The death of the digital native and overselling the ed tech

The death of the digital native: four provocations from Digifest speaker, Dr Donna Lanclos

educators need to figure out what they need to do. Are you trying to have a conversation? Are you simply trying to transmit information? Or are you, in fact, trying to have students create something?

Answer those pedagogical questions first and then – and only then – will you be able to connect people to the kinds of technologies that can do that thing.

The ‘digital native’ is a generational metaphor. It’s a linguistic metaphor. It’s a ridiculous metaphor. It’s the notion that there is a particular generation of people who are fundamentally unknowable and incomprehensible.

There are policy implications: if your university philosophy is grounded in assumptions around digital natives, education and technology, you’re presupposing you don’t have to teach the students how to use tech for their education. And, furthermore, it will never be possible to teach that faculty how to use that technology, either on their own behalf or for their students.

A very different paradigm is ‘visitor and resident‘. Instead of talking about these essentialised categories of native and immigrant, we should be talking about modes of behaviour because, in fact, some people do an awful lot of stuff with technology in some parts of their lives and then not so much in other parts.

How much of your university practice is behind closed doors?   This is traditional, of course, gatekeeping our institutions of higher education, keeping the gates in the walled campuses closed. So much of the pedagogy as well as the content of the university is locked away. That has implications not just for potential students but also from a policy perspective – if part of the problem in higher education policy is of non-university people not understanding the work of the university, being open would have really great potential to mitigate that lack of understanding.

 I would like to see our universities modelling themselves more closely on what we should be looking for in society generally: networked, open, transparent, providing the opportunity for people to create things that they wouldn’t create all by themselves.

I understand the rationale for gatekeeping, I just don’t think that there’s as much potential with a gatekept system as there is with an open one.

There are two huge problems with the notion of “student expectations”: firstly, the sense that, with the UK’s new fee model, students’ ideas of what higher education should be now weigh much more heavily in the institutions’ educational planning. Secondly, institutions in part think their role is to make their students “employable” because some politician somewhere has said the university is there to get them jobs.

Students coming into higher education don’t know much about what higher education can be. So if we allow student expectations to set the standard for what we should be doing, we create an amazingly low bar.

The point of any educational system is not to provide citizens with jobs. That’s the role of the economy.

Universities are not vocational

Institutions can approach educational technology in two very different ways. They can have a learning technology division that is basically in charge of acquiring and maintaining educational technology. Or they can provide spaces to develop pedagogy and then think about the role of technology within that pedagogy.


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