Infographic: The Digital Classroom

The Digital Classroom
Via: Accredited Online Universities Guide

Mobile Lives of College Students

Mobile Lives of Online Colleges


Undergraduate Students & Technology

Undergraduate Students & Technology
Presented By: Please Include Attribution to With This Graphic

What does it mean to be ‘tech savvy’?

Hard at Work...

Hard at Work… by Samantha Decker, on Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’ve written about my experiences with the not so tech savvy millennial students I’ve encountered while teaching at a small midwestern university. A recent self-study done by our campus IT department found for those participating in the Student Survey of Engagement their use of technology fell below that of students attending comparable schools. Our students were significantly less likely to:

  • Text message and create, read, and send instant messages;
  • Rate themselves as highly skilled in using the Internet to search for information, use presentation software, or perform computer maintenance;
  • Use Wikis or discipline-specific technologies in their course during the current semester;
  • Report that the use of IT in their courses improved their learning;
  • Want to be contacted by text message during a campus emergency; and
  • Use of E-mail on their handheld device.

From this the authors conclude that “These results lead to some doubts about the technological “savvy” of our students.” (Biasca & Dumke, 2011)

Though I agree that many millennial students are not as technically savvy as the literature portrays them to be, I question whether the authors can base their conclusion on the results above. What does it mean to be “tech savvy”? Is there some standard by which we judge ‘savviness’. Are the student peers aganst which they are being compared tech savvy to begin with?

Student learning gains from employing technology depends on effective use by the instructor, as well as the student. Lack of familiarity or skill level with technology is related to their exposure to it. Is a person less technically savvy if they have no need or have not been required to use presentation software?  Building skills in the use of digital tools comes from being required to use them. Whether a student uses wikis or discipline specific technologies in their classes depends on whether the instructor employs them or not.  If students aren’t required, or at least strongly encouraged to use presentation software, they may not become skilled in it use.

Saying that a student is less technically savvy because they don’t use email on their handheld device implies that they have a data service and phone capable of doing so, but the self study doesn’t have such data. I suspect at the time of the 2009 survey a majority of students were using simple feature phones.

Though one does not rate themselves as “highly skilled” in searching or using presentation software, are they not tech savvy if they are just “skilled”? I don’t know, as there is no data for the “skilled” category, or any other for that matter.

Whether learning is improved with information technology depends on the instructor as much as the student. Learning will more likely occur if meaningful assignments using engaging content is easily accessible to the student, and at their convenience.  What is missing from the report is data concerning the use of such skills in their courses. Comparing student skills to course use could identify places in the curriculum where defencies in technology “savviness” can be addressed.

Reference: Biasca, K & Dumke, D. (2011) Information Technology Self-Study. University of Wisconsin – Stevens Point Information Technology. 28p.

“The Visions of Students Today” 2001 – Michael Wesch

Below are the trailer and final cut of the 2011 version of”The Visions of Students Today”, the development of which was guided by Michael Wesch. I say guided as it really is a collaborative effort on the part of Wesch and most importantly his students to bring awareness to what it’s like to be a student today. Wesch and his students’ projects are always thought-provoking and inspiring.

Early Trailer:

Final Cut:

The rise of the “edupunk” student – maybe not so much

A posting from Inside Higher Education noted that universities will soon have  to address the needs of the “edupunk” student. The article suggests that universities need to think about how students might gain credit by completing coursework offered through alternative educational avenues. This is an intriguing issue to deal with, but I question if it is one that we should be concerned about in the short term. My institution, like others I’m sure, have test-out procedures for students who demonstrate a background in course content.  If a student demonstrates that they have the requisite background in a subject they can test out of the course and receive credit.  But I doubt, especially in the United States, if there will be an appreciable number of undergraduate students who take this route anytime soon. My skepticism arises out my experience with students at the small  university where I teach.Does the current population of university students have the skills to use these resources on their own to gain sufficient knowledge?

“Edupunk” was coined in 2008 to characterize an instructor that sheds the restrictive, industrial age mass production approach to teaching done in most education institutions in deference to an open, DIY approach. Now, the edupunk moniker is being applied to students. Dissatisfied with the content and cost of what they are offered under the current university environment, the edupunk student is turning to the growing amount of open educational resources available on the web. They recognize that it is no longer a necessity to sit in a university classroom to further their education. They have access to  a wealth of instructional materials, courses, and can create a personal learning environment and network to support their learning via the Internet.

Over the years I have experienced an increasing number who have difficulty thinking for themselves. That is, they need additional mentoring in trying to understand course content without asking “what is important”, or “what do I need to know”. Or, when working on assignments asking me, “what I’m” looking for. They simply don’t have the ability to learn on their own, especially those just entering the college studies. These sentiments were echoed at a recent discussion session at the Association of American Geographers meeting in Seattle concerning issues of distance education related to teaching geography. Several of the participants, representing small private to large public institutions, indicated that many students lack some of the basic computing skills to successfully navigate through an online course environment. Zimic (2009 ) has also questioned the techno-savvy sterotypical image of the Net Generation student.

My feeling is, at least for the students I deal with, the standardized assessment movement that currently pervades  K-12 education has led educators to teach to the test, thus narrowly defining what’s important for the student to learn. Few pre-college students seem to be lacking the independent learning skills to work on their own. In order to be an “edupunk”, it’s my feeling that one must have well-developed independent learning skills in order to get the most out of open, DIY educational materials. It is my experience that a majority of the students who walk through my classroom doors lack these skills. As such, the edupunk movement among students, and the necessity of universities to address their needs, is in the distant future.

William Rankin, LWF Talk, London 2011

Always inspiring, William Rankin from Abilene Christian University presenting his 2011 Learning Without Frontiers talk “Dispatches from the Frontier: Next-wave mobility and the future of digital books”.


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