Are we overestimating technology use in younger generations?

For this piece, I am speaking about the current undergraduate – 18-22 year old in college, and not computer science majors. My experience is mostly with education and communication majors. Having taught at two different universities in the last several years, and teaching many technology classes, I have had a lot of experience with students of this age their perceptions and experience with technology. So…

I think we believe these students are inundated with technology, are experts, and all have new iPhones. What I am finding in my classes is quite the opposite. Here are my observations:

The students are not inundated with technology in their classes. In fact, many come to my technology classes with a little anxiety because they are going to have to use the computer in new ways. What I find is that many of my students are comfortable using Word and Powerpoint. They can check email and do basic web searches using Google. When I ask who has heard of Google Docs, maybe 1% of the class raises their hands. And this isnt just Google Docs, this goes for many Web 2.0 technologies with the exception of Facebook. Do these students all have new iPhones? I find that in general, less than 50% of my students have smartphones.  In fact, some have hand me down smart phones from their parents. None have ipads but a few have used them because their parents might have one. All of my students have laptops. None have standard desktops. This is not surprising as the cost of laptops has decreased a lot in the last few years. A portion do have Macs which are more expensive.

So what does this all mean? I believe it means that these students are not using every new gadget that comes out. They do not have the money to buy the latest smart phones. And they are not tech experts, in fact, they are just as nervous about new technology as older generations in my opinion. Now will this change? I believe so. I have observed the current elementary/middle school students doing significantly more with technology in the classroom. So I believe in the next 5-10 years the undergrads will be much more technology driven than the current generation.

Having said all of that, there are the students that remind me of myself. They make it a priority to have the latest and greatest. They can recite every popular web 2.0 technology and read blogs such as mashable daily. But these are not the norm. These are the techies:)

Posted in Higher Ed, K-12, News, technology, Web 2.0.