Talking ’bout my generation?

May 11, 2012 at 2:42 pm | Posted in useful links, waffle | Leave a comment
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Digital Native

This is the second bulletin from the frontline of the MOOC being run by Dr. Curtis Bonk on CourseSites. As might be expected, the initial enrollment of over 3000 people has suffered heavy attrition – around 500 participated in the first live lecture; this week that was down to 300. For some, real life took precendence (and hey, if it is free you don’t lose anything if you drop out) while for others the chaotic sprawl of alternative collaborative spaces may have caused them to abandon ship. Still, CourseSites are learning from the experience too and are adapting the course – for example there is now a central course blog, which makes it easier to see what other participants are saying. I do find the discussion lists pretty impenetrable… threaded discussions are a great theory, but really annoying to follow in practice. Blogs and Facebook got it right with a date-ordered list of posts with comments that you can choose to view and add to.

This week, Dr Bonk has been expounding his R2D2 model of learning (Read, Reflect, Display, Do) which has much in common with other models of learning (Kolb’s experiential learning cycle, VARK, Honey & Mumford etc) and is perhaps a little too closely aligned to the dubious concept of  learning styles for my taste. Still, its a useful model with some good suggestions for activities that fit into each phase of the cycle. However, my attention was more forcibly grabbed by another of the readings by Bonk and Zhang; Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies.

This outlined the supposed attributes and learning preferences of various generational groups (Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y, Neomillenials etc.) and struck me as being a flabby concoction of unsupported assertions. Too many of the citations are from website articles and are treated uncritically. I was therefore extremely pleased to come across a link in one of the course’s blog discussions to a well-written and researched paper from 2011 which critiques the whole idea of Digital Naives and Digital Immigrants:

Koutropoulos, A. (2011) Digital Natives: Ten Years After. Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, 7(4). Accessed online May 2012:

The bottom line is that the concept of the digital native is a stereotype that has little validity in reality. Sure, there are some young people who create, collaborate and live their lives on the web – but they are a small minority. For many, it involves socialising on Facebook, playing online games and consuming all kinds of media such as YouTube  and whatever is trending on Reddit. And of course that is only for those with convenient access to the Web… and lets not even begin to explore the experience of young people in other countries and cultures.

The joy of Apostolos Koutropoulos’ paper is that is provides all the references and critical analysis needed to justify the kind of sweeping generalisations I made in the papagraph above. Recommended reading…

Compare and contrast with:

Bonk, C. and Zhang, K. (2010) Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies. In: Yang, H. and Yuen, S. (eds) Handbook of Research on Practices and Outcomes in E-Learning: Issues and Trends, Hershey, New York. Accessed online May 2012:

Digital Native photo  by TF28 ❘ on Flickr – Creative Commons


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