Validity and critical debate

Looking at Educational Research

– The validity of the problems being investigated

Using the study Kennedy et al study First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Firstly, I would congratulate Prensky who first coined the term digital natives, it has great appeal but it’s meaning is also somewhat sinister; to think of this younger generation becoming divided through technology does have shock value.

I can fully agree that there is ‘an assumption’ that students brought up with the Internet are adept at using it’s tools. See JISC’s ‘Google Generation’ is a myth. However the argument as always, depends on content. They are adept with the tools they see a use for, we have to ensure they know about ways these same tools can be used in a learning context.

– The appropriateness of their methods

Kennedy et al methods steered their research into identifying the technology tools they felt should be included (p. 116, table 5) but it does not account for the incidental learning these or other tools generate to which there is no way to measure. Also, I would argue that the question presented to these 1st year students “To assist me with my University studies, I want to be able to use…” and it goes on to list an array of technology tools and ideas about using them. How can these students know the implications of each? How are they sufficiently able to know the answer and does this not indicate we are allowing students to make choices about their education when we ourselves have no clear idea about how technology can enhance learning and bring about an improved life – because ethically, these two factors are interwoven.

– The plausibility of their interpretations of the results.

I think the Kennedy et al report is very sound and measured against the rapid pace technology moves. They talk of more research to determine the specific circumstances under which students would like their ‘living technologies’ to be adapted as ‘learning technologies’. My concern here is the unknown dimension, we seem to be going with the flow, thus embracing and embedding popular technologies mindlessly and it is worrying. What real use it twitter and facebook in education I wonder?

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