The Net Generation and Changes in Knowledge Acquisition

The Net Generation and Changes in Knowledge Acquisition

Werner Beuschel (IBAW – Institute of Business Application Systems, Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-2178-7.ch012
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This chapter uses a methodological approach to investigate research and design knowledge acquisition in the context of social software applications, an area cluttered by an ever-growing number of applications and high expectations about the capabilities of a new generation of young users, the Net Generation. Its objectives are twofold: to provide a rational point of departure for developing a research and design framework and to exemplify it for the use of social software in higher education. The chapter scrutinizes popular assumptions about the Net Generation, basing the framework on the interdependency of user audience and technology. The results of a longitudinal exploratory study for the area of social software use in higher education are presented. The final part of the chapter discusses implications for the design of learning environments and a number of ideas for further research on knowledge acquisition within the social software context.
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Background: Generational Changes And Social Software

To fully appreciate the impressive changes in the human use of technology it may be helpful to be aware of the larger timeframe in which developments used to happen. In his article about the computer becoming an almost invisible, “ubiquitous” element of day-to-day life, Marc Weiser envisioned such an all-permeating wave of technology (Weiser, 1991). The wider perspective suggests a development period of several decades. While the 1990s were a time of technological shift toward networking, the following decade laid the groundwork for universal access.

Within this framework of investigation the target group of social software users and the available technology are essential variables. While both are basic elements, they are not fixed over time, but rather “moving targets” to a high degree. So if we aim at investigating how people—in our case students in tertiary education—cope with the challenges of acquiring, building, and disseminating information by using innovative technology we need to look at each element and at their evolving relationship and interaction.

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