The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?

The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?

Robin M. Roberts (University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-788-1.ch006
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The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing on how post-secondary students just entering American colleges and universities use the interactive or read-write web popularly known as “Web 2.0” and what implications their use of those web sites has for E-learning. Central to the investigation is addressing the question of whether the Digital Generation and Web 2.0 concepts describe actual realities or exist merely as popular media constructions. The basic thrust of the chapter will be the position that the Digital Generation does not function as a monolithic group, but that the use of Web 2.0 technologies is related to developmental stages and life situation.
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Among the many dimensions of the burgeoning web-based distance education movement in American education is the concept of a digital generation comprised of students who have grown-up exposed to and using digital computing technologies (Carlson, 2006; Hird, 2000; Johnson, 1997; Livingstone & Bovill, 1999; Rushkoff, 1998). By virtue of this experiential background, members of this generation are said to have developed a level of comfort with and expertise in using those technologies that prior generations do not have (Gibbons, 2007; Gros, 2003; Oblinger, 2003; 2006; Snyder, 1998; Tapscott, 1998; Turkle, 1995). Dubbed “digital natives” by Prensky, these students are contrasted with their teachers and with prior generations whom are often designated “digital immigrants” (2001b, 2001c).

A number of common characteristics are ascribed to these digital natives who comprise the digital generation (Frand, 2000; Gros, 2003; Tapscott; 1998; Prensky, 2001a; 2006). Among these are:

  • Tech Savvy: Digital natives grow-up with a computer mouse in their hand and learn to use and gain expertise with digital computing technologies with ease.

  • New literacy: They are more comfortable with screen-based learning than traditional 19th/20th century, text-based educational methodologies.

  • Multi-taskers: They thrive in situations having many simultaneous multimedia inputs.

  • Learner Control: Digital natives want to be “in charge” of their own learning rather than follow a universal, “one-size fits all” curriculum.

  • Information rich: They are accustomed to having a multitude of information at their fingertips.

  • Digital Consumers: Digital natives are pervasive consumers of digital media and portable electronic devices are essential to their lives.

  • Connected: Digital natives are constantly in contact with and draw support from others, and are more comfortable working in groups than alone.

Though much has been said about these digital natives in popular literature and the press, the concept has also received attention from serious scholars as well (Holloway & Valentine, 2000; Negroponte, 1995; Papert, 1996; Valentine & Holloway, 2002). The American Library Association (2007), in an editorial in an official publication, has gone as far as saying “people born after 1980 are very different from those of us who were born earlier. . . . There is some evidence that they actually think and process information differently as a result (p. 28).”

Other writers question the claims made about digital natives and analyze the nature of the debate itself. For instance, Bennett, Maton, and Kervin, (2007) argue that “rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a 'moral panic' . . . a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate 'digital natives' and their implications for education (p. 1).”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Web 2.0: A business term coined in 2003 by Dale Daugherty and popularized by Tim O’Reilly that originally referred to the use of the World Wide Web as a platform for delivering business services. Web 2.0 services leverage existing AJAX technologies to facilitate the direct participation of the end user in the service being delivered. The term has since been adopted by educators who focus on the participatory nature of Web 2.0 services as a medium for instruction.

Synchronous Communication: A term that designates communications between two or more individuals that takes place simultaneously. It is marked by the all communicants being involved in the communications process at the same time, though not necessarily at the same location. Examples of synchronous electronic communication include telephone calls and instant messaging (though the former may take place asynchronously, as well).

AJAX Technologies: An acronym invented by Jesse James Garrett in 2005 for “Asynchronous JavaScript and XML” as a shorthand method for describing the technologies used to design and deliver Web 2.0 services to the end user.

Digital Generation: The generation of humans whose generational location places their birth and developmental experiences during a time of widespread access to digital computing technologies and whose exposure to and experience with those technologies led to a technological comfort and expertise with those technologies that surpasses those of prior generations.

Social Networking: A term typically used to describe socialization via electronic media, specifically, but not exclusively, via Internet and cellular telephony-based media. It also refers to the non-electronic process of creating relationships with other individuals that last over time. Typically, for a social network to exist, members of the network must necessarily have mutual relationships with more than just one member of the network, though direct relationships with all members of the network is not required.

Actualized Generation: A concept developed by Karl Mannheim to designate the actual existence of an identifiable generation for any given generational location. To become actualized, a generation must meet three criteria: (1) shared experiences, (2) the experiences occurred at the same developmental stage (age), and (3) mutually and meaningfully interpreted by the members of the generation that shared the experience.

Diffusion of Innovations: A model of how innovations are diffused—that is, adopted by members of a specific social system over a period of time—developed by Everett M. Rogers in 1962. The four elements of the diffusion model are: (1) innovation, (2) communication (3) time and (4) social system. The characteristics and percentages of the individuals within any given social system that adopt a given innovation at a given amount of time is remarkably stable in any modern social system.

E-Learning: A term often used synonymously with distance education, but referring specifically to instruction delivered remotely to learners via electronic media. The most currently prevalent form of e-learning delivery is via the Internet. In e-learning, the instructor and students are separated from each other by distance and, in most cases, by time. The essential components of e-learning are distance, asynchronous as well as synchronous communication and electronic media as a communications mediator.

Asynchronous Communication: A term that designates communications between two or more individuals that is separated by the passage of time. Typically, such communication involves separation of the communicants by distance, but that is neither a necessary, nor sufficient condition for asynchronous communication to take place. Examples of asynchronous electronic communication include e-mail and voice mail. Note that asynchronous communication typically refers to two-way communication, though broadcasting (one-way communication) can also be asynchronous. An example of the latter is radio broadcasting or blogging.

Digital Divide: A term referring to the unequal access to digital computing technologies by members of a given social system. Access consists of five dimensions identified by DiMaggio and Hargittai (2001): technical means, autonomy of use, patterns of use, social support networks, and requisite skill. Absence of any one of these dimensions constitutes lack of the access necessary to develop expertise in the use of digital computing technologies.

Generational Location: A concept and term coined by Karl Mannheim (who is given credit for developing the modern concept of generation) in 1928 that designates the beginning and ending dates for potential inclusion in any given generation. It is a purely theoretical construct.

Complete Chapter List

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List of Reviewers
Table of Contents
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Harrison Hao Yang, Steve Chi-Yin Yuen
Chapter 1
Chien Yu, Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu, Chun Fu Lin
Dramatic changes in information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a powerful force forthe growth of e-learning. E-learning has become... Sample PDF
Computer-Mediated Learning: What Have We Experienced and Where Do We Go Next?
Chapter 2
Clara Pereira Coutinho, João Batista Bottentuit Jr.
In this chapter the authors analyze issues and ideas regarding the next generation of e-Learning, which is already known as e-Learning 2.0 or social... Sample PDF
From Web to Web 2.0 and E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 3
Chaka Chaka
This chapter contends that both Web 2.0 and the Semantic Web (the SW) serve as critical enablers for e-learning 2.0. It also maintains that the SW... Sample PDF
E-Learning 2.0: Web 2.0, the Semantic Web and the Power of Collective Intelligence
Chapter 4
Jianxia Du, Yunyan Liu, Robert L. Brown
An online learning community can be a place for vibrant discussions and the sharing of new ideas in a medium where content constantly changes. This... Sample PDF
The Key Elements of Online Learning Communities
Chapter 5
Ke Zhang, Curtis J. Bonk
This chapter reviews the characteristics of learners of different generations. In particular, it compares their differences in terms of learning... Sample PDF
Generational Learners & E-Learning Technologies
Chapter 6
Robin M. Roberts
The relationship between the Digital or Millennium Generation and Web 2.0 is investigated focusing on how post-secondary students just entering... Sample PDF
The Digital Generation and Web 2.0: E-Learning Concern or Media Myth?
Chapter 7
Jeffrey Hsu, Karin Hamilton
Adult learners have a set of specific and unique needs, and are different from traditional college students. Possessing greater maturity, interest... Sample PDF
Adult Learners, E-Learning, and Success: Critical Issues and Challenges in an Adult Hybrid Distance Learning Program
Chapter 8
Dazhi Yang, Jennifer C. Richardson
Past studies indicate that students demonstrate different online interaction styles, which consist of the ways or habits students acquire knowledge... Sample PDF
Online Interaction Styles: Adapting to Active Interaction Styles
Chapter 9
Yuliang Liu
Learner satisfaction and learning is currently a very important topic in online instruction and learning. Blignaut and Trollip (2003) proposed six... Sample PDF
Strategies for Providing Formative Feedback to Maximize Learner Satisfaction and Online Learning
Chapter 10
Bo Kyeong Kim, Youngkyun Baek
Web 2.0 is changing the paradigm of using the Internet which is affecting the e-learning paradigm. In this chapter, e-learning 2.0 and its... Sample PDF
Exploring Ideas and Possibilities of Second Life as an Advanced E-Learning Environment
Chapter 11
Jeannine Hirtle, Samuel Smith
Communities of practice (CoP’s)—much touted and studied as a mechanism for teacher education and professional development—may offer environments for... Sample PDF
When Virtual Communities Click: Transforming Teacher Practice, Transforming Teachers
Chapter 12
Luiz Fernando de Barros Campos
This chapter investigates whether information technology tools typical of Web 2.0 can support Knowledge Management (KM) practices in organizations.... Sample PDF
Could Web 2.0 Technologies Support Knowledge Management in Organizations?
Chapter 13
Colleen Carmean
Anytime and all-the-time access to electronic resources, artifacts and community have changed learning practices in the workplace as surely as it... Sample PDF
E-Learning Design for the Information Workplace
Chapter 14
Paraskevi Mentzelou, Dimitrios Drogidis
The aims of Greek education system is to give to students the ability to develop the required skills, character and values that will enable them to... Sample PDF
The Impact of Information Communication Technology (ICT) to the Greek Educational Community
Chapter 15
Richard Hartshorne, Haya Ajjan, Richard E. Ferdig
In this chapter, the authors provide evidence for the potential of various Web 2.0 applications in higher education through a review of relevant... Sample PDF
Faculty Use and Perceptions of Web 2.0 in Higher Education
Chapter 16
Susanne Markgren, Carrie Eastman, Leah Massar Bloom
In this chapter, the authors explore the role of academic librarians in the e-learning 2.0 environment. Librarians are excellent partners in... Sample PDF
Librarian as Collaborator: Bringing E-Learning 2.0 Into the Classroom by Way of the Library
Chapter 17
Betül C. Özkan
Because of the ways students learn and make sense of world change, higher education institutions try to re-conceptualize this change process and... Sample PDF
Implementing E-Learning in University 2.0: Are Universities Ready for the Digital Age?
Chapter 18
Hsiu-Ting Hung
The focus of the chapter is two-fold: on one hand, it seeks theoretical understanding of literacy as social practice; on the other hand, it explores... Sample PDF
New Literacies in New Times: A Multimodal Approach to Literacy Learning
Chapter 19
Rajani S. Sadasivam, Katie M. Crenshaw, Michael J. Schoen, Raju V. Datla
The e-learning 2.0 transformation of continuing education of healthcare professionals (CE/CME) will be characterized by a fundamental shift from the... Sample PDF
Transforming Continuing Healthcare Education with E-Learning 2.0
Chapter 20
Brian Smith, Peter Reed
The excitement of Web 2.0 and E-learning 2.0 is upon us. As the use of social networking sites and other Web 2.0 tools continue to increase... Sample PDF
Mode Neutral: The Pedagogy that Bridges Web 2.0 and e-Learning 2.0
Chapter 21
F. R. Nordengren, Ann M. York
This chapter is a practical overview of both the theoretical, evidence-based research in pedagogy and the anecdotal, experience-based practices of... Sample PDF
Dispatches from the Graduate Classroom: Bringing Theory and Practice to E-Learning
Chapter 22
Kathryn Kennedy, Jeff Boyer, Catherine Cavanaugh, Kara Dawson
Using the theoretical framework of “craft” highlighted by Richard Sennett (2008) in The Craftsman, this chapter focuses on constructionism and the... Sample PDF
Student-Centered Teaching with Constructionist Technology Tools: Preparing 21st Century Teachers
Chapter 23
Clara Pereira Coutinho
In this chapter the author presents the results of a project developed in pre-service and in-service teacher education programs at the Minho... Sample PDF
Challenges for Teacher Education in the Learning Society: Case Studies of Promising Practice
Chapter 24
Pearl Chen
This chapter reviews the current state of theory and practice of experience design and suggests that the notion of experience should be regarded as... Sample PDF
From Memorable to Transformative E-Learning Experiences: Theory and Practice of Experience Design
Chapter 25
Carl Scott, Youmei Liu, Madhuri Kumar
This chapter will examine the relationship between a constructivist teaching approach and online learning experiences in the Virtual Worlds of... Sample PDF
Authentic Learning in Second Life: A Constructivist Model in Course Design
Chapter 26
C. Candace Chou
This study explores student views of various E-Learning tools as teaching and learning media in an online course for pre-service and in-service... Sample PDF
Student Perceptions and Pedagogical Applications of E-Learning Tools in Online Course
Chapter 27
Steve Chi-Yin Yuen, Harrison Hao Yang
Enhancing the substantial interaction in e-learning courses can be a challenge to instructors. The chapter gave an overview of online interaction... Sample PDF
Using Blogfolios to Enhance Interaction in E-Learning Courses
Chapter 28
Priti Srinivas Sajja
Quality of an e-Learning solution depends on its content, services offered by it and technology used. To increase reusability of common learning... Sample PDF
Multi-Tier Knowledge-Based System Accessing Learning Object Repository Using Fuzzy XML
Chapter 29
Ivan Angelov, Sathish Menon, Michael Douma
This chapter outlines central findings from surveys that considered factors that drive online experience as expressed by the three different groups... Sample PDF
Finding Information: Factors that Improve Online Experiences
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