Learning with ‘e’s: Theories for the digital age: The digital natives discourse
Is learning in the 21st Century significantly different to learning in previous years? One of the more controversial theories of the digital age is the claim that technology is changing (or rewiring) our brains (Greenfield, 2009) whilst some also claim that prolonged use of the Web is detrimental to human intellectual development (Carr, 2010). It could be argued that these theories stem back to the seminal claim of Marshall McLuhan (1964) that ‘we shape our tools and thereafter, our tools shape us.’ This belief was also the basis for the in Digital Natives and Immigrants theory (Prensky, 2001), a persistent discourse that has greatly influenced the thinking of educators in recent years. A significant body of work has arisen around the Digital Natives and Immigrants theory, including descriptions of younger students as ‘the Net Generation’ (Tapscott, 1998), ‘Screenagers’ (Rushkoff, 1996), ‘Born Digital’ (Palfrey and Gasser, 2008), ‘Millennials’ (Oblinger, 2003), and ‘Homo Zappiens’ (Veen and Vrakking, 2006). The latter theory suggests that younger students learn differently, through searching rather than through absorbing, through externalising rather than through internalising information, are better at multitasking, and see no separation between playing and learning (Veen & Vrakking, 2006).
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