Tag Archives: youth

The Kinder & Braver World Project

From danah boyd –

The Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University is pleased to announce the publication of eight new of papers in The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series (danah boyd, John Palfrey, and Dena Sacco, editors) as part of its collaboration with the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF), and generously supported by the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.  The Kinder & Braver World Project: Research Series is comprised of short papers that are intended to help synthesize research and provide research-grounded insight to the variety of stakeholders working on issues related to youth empowerment and action towards creating a kinder, braver world.

The eight new papers focus on The Role of Youth Organizations and Youth Movements for Social Change, and were selected among submissions from a call for papers that the Berkman Center put out in June 2012.  They include:

I can’t imagine a better time for this to appear.

Sylvia

Free access – Educational Leadership: Working with Tech-Savvy Kids

Working with Tech-Savvy Kids article in Educational Leadership

ASCD’s magazine Educational Leadership has opened up our article Working with Tech-Savvy Kids for free online access. We really appreciate this!

Today’s students are increasingly savvy about the role technology plays in modern life. Yet schools are not keeping up. Students can be valuable resources in the areas of training and support. Five models have emerged that balance the benefits of service learning and leadership with the needs of schools struggling to integrate technology: students as committee members, students as trainers, students as technical support agents, students as resource developers and communicators, and students as peer mentors and leaders.

The article gives five models of student leadership that can support 21st century learning in schools, with case studies from real schools who use students as leaders, teachers, mentors, and advocates. There is lots more in the article, but here’s a quick “Getting Started” list for student leadership teams focused on technology.

Getting Started

Creating a plan that includes students in school technology decision making and implementation is just the first step. Keep the following in mind:

  • Provide student access to training, hardware, and software as needed.
  • Give students adequate time and attention to help them grow into their new roles. They will not automatically know how to participate in these opportunities. Encourage a student-led culture with real responsibility that increasingly challenges students to step up and prove themselves. Reward proven responsibility with increased trust.
  • Don’t forget your younger students. It’s never too early for authentic learning opportunities, and these students can be surprisingly helpful with concrete, well-defined tasks.
  • Plan for turnover. Continually recruit and train new students. Allow veteran student leaders to mentor new recruits.
  • Look for ways to encourage long-term student involvement. Make student involvement part of a credit-bearing class, which counts toward graduation or service-learning credits. This involvement can also take the form of independent study or an internship.
  • Create an adult advisory position. This person should have a passion for student empowerment. The advisor will monitor participation, recruit and train new members, and facilitate group activities.
  • Be sure to include school administration and staff in planning for any for-credit student tech-support classes or similar courses. School counselors need to know that these classes will have high expectations for students to participate, collaborate, and be independent thinkers and leaders. Create a plan to recruit students and persevere, even if the classes are small to begin with.
  • Don’t mistake the ease with which youth today use technology in their everyday lives for knowing how to use it in education settings. Teach them the appropriate use of technology and its role in enhancing learning.

Working with Tech-Savvy Kids article (Educational Leadership) – Enjoy!

Sylvia

Digital Citizenship Includes Rights as Well as Responsibilities

“Although not all American adults feel this way, the United States seems to have more respect for the rights of parents, schools and authorities than it does for the rights of children. And this includes control over what children can see and where they can express themselves by limiting access to certain websites including (in the case of schools) social networking sites. And while I fully understand the inclination to protect children from inappropriate content and disclosing too much personal information, adults need to find ways to be protective without being controlling. That’s a tough balance but one worth thinking about as we struggle for ways to parent and educate in the digital age while respecting the rights of young people.

So, as we go forward to discuss digital citizenship, let’s remember that citizenship is a two-way street. Citizens do have responsibilities but they also have rights.”

via Larry Magid: Digital Citizenship Includes Rights as Well as Responsibilities.

Blaming the new new thing for an old old problem

In Growing Up Digital, Wired for Distraction in the New York Times last month, reporter Matt Richtel opened up a gold mine of frustrated parents, educators and brain researchers all blaming digital devices for distracting youth from their real jobs of getting good grades and doing what they are told. I guess before radio cars TV phones computers no youth ever failed to do their chores or complete their homework. How shortsighted and forgetful are we as a culture?

The obligatory human interest lead-in to the story, Vishal Singh, a soon-to-be high-school senior, is initially portrayed as someone being led down the dark path of destruction by his wanton digital ways. He plays computer games for 10 hours a week (OMG,) hasn’t read an assigned book, and he has a Facebook account that sometimes he updates at 2AM. This is obviously a life going down the drain.

In the modern day equivalent of “your face might freeze that way,” the article quotes brain researchers who claim that young brains are being permanently harmed by multi-tasking.

The same article that claims that youth can’t pay attention to anything because of all the stimulation also portrays young Vishal Singh as someone deeply involved in digital film-making and storytelling. In fact, he gets A’s in those subjects and is pursuing it for college and career. He’s also the on-call tech support and web designer for his family.

So which is it people, computers cause your brain to decay or not? Perhaps it only causes brain rot in things that are of no interest to you? I hardly think it’s the computer that is causing good grades and deep learning in subjects of interest, and bad grades in subjects this young man does not care as deeply about. Seriously, this is new? Do I have to find a quote from Plato or Socrates complaining about how youth don’t pay attention nowadays (and probably blaming it on newfangled stone tablets?)

After a few other examples of students who text, play video games or do other horrifying things like get B’s, the article revisits Vishal. He is editing video for a school project, meticulously crafting a few seconds to convey the precise feeling and tone that he wants. He doesn’t check Facebook, he doesn’t get distracted  – amazingly enough, his brain seems to function just fine. He is neglecting his other homework, though, Latin and an economics essay. The article comes to a remarkable conclusion – that the difference is “interactivity”. Sigh.

This is so obviously wrong that it’s almost dumb. It’s not about clicking on stuff, or even brains or computers, it’s about interest and having an amazing tool at your fingertips. The computer is unlocking the world to young people, and it’s a bit more interesting than Latin worksheets. The computer is also the right tool for the student who IS interested in Latin or economics, bringing them together with others of like mind and doing actual work.

Do I believe that youth should be free to do whatever they want with no limits or expectations? No, that’s just a silly exaggeration. I believe that using computers and technology, youth have extraordinary new access to communities of interest, expertise, and choices. And what I would like to see is that people stop blaming computers and vilifying youth just because they have their own unique interests and goals, and use the tools of the day to reach them.

Sylvia

Finding good learning games

Often teachers ask me what kinds of games help kids learn. I know they want a list of “good” games, so they can avoid the “bad” ones. But the problem is that to answer the question, “what’s a good game for learning?” – you really have to start with, “what do you mean by learning?” Now that’s a difficult, downright philosophical question that gets tough right away. But to really talk about whether games have anything to do with learning, and if they can help, you have to ask it.

We also know that most people talking about learning games these days are talking about video games, since they seem to have extraordinary abilities to enthrall kids for long periods of time. It’s obvious that when you play video games, you learn. You learn rules, you gain experience that allows you to adjust your play for greater success, etc. So when you look at educational games, you have to decide if this translates to the kind of learning that you believe in.

There are lots of educational games that use the vocabulary and look of games to create a game-like experience, except that it’s not really fun (unless you already know the answers.) Dragging or shooting things (the correct fraction, igneous rocks, the matching chemical symbol)  is not a game, it’s a fancy worksheet. So – do you believe worksheets and flashcards are good for learning or busywork? Putting it on a screen with 3D graphics should not change your answer to that question.

Do you believe in practice? Alfie Kohn says, “…practicing doesn’t create understanding.” If you have kids who can’t multiply, or haven’t grasped the concept of fractions, will shooting at the right answers with a galactic flamethrower help?

Do you believe in chocolate-covered broccoli? Do students have to be tricked into thinking that they are doing something fun to learn something important?

So the answer to the question, “what’s a good game for learning ____” – is not so simple as a list. It has to be answered with the question – “what do I believe about learning?” leading the way.

  • Do you believe learning is about making meaning – or memorizing?
  • Do you believe that learning is natural, or that children have to be tricked and cajoled into learning?
  • Do you believe that math is a set of skills – or deeper understanding of concepts?
  • Do you believe that faster answers are better answers?
  • Do you believe history is memorizing facts – or understanding complex relationships between events?
  • Do you believe “time on task” is a good measure of learning?
  • Do you believe that vocabulary can and should be learned without context?
  • Do you believe that practice creates understanding?

Even when teachers hear this, they say, “but surely practice is good reinforcement”, “if they gain speed and automaticity on easy problems, they can tackle harder ones”,  or “some students are so far behind they really need the practice” – to which I can only quote Alfie Kohn again, “In reality, it’s the children who don’t understand the underlying concepts who most need an approach to teaching that’s geared to deep understanding.  The more they’re given algorithms and told exactly what to do, the farther behind they fall in terms of grasping these concepts.” (my emphasis)

What this says to me is that using practice to reinforce skills may actually undermine a student’s confidence in their own thought process. They may come to look at learning as a rote skill that is supposed to be automatic, not thoughtful, something that if not immediately obvious, is unreachable.

So finding good games, then, means finding games that reinforce the style of learning that you believe in. Which, in a sea of hype about the benefits of educational games, might not be as easy as it looks!

What do you believe about learning?

Sylvia

TEDxRedmond videos online – for youth, by youth

Videos are now online from the first TEDx event developed for kids, by kids, TEDxRedmond. On Saturday, Sept 18, 2010, over 400 young people attended and were treated to an amazing lineup of accomplished speakers all under the age of 16. The Twittersphere was lit up with praise for the inspirational messages from each and every speaker. We at Generation YES are very proud to have co-sponsored this first ever TEDx  “for kids by kids.”

Now you too can see what the excitement was all about! Check out the great videos, more to come!

Sylvia

Here’s just one… Jordan Romero on Climbing Mt. Everest.

Watch more videos from TEDxRedmond

Youth Risk Online – Why Engage Youth in Bullying Prevention?

A prevalent view of education is that young people are empty vessels and schools simply open up their heads and pour in knowledge. Unfortunately this is a vision of education that is not serving us well in the 21st century. For a few students, this clearly works, but for many, this is a futile effort — made worse by an increasing focus on testing a few subjects at the expense of high-interest subjects like art and music.

By looking at students as objects to be changed, we lose many opportunities for students to be agents of change. Our society needs change agents — people who care about others, citizens, voters, creative imaginers and leaders. Where will they come from if we don’t allow young people to explore these roles?

Bullying prevention is an opportunity to engage youth in becoming change agents for an important cause, one that impacts them directly. However, lecturing them about rules or organizing pep rallies for kindness misses the mark.

To truly engage youth in bullying prevention, we must take the risk of turning some of the power over to them and allow them to be part of the solution. For example, some students can create their own presentations about bullying or participate in peer mediation. Students listen to other students much more about these subjects than adults, and identify information from peers as more truthful. Involving youth in solutions where they DO something important allows adults to steer youth towards the right answers and good behavior, instead of just lecturing. As adults and youth work together, learning and teaching merge, and youth find new empathy for others.

This kind of engagement requires long-term commitments and caring adults with talent in youth development. However, it pays off when youth develop real skills, compassion, and responsibility.

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Next week I’ll be in Seattle presenting as part of a day-long pre-conference panel on Youth Risk Online: Issues and Solutions at the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) November 15-17 in Seattle, Washington. I was asked to contribute 300 words to a handout for the participants and thought I’d share them here too!

Sylvia

Cyberbullying event in Seattle

Next week I’ll be in Seattle presenting as part of a day-long pre-conference panel on Youth Risk Online: Issues and Solutions at the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) November 15-17 in Seattle, Washington. This is a in-depth look at a topic that’s both timely and important for everyone, not just technology using educators.

Last week I posted the details and the list of participants (I’m totally honored to be in this nationally known all-star lineup!).

If you are in the Seattle area, this is a must-attend event for anyone involved with school technology. The issue is timely and the answers aren’t simple. There is no “one size fits all” solution for building the solid policies and practices that reduce risk and expand opportunities for students in the 21st century.

Please consider attending – and if you do, say hi!

Sylvia

Youth risk online: International Bullying Prevention Conference – Seattle

I’ve been invited to participate in a day-long pre-conference panel on Youth Risk Online: Issues and Solutions at the International Bullying Prevention Association (IBPA) November 15-17 in Seattle, Washington. This is a in-depth look at a topic that’s both timely and important. But I’m most excited about getting to meet the other panelists. These are some of the most respected names in this area, people who are on the front lines of making schools (and the world) a safer, better place for kids. (List below)

The focus will be on positive action and clear information – not scare tactics. Cyberbullying has become a hot topic with media and there is a lot of conflicting information for parents and educators to sift through. We hope to sort some of this out and release a document afterwards that summarizes the event.

The day will be broken up into sections covering:

  • The Challenges. The presentation of current research and on-the-ground insight into the risks being faced by young people online.
  • Positive School and Online Climate. Developing an all-school approach to interpersonal relationships that will support both a positive school climate and enhance positive online interactions.
  • Engaging Youth. Strategies to engage youth in developing the understanding and skills to ensure their competence in the online world and enlisting their assistance to others.
  • Investigations and Interventions. Addressing the specific concerns of investigating and intervening in youth risk online issues that are impacting schools.
  • The Larger Cyberworld. Expanding the discussion to include necessary insight on what is happening in other arenas including government, non-governmental organizations, initiatives addressing universal literacy, and the efforts of industry.

If you are a person responsible for your school or district’s policies in this area, this is a MUST ATTEND event.

The participants
I apologize for not linking all these names up, but it’s just too much work and they are all easily found!

Andrew Agatston is an attorney in private practice in Marietta, Georgia, whose civil trial practice includes representing crime victims, victims of bullying and other acts of aggression, and those who are otherwise intentionally harmed by others. He has also attempted to advise and assist those who have been targets of cyber bullying, encouraging non-litigation and dispute resolution as potential solutions.

Patricia Agatston is co-author of the book, Cyber Bullying: Bullying in the Digital Age with Robin Kowalski, Ph.D., and Susan Limber, Ph.D. that was recently published by Wiley – Blackwell Publishers. She is also co-author of the Cyber Bullying Curriculum for Grades 6 – 12 and the Cyber Bullying Prevention Curriculum for Grades 3 – 5. Patti is a certified trainer and technical assistance consultant for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program and a Licensed Professional Counselor and Prevention Specialist with the Cobb County School District’s Prevention/ Intervention Center in Marietta, Georgia. She is also on the board of the International Bullying Prevention Association.

Warren J. Blumenfeld, Ed.D., is Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University in Ames, Iowa specializing in Multicultural and International Curriculum Studies; & Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies. He is co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice; Co-Editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States; Editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price; and Co-author of Looking at Gay and Lesbian Life.

Linda Burch leads Common Sense Media’s education, program and strategy development efforts and has been the architect of the organization’s digital media strategy. In this role, she is coordinating the efforts of researchers and risk prevention professionals, along with professionals in instructional design and parent education to create new resources to support universal education for students and parents on digital media literacy. Linda received her MBA from Stanford University and her bachelor’s degree from Yale University.

Anne Collier is editor of NetFamilyNews.org, co-director of ConnectSafely.org, and founder and executive director of Net Family News. She co-authored with SafeKids.com’s Larry Magid the first parents’ guide to teen social networking, MySpace Unraveled (Peachpit Press, 2006). She served as co-chair of the Obama administration’s Online Safety & Technology Working Group, which sent its report to Congress in June 2010; on the Harvard Berkman Center’s 2008 Internet Safety Technical Task Force; and currently serves on the advisory boards of several national and international nonprofit child advocacy organizations.

Det. Frank Dannahey is a 29 year veteran of Law Enforcement; assigned to the Youth Division of the Rocky Hill, Connecticut Police Department for the past 20 years. Frank holds a BS Degree and received numerous State/Federal training in Child Computer Crimes & Exploitation. He has done numerous trainings on Internet safety topics for the past 11 years; both locally and nationally. His expertise resulted in him being featured on several National TV Broadcasts and National Publications.

Stan Davis worked with abused and grieving children and trained Child Protective Workers. He designed and implemented training for rape crisis centers and collaborated with police to develop interventions for domestic abuse. Since 1985 he has worked as a school counselor at all grade levels. Since the mid-1990s, he has worked to prevent bullying. He has written two books: Schools Where Everyone Belongs and Empowering Bystanders in Bullying Prevention. In 1985 he became a school counselor. After working in High School and Middle School he moved to the James H. Bean elementary school in Sidney, Maine, where he continues to work three days a week. With Dr. Charisse Nixon, Stan is co-leading the Youth Voice Research Project, which has collected information from more than 11,000 young people in the United States about what works and what doesn’t work in bullying prevention.

Mike Donlin has been involved in education for over 30 years, having taught all grade levels from kindergarten through university courses. Mike was with Seattle Public Schools from 1980 until 2010. He taught in classrooms and supervised a variety of programs throughout the District. He was a Program Administrator with Seattle Public Schools, with the job title of “Senior Program Consultant.” His position was split between the Learning and Teaching and the Operations/Tech Services sides of the district. In that capacity, Mike managed Federal Title IID Enhancing Education Through Technology programs and worked in Prevention-Intervention bully prevention programs, with an emphasis on internet safety and cyberbullying. Mike has shifted his activities into research, consulting, and professional development related to youth risk online and educational technology concerns.

Elizabeth Englander is a professor of Psychology & the founder & Director of the Massachusetts Aggression Reduction Center at Bridgewater State College, which delivers free anti-bullying programs, resources, & research for the state of Massachusetts. A National Merit Scholar & Phi Beta Kappan, she is a nationally recognized expert in the area of bullying & cyberbullying & the author of “Understanding Violence” & more than 3 dozen articles.

Dr. Lance Gibbon is a 19-year public school educator in Washington State. Dr. Gibbon is a former music teacher in the Lake Washington School District, where he also served as assistant principal and technology staff developer. He moved to Anacortes in 2000, where he worked as an elementary principal for 7 years. Dr. Gibbon earned his doctorate in education from Seattle Pacific University in 2007 and has taught School Law for administrators as an SPU adjunct professor. Since 2007, Dr. Gibbon has been the Assistant Superintendent in the Oak Harbor School District.

Sameer Hinduja is an Associate Professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Florida Atlantic University and Co-Director of the Cyberbullying Research Center (www.cyberbullying.us). He works nationally and internationally with the private and public sector to reduce online victimization and its real-world consequences. His research has been featured in hundreds of print and online articles around the world, as well as on radio and TV. Sameer has written two books, his latest entitled Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying (co-authored with Justin W. Patchin), and his interdisciplinary research is widely published in a number of peer-reviewed academic journals.

Lisa Jones is a Research Assistant Professor of Psychology at UNH. She has over 10 years experience conducting research on child victimization and evaluating national, state, and community-level responses to youth. Lisa recently received a grant from NIJ to conduct a process evaluation of Internet safety prevention education programs. She is author or co-author on several papers on Internet crimes against children as well as numerous papers on other aspects of child victimization.

Rebekah Sills Lamm is a Youth Education Specialist at Texas School Safety Center. She trains a variety of community stakeholders including parents, educators, administrators, counselors, law enforcement, and students on the issues surrounding Internet safety, cyberbullying, and the importance of cultural inclusion. Rebekah believes that every student deserves safe, quality, equitable education, and has dedicated her career to making that a reality for Texas children. In order for our youth to do their absolute best, they need the healthiest, safest schools possible. Rebekah has worked with youth in some capacity since 2002. She received her M.A. in American Studies from Baylor University in 2007 and taught at the college level prior to joining TxSSC in 2008.

Larry Magid. Ed.D., is a technology journalist and an Internet safety advocate. He serves as onair technology analyst for CBS News, is co-director of ConnectSafely.org and founder of SafeKids.com. He writes columns that appear on CNET News, CBSNews.com, Huffington Post and the San Jose Mercury News. Larry has written or co-written numerous books including MySpace Unraveled: A parents guide to teen social networking. He’s a board member of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and a member of the of the Obama administration’s Online Safety & Technology Working Group, where he chairs the education sub-committee.

Sylvia Martinez is President of Generation YES, evangelizing student involvement in education reform through technology integration and service learning. GenYES students use their digital age knowledge to make their schools better places for learning by helping teachers, peer mentoring, and doing tech support. Prior to joining Generation YES, Sylvia developed video and educational games and was an aerospace engineer. She holds a Master’s in Educational Technology from Pepperdine and a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering from UCLA.

Donnel Nunes is a behavioral health specialist in Hawaii. His focus is exploring ways to incorporate technology and media into mental health practice. He regularly uses film, music, and other creative software to foster engagement, increase disclosure, and collect data. Recently, he published a paper titled, “Technology and the Adolescent: Pairing Modern Media and Technology with Mental Health Practice.” He is currently a PhD candidate in Educational Psychology at the University of Hawai‘i.

Justin Patchin is an Associate Professor of Criminal Justice in the Department of Political Science at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. He has presented on various topics relating to juvenile justice, school violence, policy and program evaluation, and adolescent Internet use and misuse at academic conferences and training seminars across the United States. His most recent book Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying (coauthored with Sameer Hinduja), examines the ways adolescents use technology to cause harm to their peers (and what adults can do about it).

Kim P. Sanchez, Sr. Audience Marketing Manager, Microsoft Corporation. Kim Sanchez is a Senior Audience Marketing Manager in the Trustworthy Computing group at Microsoft Corporation. She is responsible for strategic communications to worldwide consumer and government audiences on Microsoft’s work in computer privacy, security and online safety.

Robin Sax is a former LA County Prosecutor. Robin authored six books, including “Predators and Child Molesters.” Robin is a sought after speaker on child & internet safety, cyberbullying, and the criminal justice system – to name a few topics. Robin has appeared on dozens of national shows, including: Dr. Phil show, Tyra Banks, CNN Larry King, HLN Nancy Grace, Today Show and many others! Robin is now an NBC Legal Analyst.

Nancy Willard has degrees in special education and law. She taught “at risk” children, practiced computer law, and was an educational technology consultant before focusing her professional attention on issues of youth risk online and effective management of student Internet use. Nancy is author of two books: Cyberbullying and Cyberthreats and Cyber-Safe Kids, Cyber-Savvy Teens, numerous articles, and professional development videos.

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This is going to be one amazing and informative day!

If you are a person responsible for your school or district’s policies in this area, this is a MUST ATTEND event. Hope to see you there!

Sylvia

Open myths, closed responses about ‘digital natives’

The latest issue of the Journal of Computer Assisted Learning (Volume 26, Issue 5 – October 2010 – Wiley Online Library) has a special section of articles on various aspects of the “net generation” and “digital natives”. This is a topic I’ve written about a couple of times, noting that while students may be facile with technology it doesn’t mean they know anything about it. This myth creates misunderstandings and false generational prejudices that may seduce educators into feeling that youth don’t need their guidance and wisdom in this area, when in fact, the exact opposite is true. It also creates excuses for teachers to deny that technology must be incorporated into classrooms. (see Digital natives/immigrants – how much do we love this slogan?)

The Journal has some fabulous looking articles – but I can’t read them. Most of you can’t read them either. It’s a closed journal. Sorry, only for academics and researchers. Here’s the problem. The “digital native” myth is being perpetuated in popular culture, books, and keynote speeches, all easily accessible. These rebuttals, well-researched (I assume), peer-reviewed, and not sensationalized, are locked behind closed doors.

So when teachers hear that the curriculum is being modified to meet the needs of “digital natives” – what can they do? When educators present at conferences about this issue, should they cite the abstract to refute the silly (but free) sloganeering? When they talk to friends, neighbors, teachers, or the school board who think that kids “brains are different now” can they pull from a deep knowledge of brand new, relevant research? No – it’s not available.

I’ve taken the liberty to cut and paste the abstracts from the articles here. But’s that all we get!

Beyond the ‘digital natives’ debate: Towards a more nuanced understanding of students’ technology experiences Bennett, S. and Maton, K. – The idea of the ‘digital natives’, a generation of tech-savvy young people immersed in digital technologies for which current education systems cannot cater, has gained widespread popularity on the basis of claims rather than evidence. Recent research has shown flaws in the argument that there is an identifiable generation or even a single type of highly adept technology user. For educators, the diversity revealed by these studies provides valuable insights into students’ experiences of technology inside and outside formal education. While this body of work provides a preliminary understanding, it also highlights subtleties and complexities that require further investigation. It suggests, for example, that we must go beyond simple dichotomies evident in the digital natives debate to develop a more sophisticated understanding of our students’ experiences of technology. Using a review of recent research findings as a starting point, this paper identifies some key issues for educational researchers, offers new ways of conceptualizing key ideas using theoretical constructs from Castells, Bourdieu and Bernstein, and makes a case for how we need to develop the debate in order to advance our understanding.

Beyond natives and immigrants: exploring types of net generation students G. Kennedy, T. Judd, B. Dalgarno and J. Waycott – Previously assumed to be a homogenous and highly skilled group with respect to information and communications technology, the so-called Net Generation has instead been shown to possess a diverse range of technology skills and preferences. To better understand this diversity, we subjected data from 2096 students aged between 17 and 26 from three Australian universities to a cluster analysis. Through this analysis, we identified four distinct types of technology users: power users (14% of sample), ordinary users (27%), irregular users (14%) and basic users (45%). A series of exploratory chi-square analyses revealed significant associations between the different types of technology users and the university that students attended, their gender and age and whether the student was local or international. No associations were found for analyses related discipline area, socio-economic status or rurality of residence. The findings are discussed in light of the rhetoric associated with commentaries about the Net Generation, and suggestions about their implications for teaching and learning in universities are offered.

Net generation students: agency and choice and the new technologies C. Jones and G. Healing – Based on research investigating English first-year university students, this paper examined the case made for a new generation of young learners often described as the Net Generation or Digital Natives in terms of agency and choice. Generational arguments set out a case that links young people’s attitudes and orientations to their lifelong exposure to networked and digital technologies. This paper drew on interview data from mixed methods research to suggest that the picture is more complex than the equation of exposure to new technologies and a generational change of attitudes and capacities. Starting from the position that interaction with technology is mediated by activity and an intentional stance, we examined the choices students make with regard to the technologies they engage with. We explored the perceived constraints students face and the way they either comply or resist such constraints. We concluded that agency actively shapes student engagement with technology but that an adequate conception of agency must expand beyond the person and the self to include notions of collective agency identifying the meso level as an activity system that mediates between the students and their technological setting.

Debunking the ‘digital native’: beyond digital apartheid, towards digital democracy – This paper interrogates the currently pervasive discourse of the ‘net generation’ finding the concept of the ‘digital native’ especially problematic, both empirically and conceptually. We draw on a research project of South African higher education students’ access to and use of Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) to show that age is not a determining factor in students’ digital lives; rather, their familiarity and experience using ICTs is more relevant. We also demonstrate that the notion of a generation of ‘digital natives’ is inaccurate: those with such attributes are effectively a digital elite. Instead of a new net generation growing up to replace an older analogue generation, there is a deepening digital divide in South Africa characterized not by age but by access and opportunity; indeed, digital apartheid is alive and well. We suggest that the possibility for digital democracy does exist in the form of a mobile society which is not age specific, and which is ubiquitous. Finally, we propose redefining the concepts ‘digital’, ‘net’, ‘native’, and ‘generation’ in favour of reclaiming the term ‘digitizen’.

via Journal of Computer Assisted Learning – Volume 26, Issue 5 – October 2010 – Wiley Online Library.

Sylvia