How Digitally-Native are Gen-Y?

I teach Generation Y on a daily basis. These are the so-called ‘digital natives.’ I see this latter term popping up all the time round the web, and I wanted to test how comfortable these Gen Y-ers are with the digital world. I have written earlier about my concerns regarding student digiphobia:
My Adventure Continues or the Horses Are Drinking
Fear of the Tech God

I put together a very quick little survey which I ran this morning with a class. The responses were anonymous. Here are the results for your information, and my later mulling over how these so-called digital natives feel about and use computers, the web, and mobile phones.

Do you feel comfortable using a computer?
An overwhelming ‘yes’ with only a couple of apologies about not being comfortable with ‘highly technical stuff.’ OK. We’re off to a good start.

Do you have a ‘smart phone’ i.e., one that can web-browse?
Over half the class had one, but claimed they don’t use this as the services are too expensive. They know they have a little computer in their pocket, but they won’t use it for this. This is a strike-out for the potential of mobile learning.

On average, how many texts would you send or receive in a day? If you are not sure, use yesterday as a sample.
These guys really have flying fingers. I’ve seen them at work. The daily figure varied pretty widely. Some claimed as little as one or two, whilst others read or sent 20 a day. I wondered about how many I had received or sent and checked. Yesterday was a slow day … 6.

Do you have access to the net at home?
Whilst all students have access to the net in labs and through wireless connectivity on campus, over half have access from home. Half claim to and use it on a daily basis. Less than a quarter browse less frequently than once a day. A couple claim to be addicted to Facebook, and check 2-3 times a day.

When asked what they used the net for, three-quarters indicated email; all use it for browsing, research, and study; whilst two-thirds cite social networking. One lone organised student mentioned banking. No one maintains a personal blog, but they access the class blog, which was bundled under ‘research and study.’

And what’s the best thing about the net for Gen-Y?
The power to communicate and to get the information you want quickly, cheaply and easily.

And the Worst?
Spam, popups, ads, viruses, security attacks (I hear you)
Not knowing how to find what you want
Waiting on a slow connection
Porn and ‘dodgy sites.’

‘Its fallibility, corruptibility, and ability to mislead. Usurping real social contact.’ OK!






3 responses to “How Digitally-Native are Gen-Y?”

  1. Sue Waters Avatar
    Sue Waters

    Hi Kate

    What I have found over the years is that we are told how digitally literate our younger students are, and we expect them to be because unlike us they have grown up in a digital world.

    The reality is they are good at using technology for their purposes e.g. SMS but that does not make them good at using it for what we want them to do. However if we should them how technology can be of benefit and is of value they will use it.


  2. Cammy Bean Avatar
    Cammy Bean

    Kate…What an interesting survey. I think it’s really interesting and important to continue testing our assumptions of “digital natives” and Gen Yers. Us older folk assume the younger folk are completely immersed in technology and using it for everything — in a much more advanced way than we are. Sometimes that’s true, but sometimes it’s not.

  3. alex Avatar

    Hi Kate,

    This is an interesting survey. I am of the feeling that a lot of these Digital Natives find technology quite boring and often frustrating. Unless, they are using it socially, personalising their space, getting their message across, even then, they seem to get bored easily.

    I think our challenge is to give them the option to bring media rich learning into their space, whatever that may be at the time. It’s always going to be something new, but we will always need to be flexible. The changing role of the teacher.

    I do find it interesting that their comments revealed frustration about “finding what you want”. I think our role is to help them find and critically disseminate information. To help them understand the power of this new media and use it effectively to live and learn.

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