbug.