Technologically Savvy Students? Revelations During a Pandemic

When schools around the world transitioned to a distance learning model caused by COVID-19, many believed that the current generation of young people, born in a context of great technological development, would easily make the leap. For many students however, this was not the case.

Although students need to master information, media and technology skills (Partnership for 21st Century Learning, 2015) to navigate an increasingly technological environment, research has shown that technological skills can vary greatly according to the context (Alavi, Borzabadi, and Dashtestani, 2014; Kennedy, Judd, Churchward, File and Ryan, 2014; Gray, and Krause, 2008).

According to Alavi, Borzabadi, and Dashtestani (2014) “the majority of students need training for the efficient use of computers and technology for educational purposes.” (p. 59) Also, confidence levels related to the use of technology do not always align with knowledge and performance when using technological tools. Students generally consider themselves to be very competent online content consumers, but this does not always translate into the confident execution of specific tasks in digital environments. According to Hargittai (2010), there is a misconception that digital natives are “universally savvy with information and communication technologies.” (p. 92) And it was exactly this lack of adequate levels of digital literacy for educational purposes that were revealed during the shift to distance learning that occurred in the last four months.

The recent changes in the educational landscape require a better understanding of its new specific topology, climate and ecology (Lloyd, 2010).

The learning space is now dominated by the digital environment and the sudden shift towards distance learning caused not only discomfort for many of the participants but also brought a climate of insecurity and uncertainty regarding the future model of schooling. Added to this, the participation of many parents in the teaching process due to the lockdown, changed the ecological balance prevalent before the pandemic, as well as revealing some lack in their own digital skills.

Facilitating the adoption of technology for educational purposes will need to address contextual, emotional and cognitive concerns (Straub, 2009) due to the unique, malleable perception of technology that individuals have. Because of its inherently social nature, future technology adoption in educational contexts may happen in a completely different and unexpected way than it did prior to early 2020.

Dr Patricia Fidalgo is Assistant Professor and Division Head for Curriculum and Instruction at Emirates College for Advanced Education, UAE.

References:

Alavi, S. M., Borzabadi, D., & Dashtestani, R. (2014). Computer literacy in learning academic English: Iranian EAP students’ and instructors’ attitudes and perspectives. Teaching English with Technology, 16(4), 56–77.

Hargittai, E. (2010). Digital Na(t)ives? Variation in internet skills and uses among members of the “net Generation.” Sociological Inquiry, 80(1), 92–113. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1475-682X.2009.00317.x

Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T. S., Churchward, A., Gray, K., & Krause, K. L. (2008). First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108–122. http://doi.org/10.1007/s13398-014-0173-7.2

Lloyd, A. (2010). Information literacy landscapes: information literacy in education, workplace and everyday contexts. Chandos Publishing.

Partnership for 21st Century Learning. (2015). P21 Framework for 21st Century Learning. Retrieved from http://www.p21.org/documents/P21_Framework_Definitions.pdf

Straub, E. T. (2009). Understanding Technology Adoption: Theory and Future Directions for Informal Learning. Review of Educational Research, 79(2), 625–649. https://doi.org/10.3102/0034654308325896


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