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Wednesday, August 02, 2017

The digital native is a myth | Nature - Editorial

"The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people — and is no better at multitasking" writes Nature, in Volume 547 Number 7664.
 

Exposure to technology does not make young people digital natives.
Photo: Thomas Trutschel/Photothek/Getty

Some people put the cut-off at 1984, but for most it is 1980. People born after that date are the digital natives; those born before are digital immigrants, doomed to be forever strangers in a computer-based strange land.

The generational difference between the groups goes beyond their numbers of Facebook friends and Twitter followers: it can also help to explain differences in how they buy insurance. At least, that’s according to a report released this week for the insurance industry. Targeting Millennials with Insurance explains that young people aren’t like those who came before and queued passively for cover. They “prioritize holidays”, for one, which might surprise some of them. Because they are digital natives, they “will favor technologically innovative insurance policies”.

But a paper published last month in Teaching and Teacher Education reaches the opposite conclusion. The digital native is a myth, it claims: a yeti with a smartphone (P. A. Kirschner and P. D. Bruyckere Teach. Teach. Educ. 67, 135–142; 2017). The implications go beyond insurance. Many schools and universities are retooling to cope with kids and young adults who are supposedly different. From collaborative learning in the classroom to the provision of e-learning modules in undergraduate courses, the rise of the digital native is being used as a reason — some say a justification — for significant policy changes.

Education policy is particularly vulnerable to political whims, fads and untested assumptions. From swapping evolution for creationism to the idea that multiple types of intelligence demand multiple approaches, generations of children are schooled according to dogma, not evidence. Surveys show, for example, that teachers and education experts subscribe to dozens of different and opposing ‘learning styles’. Under these, children can be categorized as activists or theorists, organizers or innovators, non-committers or plungers, globalists or analysts, deep or surface learners, and so on. Could the latest example be altering access to, and the provision of, technology in the classroom, simply because a new cohort is believed to be more familiar with it? 
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Source: Nature 


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