What Does “Tech Savvy Student” Mean?

Ok, how many of you “older” folks out there are tired of the whole “digital natives” vs. “digital immigrants” concept? As someone who didn’t grow up using computers but who is now very comfortable with networks, social media, mobile devices and the rest, I know I am.

It’s hard, however, to convince some of my colleagues that kids are not born with some magic innate technological talent. I try to tell them that, more than anything, their students simply have more time to spend playing with various electronic devices and absorbing all the little tricks that seem like genius to those who don’t. Invoke the 10,000 hour rule.

However, knowing how to trick out a smart phone or understanding the complexities of Facebook doesn’t mean those students also have any clue how to use all that power to advance their learning. Or even the basics of common programs you use like PowerPoint.

A little research to back up this idea comes from a new study conducted by the Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC). The subjects were college students in the UK so maybe the findings don’t directly apply to the kids in US classrooms, but I doubt some of what they found is far off from those in our overly-large school district and other similar parts of the country.

  • 97.8 percent of students owned a mobile phone;
  • Just over three quarters – 77.4 percent – owned a laptop and 38.1 percent owned a desktop computer.
  • 70.1 percent felt their access to computers was sufficient to meet their computing needs.
  • The mobile phone was chosen by 83.2 percent as the device students would miss the most if it was taken away.
  • A small minority of students don’t use email or have access to mobile phones.

Students 20 years old or younger reported being more engaged in instant messaging, texting, social networks and downloading video media than students who were aged 25 years or more. Only 4.3 percent of those 20 or younger never used social networking sites, and for those 35 or older this rose to 78.5 percent.

In other words, they’re coming to your classroom understanding IM, texting, social networks, video downloads and carrying some powerful tools that involve reading, writing, collaboration.

So, what are we doing to leverage those communications skills and the devices in their pockets to improve their learning?

Sorry, I forgot it’s May. Testing season. No time to worry about all that learning stuff.

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