Month: November 2008

The myth of digital native: Students’ use of digital technologies

My colleague Allison Littlejohn and I have been reanalysing the data from our Learning from Digital Natives project that was completed last year and the final report from which was released earlier this year.

The aim of the study was to analyse the nature and extent of students’ use of digital technologies for formal and informal learning and socialisation. We also explored lecturers’ experiences with using technologies in teaching. We investigated students’ and lecturers’ perceptions on the educational value of these tools and their views on the barriers and enablers for using technologies to support learning.

The study involved a survey of 160 Engineering and Social Work students and follow up interviews with 8 students and 8 lecturers.   Allison and I are currently writing a paper on this (I will post the draft later), however highlights of the key results are summarised in a presentation which I gave today at our department.

Rivitalising Cold War ties or persisting in hypocricy?

Al-Jazzera reports that the Russian president Dmitry Medvedev is set to arrive in Caracas for talks with Hugo Chavez and that this is “seen as revitalising Cold War-era ties”. Although we are not informed by whom this is seen in such a light, the question I have is would the same commentators also characterise British Prime Minster’s regular visits to the US as “maintaining Cold War era ties” or French President’s visits to Germany as “reinforcing Cold War era ties”?  Whoever these commentators are, it seems that the idea of a multipolar world is disagreeable to them.

Blogs, information relationships and imaginary friends

Lilia Efimova is running an interesting series of blogposts on the outcomes of her interviews with a group of leading bloggers writing about knowledge management and related topics.

One of the interviews is with Nancy White (Full Circle Associates).  In this interview, Nancy talks about information relationships vs human relationships emerging as a result of blogging. The notion of information relationships is that blogs allow to connect in a meaningful way to a wide range of people and their ideas without necessarily engaging with them on a personal level – as Nancy says “trust in what they are producing, which may have nothing to do with trust in them as a human being”.

I like this concept, and this quote formulates very well what I have been thinking about as the liberating aspect of the sorts of instrumental, utilitarian (in the good sense) social networks that can develop in the blogosphere.

When I think about various types of aggregations of indviduals and knowledge – groups, communities, network, and the collective – I always have a bit of a problem, a sense of discomfort, with the notion of “community”.   For me, “community” – in the social as well as learning-related sense – has always had something oppressive about it, like being stuck in a village where everyone gossips about everyone else and where there is a pressure to fit in, to fully participate.

In contrast, information/knowledge networks you can form in blogosphere do not require such full engagement on such a personal level.  I am not an avid blogger myself (this blog is very new and I am still trying to get into the habit of writing regularly). However, over years, I have accumulated a list of around 50 blogs that I read/scan daily.  In most of the cases, I don’t know the authors personally, and with many of them I have never had a conversational exchange, yet I feel I know them professionally, their ideas have shaped mine, they helped and are helping me every day tremendously to learn and feel intelectually connected and stimulated, not to mention helping me find, filter and evaluate resources for my research (books, papers, etc).

A friend I was once explaining this to joked “well sounds like you have a lot of imaginary friends”. It’s an interesting, different type of relationship, yet still a very meaningful one.