The readings for this week’s coursework were all focused around the idea of digital nativism and generational differences in technology. Many will read passing news stories online about the new generation and how they are fundamentally different from previous generation. These stories will often cite journal articles that make claims regarding the differences between the new “techy” generation. However, there really is no concrete evidence that there is a physiological difference in the brains of the new “digital native” generation versus the “digital immigrant.” The evidence that is cited in these articles is based on data that is collected through surveys and through preferences, so I think the only concrete thing that can be said is that the “digital native” generation has a preference for technology in comparison to previous generations.
The first article, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, by Marc Prensky, writes an article that is an interesting and fast read, but contains little substance with regard to evidence to make his claim. According to Prensky, environment shapes the physiology of the brain and causes the brains of digital natives to be different than those whose brains have not been exposed at that level. His claim is based off of research done by Dr. Bruce D. Perry; however, that research was on traumatic events causing brain restructuring, not the influence of technology or other stimuli. While I think what Prensky writes about could be true and might be great to hypothesize, it is invalid to make these claims without evidence to back them up. I think that this article is more an opinion that is formed from what can be seen between behavioral differences between generations regarding technology. While younger people may seem more at-ease with technology, that doesn’t mean that their brains have adapted to this stimulus. One thing that I appreciated about his article, coming from a teacher’s perspective, is the idea of legacy and future courses. I like the idea of balancing both types of learning because there is importance in learning classics (Algebra, World Cultures, etc.) to build the foundation for learning the “future” in things such as technology and current events.
In the second resource, Digital Nativism, an article by Jamie McKenzie, the idea of digital native vs immigrant is confronted. McKenzie first points out the errors in Prensky’s article discussed above, bringing to light the lack of evidence for his claims and his ignorance to other studies refuting his claim. In addition to this, McKenzie also brings to light the questionable nature of quoting Dr. Perry in the article, describing that he studies traumatic brain incidences and not technology use on the brain. She also discusses the use of sometimes insulting wording when describing “digital immigrants,” often described as not being fun and being resistant to change. While this is unfair, it is also without base (like the rest of Prensky’s article). I think that reading McKenzie’s article following Pensky’s allows the reader to critically think about the topic. As McKenzie discusses, Pensky’s views are simple-minded and easy to connect with so many will take it as the truth; however, simple-minded doesn’t mean correct, and McKenzie does an excellent job of debunking the unbased claims in Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants.
The third article was, in my opinion, the best to read of the three because it was informational and looked at both sides of this discussion. To me, it seemed the least opinionated and the most fact-based. This particular publication, Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design, the author (Prof. Thomas Reeves) looks at the topics discussed in the previous articles and seeks to answer a variety of questions regarding technology use in instruction. This literature review seeks to determine whether or not instructional design practices should be changed based on research conducted regarding the newer generations (Net Generation). I think what is interesting about Reeves’s review is that extensive research is presented in a very objective way. While Net Gen’ers might prefer to utilize technology in their learnings, there is no determination from current research that instruction should be changed to reflect these preferences. There is no empirical evidence stating that learning occurs differently for Net Gen’s or that instruction should be changed for future generations. However, Reeves does bring up that there are many areas for potential research in this field to uncover more about technology and it’s effect of the brain.
Overall, I found this week’s articles to be extremely helpful in deciphering the facts from fiction regarding technology and learning. As I discussed earlier, the common understanding is that younger people learn better with technology; however, this claim is not based on research or evidence. Instead, it is an empty assumption. While people may have preferences for their learning, there is no necessity to cater learning for specific audiences based on age. I think of the three articles, Reeves wrote the best review for meandering through this topic and making sense of the literature that is out there and the literature that is valid.
-Have a good one!