The Digital Native Debate in Higher Education: A Comparative Analysis of Recent Literature
Dec 25, 2012
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This paper outlines the origins of, and major principles of, the digital native theory of technological adaptation. It then outlines major criticisms, and then briefly discussion of the concept in the Canadian context. "These research findings from various contexts ultimately counter monolithic characterizations of native and immigrant generations in post-secondary environments, and illustrate the importance of further research regarding these nuances in different Canadian settings." But that said, "those originating ideas of the Net generation as digital natives, including Prensky and Tapscott, appear to be reaffirming and even building upon their previous definitions of generational characteristics rather than discarding of them." If typiologies are necessary, suggests the author, there are alternative typologies that could be explored. For example, "Kennedy, Judd, Dalgarno, and Waycott (2010) argue that we might see beyond the digital native/immigrant dichotomy by understanding 'four distinct types of technology users: power users (14% of sample), ordinary users (27%), irregular users (14%) and basic users (45%)'"

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