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Does the New Digital Generation of Learners Exist? A Qualitative Study

Authors


  • Jaime Sánchez is professor in the Department of Computer Science, Center for Advanced Research in Education, University of Chile. Alvaro Salinas is researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, University of Chile. David Contreras is researcher at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, Pontificial Catholic University of Valparaíso. Eduardo Meyer is professor at the Center for Advanced Research in Education, Pontificial Catholic University of Valparaíso.

Dr Jaime Sánchez, Department of Computer Science, Center for Advanced Research in Education, University of Chile, Blanco Encalada 2120, Santiago, Chile, 2777. Email: jsanchez@dcc.uchile.cl

Abstract

This paper seeks to contribute to the discussion on the current generation of students and their relationship to technology, providing qualitative, empirical information obtained in the Chilean context. The study analyses and discusses the ideas regarding the emergence of a new generation of learners, or digital natives, as characterised by wide-ranging access to digital media and by having new skills and abilities. In-depth interviews held with students and teachers from four different cities in the country are analysed. The data shows evidence of a generation of learners without shared traits, with segments of learners presenting practices that do not characterise the entire generation. In addition, the data shows that the skills and abilities described in the literature do not represent a precise description of those that the students exploit when using technology. Beyond the ability to work simultaneously on several tasks, some learners have the ability to manage the attention that they pay to their work on the computer in sophisticated ways, and although some prefer images to words on paper, among others, there is still a taste for reading actual printed books. All in all, students and teachers describe a certain distance and conflict between the practices with the use of ICTs and their everyday school experiences.

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