Sunday, December 6, 2009

Digital Natives Podcast

Marc Prensky speaks of “digital natives” as people that have grown up in tandem with the proliferation of technology (Prensky, 2001). My grade six students range in age from ten to twelve and live in a moderately affluent town. Even students that are from a lower socioeconomic background than most have access to technology at home. In my attempt to better understand the influence of technology on my students lives, I surveyed 90 of my students on a variety of technology based questions. In addition to the general information gathering, I was able to personally interview a few of my students about their comfort level with technology. Excerpts from these conversations are included in the following podcast.

Survey results:
Demographics:              46 boys, 44 girls, 90 students total. 
1 ten year-old, 70 eleven year-olds, 19 twelve year-olds.

·        38% of students own a cell phone, 41% of those students have internet on their phone, 85% of those students use text messaging on their phones.
·        88% own an ipod/MP3 player
·        50% have their own computer
·        69% have laptop computers at home, 100% have a computer at home
·        84% have internet access at home
·        27% have a facebook page, 3% have a myspace page
·        41% use instant messaging online
·        3% have their own blogs
·        8% have added to a wiki in some capacity
·        84% have a video game system at home, 49% of those systems are hooked up to the internet
·        72% have a wii video game system at home
Technology usage:
Among the 34 students that have cell phones, eight students reported that they spend three or more hours on their phone each day. On average, my students with cell phones spend 1.44 hours a day on their cell phones talking, texting and/or using the internet.

Based on student reported averages, my students spend about 1.3 hours a day on their home computers each day. Only eight students reported that they do not go online on an average day and the group average was 1.4 hours a day, with seven students stating that they spend four or more hours online each day.

All but 15 students play video games on a regular basis. Students spent an average of 1.27 hours a day playing video games.

74 students reported that they primarily use technology at home. Usage at a friend’s house was the next most common place, followed by school and a relative’s house and the fewest votes for the library.

When asked what they would want if they could own or have access to more technology, students wrote in the following answers:
·        Laptop (28)
·        Cell phone (49)
·        facebook (5)
·        Personal TV/Better TV (9)
·        ipod (17)
·        Instant messaging (9)
·        Various gaming systems/ video games (33)
When asked what they believed was outdated technology, the following answers were submitted.
·        Cassettes (9)
·        MP3 Player- non-ipod (8)
·        Gameboy (12)
·        Various gaming systems- PS2, gamecube, playstation, etc. (25)
·        Disposable cameras
·        Film
·        Flip phones
·        Desktop computers
·        Tube televisions- non flatscreen
·        Radios
·        Boomboxes
·        Records

Level of expertise:
59% of students reported that they believe that they are better than their parents when it comes to working with technology. Less than 6% believed that they were worse than their parents. 56% of students considered themselves to be about equal to their teachers in technological understanding, 18% believed the teachers were more skilled and the remaining 26% feel that they are more skilled than their teachers.

Favorite Aspect of Technology:
Fifteen students cited the internet as their favorite aspect of technology, with many elaborating that the speed and access that the internet affords and the availability of information are what they like about the internet. Twenty-nine students mentioned communicating with friends through various outlets such as facebook, texting, instant messaging, cell phones, e-mail and internet/video games. They also mentioned the ease of communicating for school work as well as in social capacities. Most of the other students cited video gaming systems and the interactive elements of online gaming.

Reflection on Survey Results:
I found that the survey results met my expectations. My students engage in a high level of interaction with technology and I expected that they would have access to many technological resources. I was most curious to see how they compared their understanding and comfort level with technology to that of their parents and teachers. As the teachers on our team are all in our thirties and relatively savvy with technology, I expected that students would rank our abilities relatively high. Fifty-six percent of students believed that we were on par with their abilities, but twenty-six percent felt that they were more skilled than the teachers. I would love to explore this further and see how we actually compare. As the students’ parents, on average, are a little bit older than the teachers and the children see us using technology regularly in school, I am not surprised that the teachers were ranked at a higher skill level than the parents, but I was amazed that 59% of the students believed that they are more skilled at technology than their parents. Again, I think it would be very interesting to determine actual skill levels of each group.

I was also intrigued by the level of comfort with technology that my students expressed. I was unable to use one student interview because when I asked him what he thought he would be able to do with my cell phone if I let him borrow it for a few minutes because he was laughing too hard to hear the intricacies of his ability to work with the technology. These digital natives know how technology works and feel comfortable exploring new technologies with confidence.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).

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