09 April 2010

Debunking the Cengage study: Debunking the Digital Native Myth (without having even read it!)

I was email spammed this morning by a marketeer named Melissa Snead from Peppercom Strategic Communications. Her email contained a press release (no more) of an apparent study by Cengage Learning titled:

Debunking the Digital Native Myth: Higher Education Students Ask for More Support in Using Classroom Technology

Put that in Google and you'll see how effective her press release has been and how ineffective the various media outlets have been investigating it.

I haven't been easily able to find the 'study', and why a link to it wasn't included in the press release has a distinct ratty smell.

Melissa's email invites questions and comments. I'm very reluctant to reply to a spammer marketeer, if I do then no doubt I'll find my email address in a whole raft of data bases made ready to issue more roughly targeted email advertising dressed up as research.

Needless-to-say, Cengage Learning and its corporate clip art website does itself damage in my network's eyes by engaging in marketeering like this. Here's their copy of the press release, still no link to the study.

So why am I even bothering to write about this.. well - as you an tell I'm pretty darned annoyed by the email, and the lack of a link to the study data. I'm all for debunking the digital native myth with some kind of research, but not with the idea being to reinforce the classroom learning narrative! Schools are the sheltered workshops of some of the most digitally illiterate people I have met! Why on earth would we believe people can find support in schools for developing digital literacy?

My questions are aimed more at anyone embarking on a study like this, and anyone who thinks to use such a study to prop what presently goes on in the schools, colleges and universities I have worked in.

  1. Is this study available online. Your press release appears to have no link. I hope it is open access and not behind a paywall. I hope it exists even!
  2. What is meant by technology in the classroom? If you know me, I argue that technology as used in schools bares little resemblance (as always) to popular technology such as social media or contemporary Internet. Even though the social Internet has all the features a school should be looking for if it were interested in learning (over say - administration) does your study see this difference, and does it investigate the obvious question of relevance and the impact that has on motivations to learn?
  3. The USA has some very poor connectivity statistics. Almost as bad as Australia. The digital divide is very pronounced there. Apart from my second question around the relevance of the classroom, does the study consider the USA's digital divide and the link this likely has to levels of digital literacy? If there was a link (and I'd argue there certainly is) Does a school, or Cengage Learning for that matter have any idea how they could help address connectivity issues outside classrooms? Providing a censored, locked down, prescribed in use, and sterile computing environment for free in the school library doesn't rate btw.

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