Recently, the idea has become popular that the new generation called Generation X, Generation Y, Generation Z, or Millenials has a special connection with technologies that appeared and spread before the start of formal education of this generation. Obviously, this hypothesis has one significant drawback – the lack of evidence. In the articles “Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students ’use of digital technologies” by Margaryan, Littlejohn, & Vojt (2011) and “Net generation students: Agency and choice and the new technologies” by Jones & Healing (2010) authors criticize this approach; in particular, Jones & Healing calls it deterministic. This paper claims that in both articles, scholars present compelling evidence of the heterogeneity of the mentioned generations and the factors that affect outstanding technology skills.
One important aspect that both scholars discuss is the virtual absence of ‘digital natives’ or ‘Net generation.’ Margaryan et al. (2011) examine the heterogeneity of the concept of generation, consisting of students and young people of different ages, intellectual inclinations, and future professions. Jones & Healing (2010) emphasize that examining and comparing the patterns of behavior of generations is paradoxical and therefore incorrect, since the older generation, which is implied to possess an unchanging perception, is constantly expanding their expertise, including the technical skills. At the same time, Margaryan et al. (2011) emphasize the importance of comparison in research methodology and compare groups of Engineering and Social Worker students, as well as ‘digital natives’ (born after 1980) and ‘digital immigrants’ (born before 1980), observing specific but not critical differences.
The second important aspect presented in both articles is the importance of the influence of teachers on the preferences in the choice of technologies in the learning process. Both authors conclude that teachers have a decisive influence on the choice of technologies students use for courses and individual learning. Margaryan et al. (2011) initially sampled teachers who practice creative application of technology, paying particular attention to the analysis of teaching approaches, and advised educators to consider the importance of their influence. Jones & Healing (2010) look at the situation from a more distant perspective, introducing the concept of agency in the sense that teachers act on behalf of the faculty.
The third important aspect that both authors consider is the students’ tendency towards traditional forms of teaching and their limited understanding of technology. Both authors acknowledge that students prefer conventional forms of education, and if the teacher uses specific methods, students will learn these methods and apply them in the future. Jones & Healing (2010) exemplify that when teachers apply the transferring knowledge learning approach, students will also adopt it for the course and individual learning. At the same time, Margaryan et al. (2011) emphasize that most teachers recognize the lack of technological skills in their students, mainly when using Excel spreadsheets. According to Margaryan et al. (2011), students themselves admit some difficulties in using the university intranet but consider this a minor temporary problem and subsequently characterize the intranet as a highly convenient learning tool.
Margaryan et al. (2011) present several unique arguments to convince readers that ‘digital natives’ group does not have any exceptional technology advantage over other groups. The authors refute this idea arguing that various groups of students demonstrate different levels of expertise. They determine that studying Engineering adds to more frequent technology use in learning, although the students usually adopt conventional tools like YouTube, Google, or Wikipedia. The scholars also say that socio-economic background and access to technology may be a factor in acquiring particular technical skills. Jones & Healing (2010) state that skills gained in college are often used in university. Unlike Margaryan et al. (2011), Jones & Healing (2010) pay particular attention to how students develop individual strategies to avoid technology distractions and praise their adaptive behaviors.
Jones & Healing (2010) emphasize the importance of how faculty uses and develops technologies and rules of learning, including technologies use. The scholars emphasize that the teachers do not act as individuals when introducing the technologies to be used by the students but perform on behalf of the faculty or as faculty agents. In this way, the authors highlight that the responsibility for the adoption and creative use of technology lies with the faculty, in contrast to Margaryan et al. (2011), who examine the individual contributions of educators. Jones & Healing (2010) also indicate the intranet as one of the central and most widespread technology tools used in universities. The authors also analyze the role of professors and faculty regarding how they determine the students’ choices when using the Internet and Internet-based sources. In particular, Jones & Healing (2010) discovered that students perceive academic sources as a priori mandatory, while the use of other reliable sources can be allowed or forbidden.
Thus, it was argued how the authors of two articles present compelling evidence of the heterogeneity of the group of ‘digital natives’ or ‘Net generation’ and the factors that influence their level of technological prowess. Scientists have concluded that the definition of a group as initially more capable of using technology is determinism since the supporters of this idea do not provide evidence for their thesis. At the same time, the scholars noted the importance of educators’ influence on students’ choices of technology tools for courses and individual learning.
Jones, C. & Healing, G. (2010). Net generation students: Agency and choice and the new technologies. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 344-356.
Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Vojt, G. (2011). Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital technologies. Computers & Education, 56, 429-440.