Ethnographic research in two different university classroom experiments in the US reveals the barriers to pedagogical innovation and new learning practices erected by assumptions about student and academic staff preparedness around technology. We use the Visitors and Residents framework (White and LeCornu 2011; Connaway, White, and Lanclos 2011) to critique the approaches to technology in education, and to work with the session participants to brainstorm ways forward that might allow for learners (students and academic staff) to become effective agents of change.
In the autumn of 2014, a kinesiology class of 20 students were handed iPad minis to use during the academic year, and an active learning classroom opened, filled with screens, laptops, whiteboards, and of course connected to the internet. Both experiments intended to leverage technology as a means to increase student engagement, first by meeting the technological expectations of students, and second by pushing the teaching practices of academic staff. Both experiments are being hailed as initial successes, but assumptions about Digital Natives (Prensky 2001a; 2001b) made these experiments less transformative than they were intended to be.
In the first case, students were assumed to be proficient with mobile technology, and so the institution failed to scaffold them in their uses of mobile technology in an educational setting. In the second case, institutional assumptions about faculty needing to be taught to use technology got in the way of instructors getting to have time to think and talk about pedagogy in the active learning classrooms.
We suggest that if more institutions had opportunities like those provided by the Visitors and Residents framework to consider the complex ways that students and staff are prepared (or not) to deal with technology in educational settings, such experiments would be less likely to fall short. We describe examples from the UK wherein institutions used mapping in student induction and early modules to capture existing engagement with technology before deciding on institutional strategies. We point to the importance of de-centering the technology, placing more emphasis on the work students and instructors are attempting, the ideas with which they are engaging. The teaching and learning are not determined by the technology–the technology should be in service of the learning and teaching.
In this session we use the research as a starting point for provoking a discussion of institutional assumptions around technology and education, and in particular exploring the ways that Digital Natives, though a largely debunked construction, inform and interfere with the engagement with technology in educational settings. The first 15 minutes of the session will be spent describing the case studies and setting up the questions that we would like to explore for the rest of the discussion. The remainder of the session will be spent drawing out the experience in the room, provoking additional questions, and working towards concrete suggestions for more effective practice.
Connaway, L.S., White, D., &Lanclos, D. (2011) Visitors and residents: What motivates engagement with the digital information environment?. Proceedings of the American Society for Information Science and Technology 48(1): 1-7.
Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9 (5): 1-6.
Prensky, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part 2: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon 9 (6): 1-6.
White, D. S., & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9).