Rethinking digital natives

I’ve been troubled by the whole idea of ‘digital natives’ for some time. Partly because the concept seems like a huge oversimplification, with little robust evidence to back it up, but more worryingly from my experience of staff development, because it can acts a limiting factor (‘I’m a digital immigrant, so I can’t possibly hope to use computers like the natives’).

I was pleased, therefore, when I saw Daniel Livingstone‘s post highlighting this recent article in BJET.  Bennett and colleagues (2008) argue, from an analysis of the literature on digital natives, that the relationship between young people and technology is more complex and that there is no evidence of generationally-different learning styles. They call more a more measured and rigourous research approach, concluding with a plea for a “considered and rigorous investigation that includes the perspectives f young people and their teachers, and genuinely seeks to understand the situation before proclaiming the need for widespread change.”

Bennett, S., Maton, K. & Kervin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology, 39/5, 775-786.

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