Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital technologies


Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use

of digital technologies


Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Vojt, G.

Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A., & Vojt, G. (2011). Are digital natives a myth or reality?
University students’ use of digital technologies. Computer & Education, 56(2), 429-440.

Are digital natives a myth or reality? University students’ use of digital
Anoush Margaryan a,*, Allison Littlejohn a

, Gabrielle Vojt b
a Caledonian Academy, Glasgow Caledonian University, 70 Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK
bDepartment of Psychology, School of Life Science, Glasgow Caledonian University, 70 Cowcaddens Road, Glasgow G4 0BA, UK
article info
Article history:
Received 26 March 2009
Received in revised form
20 July 2010
Accepted 6 September 2010
Media in education
Pedagogical issues
Post-secondary education
Teaching/learning strategies

This study investigated the extent and nature of university students’ use of digital technologies for
learning and socialising. The findings show that students use a limited range of mainly established
technologies. Use of collaborative knowledge creation tools, virtual worlds, and social networking sites
was low. ‘Digital natives’ and students of a technical discipline (Engineering) used more technology tools
when compared to ‘digital immigrants’ and students of a non-technical discipline (Social Work). This
relationship may be mediated by the finding that Engineering courses required more intensive and
extensive access to technology than Social Work courses. However, the use of technology between these
groups is only quantitatively rather than qualitatively different. The study did not find evidence to
support popular claims that young people adopt radically different learning styles. Their attitudes
to learning appear to be influenced by lecturers’ teaching approaches. Students appear to conform to
traditional pedagogies, albeit with minor uses of tools delivering content. The outcomes suggest that
although the calls for transformations in education may be legitimate it would be misleading to ground
the arguments for such change in students’ shifting patterns of learning and technology use.
2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

1. Introduction
An idea that has gained currency is that the generation born after 1980 grew up with access to computers and the Internet and is
therefore inherently technology-savvy (Oblinger & Oblinger, 2005; Palfrey & Gasser, 2008; Prensky, 2001; Tapscott, 1998). This generation
has been termed Digital Natives, Millenials, or Net Generation. In Prensky’s (2001) definition, those born in or after 1980 are ‘digital natives’

while those born before 1980 are ‘digital immigrants’. The proponents of this idea claim that, not only does this generation have sophis-
ticated skills in using digital technologies, but also that, through their exposure to these technologies, they have developed radically new

cognitive capacities and learning styles (Prensky, 2001). The new learning styles are said to include “fluency in multiple media, valuing each
for the types of communication, activities, experiences, and expressions it empowers; learning based on collectively seeking, sieving, and

synthesizing experiences rather than individually locating and absorbing information from a single best source; active learning based on expe-
rience that includes frequent

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