Technology and Social Media Impacts on Learning Behaviors of Digital Natives
One of the topics I found most engaging while covering the materials in this course was the topic of Digital Natives, and what sort of challenges they may present to librarians and educators. Young people today grow up surrounded by technology that allows a constant online presence, which has resulted in a generation that has grown up with a very different experience with information sharing from previous generations. Consequently, students today need to be taught both how to use these technologies effectively, and to understand the implications of their actions.
Digital Natives have a different way of viewing information, where they see bits of information as part of a stream, and they are always searching for connections. They find digital media to be just as valid as traditional print media, and they are very social, despite the fact that they spend less time in face to face conversation. Although there are these behavioral differences, there is no evidence that they are physiologically different, this simply have developed different cognitive processes.
It is important to realize that although students today have grown up with technology, it doesn’t mean they are all experts at using it. Their skill level and usage of technology varies, but they generally have the same expectations. Digital Natives expect to be able to conduct Google searches or access Facebook on their smartphones, iPads, laptops where ever they go. They often prefer to communicate through text, rather than on the phone.
One of their greatest strengths is their willingness to experiment with technology. They have grown up knowing that most things they do with technology can be undone easily, and this gives them the courage to explore. Interestingly, although Digital Natives use text based messaging frequently for communicating, studies have found that they do not perform as well with distance learning as other groups. Most of them prefer the direct interaction with their peers while in the classroom.
The best skills that can be taught to the Digital Natives would be strong critical thinking and the ability to self educate themselves on emerging technologies in the future. As for resources and tools to be provided, search tools need to be able to access many types of media, not just the traditional books, journals, and databases. They should be able to find video, audio, images, streaming media, and other new forms as well. These tools should also be easy to use, and behave in a fashion similar to the search engines they already use. If they are too difficult to use, students will not want to use them.
Not only do the students need to be able to educate themselves in the future, but educators and librarians need to be able to do so as well. It is important to prepare the students, but they are not so radically different that it is necessary to do a complete overhaul of the way they are educated. New processes can be integrated into existing ones to make the change less jarring to those who have to execute them.
The technology that surrounds Digital Natives today certainly has an effect on their behavior, but they are not physically different from previous generations. They view information in different patterns, and they often don’t seem to understand or value copyrights. Educators should be prepared to make changes to the tools they provide students, and to address new technologies in the future, but at this time critical thinking skills should be the priority. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of Digital Natives, and is one of the lessons that will best prepare them for their future.
Photos by courosa, trustypics, and hollysuewho.