Are students technology experts?

While there is no shortage of people with the view that today’s young are fish, and social media and technology are the water through which they swim, that isn’t the complete truth.

  • Pew Reports note that young people are prolific creators and consumers of online content (Lenhart and Madden, 2005),
  • O’Brien and Fitzgerald (2006) discuss their propensity to create and remix video and music,
  • Lankshear and Knobel (2005) establish the popularity of writing blogs among the youth community

However, there is ample evidence that while this is true for some students, it is true of a minority of students and the majority are not especially tech savvy (Luckin et al., 2009; Green and Hannon, 2007). For most they can access content but do not create it.

Some of my students have written comments in their literacy narratives that echo this common assumption of universal technological skill, such as, “I was born in the technological age, so of course I’m good with all sorts of computer applications.” [paraphrase]. But invariably I find that most students are unaware of many basic skills necessary for managing the online Learning Management System (ANGEL), and using and commenting on blogs, wikis and youtube. There are always many students who teach me things I didn’t know, and a small few who seem to know more about the medium than I.

This has proven true at the 3 schools I’ve taught at since I started paying attention to the question – and includes both University and Community College students. A focus group I conducted back in 2008 indicated interest in a “technology boot camp” or intensive workshop in educational technology necessary for student success.

I have a feeling the responsibility for such learning-to-learn-with-technology will fall on teachers of gateway classes – in particular those of us who teach composition.

Works cited

Green, H., and C. Hannon. 2007. Their space: Education for a digital generation. London: Demos.
Lankshear, C., and M. Knobel. 2006. Weblog worlds and constructions of effective and powerful writing: Cross with care and only where signs permit. In Travel notes from the new literacy studies: Instances of practice, ed. K. Pahl and J. Roswell, 72–94. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters.
Lenhart, A., and M. Madden. (2005). Teen content creators and consumers. Washington, DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Luckin, R. et al. (2009)”Do Web 2.0 tools really open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11–16-year-old students” Learning, Media and Technology. 34 ( 2) 87–104

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