Recently I have been working on articles about ‘web 2.0′ technologies and practices in relation to education and also been engaging in discussions of youth and their use of ICT (where terms such as the Net Generation, Digital Natives, The New Millennium Learners, Power Users etc. are prevalent in the debate).
In relation to the latter, I have just read the article “The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence” by Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin (which I would recommend). The authors criticise the ideas of stark generational discontinuities between a group of IT-savvy, young ‘digital natives’ and ‘digital immigrants’ who lack the technological fluency of the ‘digital natives’. The distinction has been heralded by e.g. Mark Prensky who has argued that the ‘language’ and cultural gap between the two generations is one of the biggest challenges the educational sector faces to today:
“[...] the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language.” (Prensky, 2001, p. 2)
Similar claims have been made in relation to some of the other broad generational labels mentioned above and Bennett, Maton & Kervin elegantly summarise these claims:
“1. Young people of the digital native generation possess sophisticated knowledge of and skills with information technologies.
2. As a result of their upbringing and experiences with technology, digital natives have particular learning preferences or styles that differ from earlier generations of students.”
In general they argue that the claims and assumptions are based on ‘limited empirical evidence‘ and basically ‘supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs‘. On basis of a review of existing research on youth and their use of technology they conclude: