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Net generation students: agency and choice and the new technologies

Authors


Christopher Jones, The Institute of Educational Technology, The Open University, Walton Hall, Milton Keynes MK7 6AA, UK. Email: c.r.jones@open.ac.uk

Abstract

Based on research investigating English first-year university students, this paper examined the case made for a new generation of young learners often described as the Net Generation or Digital Natives in terms of agency and choice. Generational arguments set out a case that links young people's attitudes and orientations to their lifelong exposure to networked and digital technologies. This paper drew on interview data from mixed methods research to suggest that the picture is more complex than the equation of exposure to new technologies and a generational change of attitudes and capacities. Starting from the position that interaction with technology is mediated by activity and an intentional stance, we examined the choices students make with regard to the technologies they engage with. We explored the perceived constraints students face and the way they either comply or resist such constraints. We concluded that agency actively shapes student engagement with technology but that an adequate conception of agency must expand beyond the person and the self to include notions of collective agency identifying the meso level as an activity system that mediates between the students and their technological setting.

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