Are digital natives a myth or reality?: Students’ use of technologies for learning

Further to my last post about a study into students’ use of technologies, I have now posted the full draft paper summarising the results of the study.


This paper outlines the findings of a study investigating the extent and nature of use of digital technologies by undergraduate students in Social Work and Engineering, in two British universities. The study involved a questionnaire survey of students (n=160) followed by in-depth interviews with students, lecturers and support staff in both institutions. Firstly, the findings suggest that students use a limited range of technologies for both learning and socialisation. For learning, mainly established ICTs are used- institutional VLE, Google and Wikipedia and mobile phones. Students make limited, recreational use of social technologies such as media sharing tools and social networking sites. Secondly, the findings point to a low level of use of and familiarity with collaborative knowledge creation tools, virtual worlds, personal web publishing, and other emergent social technologies. Thirdly, the study did not find evidence to support the claims regarding students adopting radically different patterns of knowledge creation and sharing suggested by some previous studies. The study shows that students’ attitudes to learning appear to be influenced by the teaching approaches adopted by their lecturers. Far from demanding lecturers change their practice, students appear to conform to fairly traditional pedagogies, albeit with minor uses of technology tools that deliver content. Despite both groups clearly using a rather limited range of technologies for learning, the results point to some age differences, with younger, engineering students making somewhat more active, albeit limited, use of tools than the older ones. The outcomes suggest that although the calls for radical transformations in educational approaches may be legitimate it would be misleading to ground the arguments for such change solely in students’ shifting expectations and patterns of learning and technology use.

Book on work-based learning published

My book “Work-based learning: A blend of pedagogy and technology” has been published by VDM Verlag.  It is based on my PhD research at Shell EP in the Netherlands in 2002-2005.

Global socio-economic changes are transforming workplaces. Organisations require employees skilled in strategic problem-solving; learning quickly in response to rapidly changing environment; working in distributed, culturally-diverse teams; building knowledge from different sources and applying it in a flexible way. The new workplace demands are in sharp contrast with the traditional ways of learning and teaching. The assumption that these highly complex skills can be learned in traditional formal learning settings focused on transferring content from experts to novices is no longer tenable. It is equally untenable that the knowledge and skills for effective performance in the workplace can be picked up from experienced peers or coaches in informal learning settings alone. New learning approaches enabling integration of the worlds of learning and work are needed. This book describes a new model for technology-enhanced work-based learning.The model aims to support managers, instructors and learning designers in organisations in devising strategy and curriculum for learning; in developing course design, evaluation and assessment processes; and in capturing and sharing good practice in learning within organisation.  The model was implemented at Shell EP Netherlands. The book is addressed to researchers and practitioners in work-related and technology-enhanced learning.

Table of Contents (high level)

List of Figures

List of Tables


Introduction: Work and Learning.

1. Work-Based Learning in Organisations.

1.1. Current challenges faced by organisations

1.2. Characteristics of work-based learning.

1.3. Work-based learning: Link between formal and informal learning.

1.4. Work-based activities as vehicles for integration of work and learning.

1.5. Technology affordances

2. Activity Theory: A Holistic Framework for Work-Based Learning.

2.1. Socio-cultural perspectives of learning.

2.2. Activity systems

2.3. Technology-enhanced work-based learning as an activity system.

3. Reference Model for Work-Based Learning.

3.1. Concretising work-based learning activity system instruments for implementation in practice.

3.2. First Principles of Instruction.

3.3. First Principles of Instruction extended.

4 Context of the Study: Shell Exploration and Production.

4.1. Shell Exploration and Production Learning and Leadership Development

4.2. Organisational needs for new forms of learning: The EP Learning Strategy.

4.3. Work-based blended learning in Shell EP LLD.

4.4. Technology for learning support at Shell EP LLD.

4.5. Work-based learning in Shell EP LLD as an activity system. 59

5. Investigation and Applications of the First Principles Plus Reference Model at Shell EP LLD

5.1. Methodology for investigating and applying the Reference Model

5.2. Investigations of the local elements of the Reference Model

5.3. Course scan: An instrument to measure the elements of the Reference Model

5.4. Application 1: Support for organisational learning strategy and across-course consistency.

5.5. Application 2: Support for after-action reviews and reflection within a faculty.

5.6. Application 3: Support for course evaluation procedures

5.7. Synthesis and guidelines

5.8. Conceptual reflections

5.9. Next steps: Capturing and sharing good practices in implementation of Reference Model

6. Design and Development of the “Work-based Learning Practices Worth Replication” Digital Repository.

6.1. Design methodology and procedures

6.2. Design, development, and evaluation of the repository: First cycle.

6.3. Design, development, and evaluation of the repository: Second cycle.

6.4. Design, development, and evaluation of the repository: Third cycle.

7. Conclusions.

7.1. Research questions revisited.

7.2. Conceptual contributions

7.3. Contributions to practice.

7.4. Future research.



Appendix 1. Course Analysis Spreadsheet

Appendix 2. Course Scan Instrument

Appendix 3. P-310 course evaluation data.

Appendix 4. Guidelines for implementation of the Reference Model

Appendix 5. WBL-PWR repository, Prototype 3, July 18, 2005.

Appendix 6. Evaluation of the third prototype: Questionnaire.