ECER conference 2012: University students – the dawn of a “digital generation”?

13.9.2012 - Zprávy
The author of the paper ran a research project called “Studying at the Faculty of Arts, Masaryk University in the digital media age”, supported from the Grant Fund of the faculty. The qualitative research yielded a number of interesting findings which were presented at several conferences in autumn 2010 (such as ECER 2010).
The results of the research share one feature – diversity. Students use modern technologies in highly diversified ways. Some of them use modern technologies in “traditional” ways, downloading the electronic materials and then printing them out and using the hardcopies. Another way of using modern technologies has been labelled “digital study”. Students preferring this strategy hardly ever use materials in any other but the digital form (scanning themselves materials which are not available in a digital form etc.). This gives them the advantage of being able to survey all materials at the same time, an easy access to specific information they need, and the advantage of time and space savings. These students can take advantage of other modern technologies to make their learning more efficient – they use various kinds of review-support software or create audio-records to suit their learning styles etc. Another finding is that field of studies and teaching styles of individual teachers are also factors influencing the use of modern technologies. The drawbacks of using modern technologies were however mentioned by students as well. One of the rather surprising findings is the fact that students regard their use of laptops in class as distracting because with their laptop on, they tend to communicate with their friends or read newspapers rather than take in what is going on in the class. There are students who use modern technologies as a necessary tool without which they cannot do, but generally prefer a limited use of technologies in their study and life. It is therefore possible that undifferentiated implementation of modern technologies into education may turn out a handicap with a certain share of student population.
The qualitative methodology applied in 2010 however does not allow for finding out about the distribution of the identified phenomena in student population. One pending question, for instance, is whether students who use and develop digital materials exclusively are dominant or whether they are only a small group of “techies”. We might also want to know to how large a group of students the implementation of modern technologies may be handicapping as they prefer face-to-face teaching, personal contact, discussions with teachers etc. Another question is how many students perceive modern technologies as “distractors” or, in contrast, tools which can make their study more efficient. It would also be worth knowing about correlations between student opinion and field or form of study. These questions may be answered by applying quantitative methodology on which the 2012 research is based.