The Digital Native Debate

I found the article on The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence by Sue Bennett, Karl Maton and Lisa Kervin to be very interesting as it speaks to the generation of learners we interact with today. I found it interesting that in their study only 21% of students “…were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.” (Bennett, Maton, Kervin, 778).

I found this statistic interesting as it really spoke to my experiences teaching these past few years. This year I found that students are very adept with searching for content (not always credible) and exploring the Internet for resources, using multiple forms of technology; cell phone, tablets, desktop computers. But when it comes to actually creating something; such as a balance sheet, a business letter highlighting a new service offered, or inputting data into a database, they struggle because they have to think on their own and create this content from scratch.

Yes, our “digital natives” are becoming very adept with multitasking and searching for content. But with all the resources and different avenues available to them to view content they are losing the ability to learn how to actually create the content that they are viewing. We as educators have to find a way not just to teach them how to search for content, but how to create at the same time.

An assignment such as finding an article on today’s unemployment rate and blogging about its effects on the economy after reading this article is just one way to tap into their creativity, not just having students search for information and listen to others talk about it in class while the other 25 students listen to one viewpoint. Every student needs to be able to search for information and synthesize this new learning into their own creation.

I still come to the question of how do we get students more optimistic about creating their own content rather than just searching and using someone else’s words. This happens both with classwork and homework. I guess it will be a constant struggle, but that is one question I would love to have answered. I personally, am tired of having “incompletes” for homework grades because students do not want to but their own thoughts and opinions outside of the regular class session.

-John V
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