Matt Lingard’s blog

Staff, Students & Social Web

A report into “the impact on higher education of students’ widespread use of Web 2.0 technologies”, Higher Education in a Web2.0 World was published last week.

Both staff and students, according to the report, are struggling to see how social web technologies can be applied to learning.  It also highlights that face-to-face teaching really matters to students and I’m pretty certain this is true of teachers too!

However, the report suggests that there is a digital divide between students and teaching staff in terms of more general usage of social technologies.  While this is undoubtedly true to a certain extent, there is also a danger of overstating it.  It’s like the digital native – digital immigrant labelling, it just isn’t that simple.  Many students don’t engage with digital technologies and many teachers do.

Anyway, there is a need, as the report indicates, for staff to:

  1. be technically proficient, i.e. capable of using social web technologies
  2. make effective use of these technologies for teaching/learning (effective e-pedagogies)
  3. keep up-to-date with ongoing developments as web-based ‘resources’ continue to grow

The report goes on to suggest that students could help with this.  There is some mileage in this, particularly for 1).  But in terms of e-pedagogies it seems more likely that for a while to come  students will continue to look to teachers for this?


Digital Natives a myth?

I’ve just finished reading Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning (PDF) by Anoush Margaryan & Alison Littlejohn.

I’ve written before about my scepticism of the whole ‘digital natives’ idea:  a new generation of students who having grown up with ICT, “have sophisticated technology skills and a whole new set of cognitive capacities”. The findings of this study show that:

…many young students are far from being the epitomic global, connected, socially-networked technologically-fluent digital native who has little patience for passive and linear forms of learning…

…The majority of students use a limited range of technologies for formal and informal learning as well as
socialising. These are mainly established ICTs – institutional VLE, Google and Wikipedia and mobile phones…

…As students look to their lecturers for clues as to how to use technology tools for learning, many lecturers are unaware of the potential of these tools, since they themselves are not using emergent technologies for their own learning and work…

I was slightly suprised to read that poor access to technology, in both classrooms & at home was still an issue for staff and students.  Further barriers to staff use of technology included the old chestnut time,  as well as a reluctance to change and issues around IT Skills.  Interestingly not solely a lack of skills but, for some, a belief that quite advanced IT skills are needed to incorporate technology into teaching.

Digital Footprints

Dublin sidewalk
Dublin sidewalk

I recently ran an ‘Emerging technologies’ workshop for Careers Advisers working in HE in Ireland, with Kezia Richmond from the LSE Careers Service.  One of the topics we raised was digital footprints and whether Careers Advisers should be advising students on this topic.  The overall feeling was yes! with people coming at it from two angles.

Firstly, students might want to think about creating a positive online presence for prospective employers to find when they Google them… which I’m sure they do even if they say otherwise.  So, for example, comments on work-related blog posts,  profiles on more professionally-focused social networking sites.  In addition these networks, such as LinkedIn & NiCube are useful places for making contacts & job-hunting.

On the flip side students need to be aware of how their digital footprint might act against them and to think about pivacy & social vs professional networks.  I’m starting to collect useful links on delicious as i have agreed to write a guide on this topic for Graduate Careers Ireland! (And I feel a new workshop coming on!)


Non-use of blended learning

‘I’ve stuck to the path I’m afraid’ by Kate Orton-Johnson in this month’s British Journal of Educational Technology reports on the non-use of online blended learning material by undergraduates at a UK university.

It highlights that “Voluntary non-use or ‘Internet rejecters’ are rarely acknowledged or recognised in the literature” and if it is, it’s usually associated with social / technological exclusion.  However, as is pointed out this is not really a factor for university undergraduates with easy access to campus IT provision.

The key issues are summarised in the following extract (my emphasis):

Alternative sources of information, considered more appropriate, convenient and reliable and the perception of online materials as ‘non academic’ underpinned the students’ non-use of the online materials. This in part reflected an instrumental and task-oriented approach to their academic goals, where extra resources or activities were seen as additional and external to the core activity of producing assessed work, but also related to issues of trust and authenticity in their construction of academic knowledge.

An anxiety consistently expressed by the respondents was their lack of confidence in their own academic ability in their transition from A-level student to first year undergraduate student and a concern, as undergraduates, with understanding what was expected of them at university level.

During this period of adjustment and apprenticeship, set reading lists were viewed as an anchor that would structure and guide their work. This adherence to the reading lists had a direct impact on their use of online resources that were not viewed as a primary source of academic information. Accordingly non-use of the online materials was related to the perception that reading lists, books and journal articles were more important, relevant and ‘academic’ and formed the core of what they should be doing.

Nothing too surprising I guess but it’s good to see it backed up with qualitative data!

Net Gen Backlash

Net Generation
Net Generation

This morning I suggested to a colleague that 2008 was becoming a year of the net generation backlash… by which I mean all the hype about the net generation is now being questioned.  Early this week I read: Digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence, which comes hot-on-the-heels of discovering this blog: Net Gen Nonsense.

It’s a topic I’ve touch on before here in other posts… see: