W12 – Are Digital Natives fully equipped for initiation into the University Tribe?

Room E – Tuesday 09:00-10:00

Workshop – 60 minutes

Joanne Smailes

Northumbria University

Joanne Smailes is a Teacher Fellow at the University of Northumbria, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Her research interests lie within the area of student engagement particularly technology focussing on entry level cohorts. Her subject specialism is teaching statistics/mathematics to non-mathematicians. Joanne also holds leadership roles in academic development of Faculty.


This session examines the concept of digital literacy and its impact on student experience; particular attention is paid to the common perception (or misconception) that students enter HE more technologically advanced than faculty.  How, as educators, do we address the implications of such assumptions in first year programmes of study?


Research is now beginning to question a number of the assumptions in regard to technology within learning, teaching and assessment.  Ferreira (2012) observes the desire students place on face to face interaction with peers and lecturers as a contradiction to the current use of educational technologies.  (Calvani et al., 2012) study of 14-16 year olds noted that although they illustrate high levels of technical competence they illustrate a distinct lack of higher order application of technology increasingly labelled as “digital literacy”.

Digital Natives and Immigrants, terms established by (Prensky, 2001) are comparative terms which could be generally applied to faculty and students in respect to learning and teaching technology.  The terms can also be viewed as slightly divisive as natives are assumed to possess advanced digital fluency.  Are faculty, who would mostly be defined as digital immigrants, any less digitally fluent?

Technology is now at the heart of teaching and learning rather than supplemental.  However, is technology establishing a new educational paradigm or simply replicating established methods?  For example, (Lameras et al., 2012) remarks on the lack of research which coherently brings together technology with learning.  (Davies, 2011) defines three levels of technology/digital literacy, the third of which is defined as Phronesis – an ability to best use technology according to a situation even if this includes not actually using technology.

This interactive workshop will explore the interrelated dilemmas that the use of technology in teaching and learning presents and its implications for ensuring that students induction and first year studies adequately prepares them for higher level of learning and more specialist technology use.

Workshop outline:

Introductions (2 mins)

Individual Exercise: Top Ten Technology Triangle (8 mins)

– Participants will be asked to categorise their own personal use of technology and categorise the top ten and how they are split between Home, Research, Teaching and Learning.

– They will then be asked to define where the gaps, overlaps are in terms of use and provide a rationale of why the potential gaps may exist.

Discussion Topic (s): (10-15 mins)

– What is your impression of students’ skills in technology?

– Are there any gaps in knowledge between faculty and students?

Presentation: (10 mins)

– Presenter’s primary research

Plenary: (20-25 mins)

– What practical steps can be taken to improve digital literacy in first year programmes?
– Development of Action plan


CALVANI, A., FINI, A., RANIERI, M. & PICCI, P. 2012. Are young generations in secondary school digitally competent? A study on Italian teenagers. COMPUTERS & EDUCATION, 58, 797-807.

DAVIES, R. S. 2011. Understanding Technology Literacy: A Framework for Evaluating Educational Technology Integration. TechTrends, 55, 45-52.

FERREIRA, M. J. M. 2012. Intelligent classrooms and smart software: Teaching and learning in today’s university. Education and Information Technologies, 17, 3-25.

LAMERAS, P., LEVY, P., PARASKAKIS, I. & WEBBER, S. 2012. Blended university teaching using virtual learning environments: conceptions and approaches. Instructional Science, 40, 141-157.

PRENSKY, M. 2001. Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 1-6.

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