Home » Posts tagged 'Maton'

Tag Archives: Maton

The diffusion and use of innovations is complex – like people.

Fig. 1 Who’s the digital native which one is the immigrant? 

There is no evidence to support any suggestion that there was ever such a group as a ‘digital native’ and it is sensationalist claptrap or lazy  journalism to talk of ‘millenials’ – there aren’t any. The research shows the complex and human reality. It is not generational.  (Kennedy et al, 2009., Jones et al. 2010., Bennett and Maton., 2010) I’m not the only father who knows more and does more online than his kids – we had computers at university in the mid-1980s and in the office within a decade.

Bell and Gemmel fall for the falsehood of the ‘Millenials’. (2009. p. 19)

Fig.2. The devices we use do not split us across generations.

On digital natives or millenials add that behaviours supposedly attributable only to this younger generation are also evident in anyone using these tools and devices – the digitally literate is impatient and is easily distracted.

This applies to anyone who spends much time online. It is not age, gender or race related. We all fidget if downloads are slow or we lose a signal. We’re just being people. It is not generational. Rather behaviours with this tools reflects who we are, not what the kit affords.

Fig. 3. Whether you were born before or after this arrival doesn’t make a jot of difference.

So you here anyone calling our parents the ‘TV generation’, or the generation before that the ‘Wireless Generation’. It is shorthand that   is harmless until it is used to define policy.

They refer to those born between 1982 and 2001 as a homogenous cohort, as if they are all born into families where they will have access to gadgets and later the internet as a birthright. The figures given by Bell and Gemmel (2009) stick to those in North America – just the US or Canada too?  So what if a few become software millionaires. Others aren’t getting jobs at all. And there are plenty of other ways to earn a crust.

Of the 70 million they talk about how many have been interviewed?

When it comes to the use of various online tools and platforms what actually is their behaviour? Its the same behaviour they’d show out in the real world, at school or in the shopping-mall, making and losing friends. And when it comes to blogging, who knows what is going on. The authors assume (2009. p 20) that there is some kind of truth in what people post – that in my experience blogging for many hours a day since 1999 is far, far from that. Indeed finding the honest voice is the one in 30,000.

There is a considerable degree of fakery, and blatant fiction.

I am reminded of the entirely fictitious ‘Online Caroline’ of a decade ago. She posted a sophisticated blog for the era, with photos and video chat. Like Orson Wells following an audience over the invasion of earth this blog had people calling the police when Caroline’s CCTV supposedly logged someone nicking stuff from her flat.

Bell and Gemmel (2009) talk about lifelogging as a panacea.

Fig. 4. The context in which we learn

There are lessons and techniques that have their place. In fact we’re doing a lot of it already. Through several devices or one we are recording, snapping, storing, sharing, loading, compiling, curating, mixing and remembering.

Every example given is a positive, a selected moment on which to build … what about the times of heartache and memory, of parent’s arguments and childhood bullying. Do we want those? If trying a cigarette, getting drunk, being caught in the open with a dodgy stomach or vomiting?

The authors, Gordon Bell and Gemmel (2009) as well as  Viktor Mayer-Schönberger  (2009)  consider four issues in relation to the creation of digital memories:

  1. Record (digitization)
  2. Storage (cheap)
  3. Recall (easy)
  4. Global Access (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 14)

A fifth should be how this content is managed and manipulated, how selections are made and how it is edited and fed back to the content’s owner, or how it forms another person’s memory when picked up and mashed online.

As (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 16) puts it, to cope with the sea of stimuli, our brain uses multiple levels of processing and filtering before committing information to long-term memory .

Could decluttering the hoarders house be achieved by creating for them a digital archive and putting everything else in the bin?   

Human Memory

Fig. 5. How we forget. And where software and tools can play a part to help us remember – to create more memories and better recall. 

We forget (perhaps an implicit result of the second law of thermodynamics).  (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 21) Or a fact. A neuroscientist needs to get engaged at this stage. What IS going on in there?

Let’s say that memory formation could be liken to the aggregation of coral.

This memory has had no opportunity to fix in this way if it is a snap-shot of the an impression of a moment detached from its context – what was going in, how the person was feeling, what they thought of the events, how these would colour and shape their memory .

We are prone to mis-attribute

Language is a recently recent phenomenon (Mayer-Schönberger, 2009. p. 23) Should we therefore remember in images?

Painting dates back some 30,000 years. The written language is even more recent (6000 years ago) as pictographs became cuneiform became an alphabet –  so would an oral tradition be of more value?


Bell, G., and Gemmel. J (2009)  Total Recall: How the E-Memory Revolution Will Change Everything

Bennett, S, & Maton, K (2010), ‘Beyond the “Digital Natives” Debate: Towards a More Nuanced Understanding of Students’ Technology Experiences’,Journal Of Computer Assisted Learning, 26, 5, pp. 321-331, ERIC, EBSCOhost, (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Jones C., Ramanaua R., Cross S. & Healing G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers and Education 54, 722–732.

Kennedy G., Dalgarno B., Bennett S., Gray K., Waycott J., Judd T., Bishop A., Maton K., Krause K. & Chang R. (2009) Educating the Net Generation – A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available at: http://www.altc.edu.au/ system/files/resources/CG6-25_Melbourne_Kennedy_ Handbook_July09.pdf (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Mayer-Schönberger, V (2009) Delete: The Virtue of Forgetting in the Digital Age



The idea of gathering a substantial part of one’s life experience fascinates me, as it has often inspired others

Fig. 1. Hands by Escher.

The danger is for it to become one’s modus operandi, that the act of gathering is what you become. I recall many decades ago, possibly when I started to keep a diary when I was 13, a documentary – that can no doubt now be found on the Internet – on a number of diarists. There were not the well-known authors or celebrity politicians, but the obscure keeper of the heart beat, those who would toil for two hours a day writing about what they had done, which was to edit what they’d written about the day before … if this starts to look like a drawing by Escher then perhaps this illustrates how life-logging could get out of hand, that it turns you inside out, that it causes implosion rather than explosion. It may harm, as well as do good. We are too complex for this to be a panacea or a solution for everybody.

A myriad of book, TV and Film expressions of memory, its total recall, false recall, falsehoods and precisions abound. I think of the Leeloo in The Fifth Element learning about Human Kind flicking through TV Channels.

Fig. 2. Leeloo learns from TV what the human race is doing to itself

Always the shortcut for an alien to get into our collective heads and history. Daryl Hannah does it in Splash too. Digitisation of our existence, in part or total, implies that such a record can be stored (it can) and retrieved in an objective and viable way (doubtful). Bell (2009) offers his own recollections, sci-fi shorts and novels, films too that of course push the extremes of outcomes for the purposes of storytelling rather than seeking more mundane truth about what digitization of our life story may do for us.

Fig. 3. Swim Longer, Faster

There are valid and valuable alternatives – we do it anyway when we make a gallery of family photos – that is the selective archiving of digital memory, the choices over what to store, where to put it, how to share then exploit this data. I’m not personally interested in the vital signs of Gordon Bell’s heart-attack prone body, but were I a young athlete, a competitive swimmer, such a record during training and out of the pool is of value both to me and my coach.

I am interested in Gordon Bell’s ideas – the value added, not a pictoral record of the 12-20 events that can be marked during a typical waking day, images grabbed as a digital camera hung around his neck snaps ever 20-30 seconds, or more so, if it senses ‘change’ – gets up, moves to another room, talks to someone, browses the web … and I assume defecates, eats a meal and lets his eyes linger on … whatever takes his human fancy.

How do we record what the mind’s eye sees?

How do we capture ideas and thoughts? How do we even edit from a digital grab in front of our eyes and pick out what the mind is concentrating on? A simple click of a digital camera doesn’t do this, indeed it does the opposite – it obscure the moment through failing to pick out what matters. Add sound and you add noise that the mind, sensibly filters out. So a digital record isn’t even what is being remembered. I hesitate as I write – I here two clocks. No, the kitchen clock and the clicking of the transformer powering the laptop. And the wind. And the distant rumble of the fridge. This is why I get up at 4.00am. Fewer distractions. I’ve been a sound engineer and directed short films. I understand how and why we have to filter out extraneous noises to control what we understand the mind of the protagonist is registering. If the life-logger is in a trance, hypnotized, day dreaming or simply distracted the record from the device they are wearing is worse than an irrelevance, it is actually a false cue, a false record.

Fig. 4. Part of the brain and the tiniest essence of what is needed to form a memory

Mind is the product of actions within a biological entity. To capture a memory you’d have to capture an electro-chemical instance across hundreds of millions of synapses.

Fig. 5. Diving of Beadnell Harbour, 1949. My later mother in her teens.

An automatically harvested digital record must often camouflage what might have made the moment a memory. I smell old fish heads and I see the harbour at Beadnell where as a child fisherman brought in a handful of boats every early morning. What if I smell old fish as I take rubbish to recycle? Or by a bin down the road from a fish and chip shop. What do my eyes see, and what does my mind see?

I love the messiness of the human brain – did evolution see this coming?

In ‘Delete’ Mayer-Schönberger (2009. p. 1) suggests that forgetting, until recently was the norm, whereas today, courtesy of our digital existences, forgetting has become the exception.

I think we still forget – we don’t try to remember phone numbers and addresses as we think we have them in our phone – until we wipe or lose the thing. In the past we’d write them down, even make the effort to remember the things. It is this need to ‘make an effort’ to construct a memory that I fear could be discombobulated.

I’m disappointed though that Mayer-Schönberger stumbles for the false-conception ‘digital natives’ – this is the mistaken impression that there exists a generation that is more predisposed and able than any other when it comes to all things digital. Kids aren’t the only ones with times on their hands, or a passion for the new, or even the budget and will to be online. The empirical evidence shows that the concept of a digital native is unsound – there aren’t any. (Jones et al, 2010., Kennedy et al, 2009., Bennet and Maton, 2010., Ituma, 2011)

The internet and digital possibilities have not created the perfect memory. (Mayer-Schönberger 2009. p. 3)

To start with how do we define ‘memory’ ?

A digital record is an artefact, it isn’t what is remembered at all. Indeed, the very nature of memory is that it is different every time you recall a fact or an event. It becomes nuanced, and coloured. It cannot help itself.

Fig. 6. Ink drops as ideas in a digital ocean

A memory like drops of ink in a pond touches different molecules every time you drip, drip, drip. When I hear a family story of what I did as a child, then see the film footage I create a false memory – I think I remember that I see, but the perspective might be from my adult father holding a camera, or my mother retelling the story through ‘rose tinted glasses’.

Fig. 7. Not the first attempt at a diary, that was when I was 11 ½ . ‘A day in the life of … ‘ came to a close with breakfast after some 500 words.

I kept a diary from March 1973 to 1992 or so. I learnt to write enough, a few bullet points in a five year diary in the first years – enough to recall other elements of that day. I don’t need the whole day.

Digital Natives – claptrap, scaremongering and myth

Marc Prensky

Marc Prensky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Use of computers in any form, from desktops to laptops, and now with smartphones and tablets, has never been generational. We’d might as well suggest that there were once bicycle riding natives or TV remote control natives. The term was coined by Marc Prensky (2001) – there was never any substance to it. Academics and journalists ought to be more wary when these ideas that appear to express an apparent reality and suggest revolution and disruption are given so much credence. Research now shows that there is no substance at all to the idea.

Despite recent empirical evidence undermining claims about profound age-related differences in technology use and practices and moves by the original authors to distance themselves from their original claims (e.g. Prensky 2009), the idea put forward, of a fundamental gap between the technologically skilled and unskilled, persists. (Bennet and Maton, 2010:322)

Prensky (2009) is no less re-assuring than in his previous books and article, his style light journalism, opinion and replete with soundbites – in this article ‘digital wisdom’ and ‘ future wisdom seekers’ are his catch phrase somehow permitted by a quote from Einstein. He also spouts pseudo-science about ‘those who interact with technology frequently will be restructured by that interaction’ – ‘The brains of wisdom seekers of the future will be fundamentally different, in organization and in structure, than our brains are today’. He also continues to tout the idea of the ‘digital immigrant’ referring to Barack Obama and Rupert Murdoch. (Perhaps he could add Philip Green and Martin Sorrell)

The research from Bennett says this about Prensky’s thesis:

– Little critical scrutiny
– Under theorised
– Lack of sound empirical basis

It would be worrying were educators to act on the kind of radical changes in curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and professional in education that Prensky feels is required.

‘Arguments are often couched in dramatic language, proclaim a profound change in the world, and pronounce stark generational differences’ (Bennett, 2008:03).

Claims are put forward with limited empirical evidence (Tapscott, 1998) or supported by anecdotes and appeals to common-sense beliefs. (Prensky, 2001. Prensky cites Captain James T Kirk from Star Trek … as if a fictional character, or the show (rather than its author) should be the one to cite at all.

‘The researchers found that only a minority of the students (around 21%) were engaged in creating their own content and multimedia for the Web, and that a significant proportion of students had lower level skills than might be expected of digital natives.’ (Bennett 2008:02)

Kennedy et al’s research (2009) in Australia shows that emerging technologies are NOT the lifeblood of a generation, far from it. Research amongst students in three Australian universities showed that only :

21% blog
24% used social networking
21.5% used podcasts

Hardly the universal use of technology by this generation that Prensky and his cronies suggest is the position.

‘There is no evidence that multi-tasking is a new phenomenon exclusive to digital natives’, (Bennett, 2008:02)

Best of all it turns out that all of us who use these tools frequently take on what Prensky might think of as uniquely teenage or generational traits – impatient for a start with software or bandwidth, online 20/7 if not 24/7 … but at least capable of seeing the often Wikipedia is not an adequate or accurate source (they’ve let me edit enough stuff) or that Google is does not offer the definitive answer ever, let alone on the first sweep.

Just because something resonates with our personal observations doesn’t make it so. Frankly, Prensky et al should be stand-up comics – you have to laugh, at their nonsense and how gullible we are to want to believe them.

‘Such claims with appeals to sense and recognisable anecdotes are used to declare an emergency situation, and call for urgent and fundamental change.’ (Bennett, 2008:04)

Research has shown that the concept of the ‘digital native’ is worse than a myth – it was and remains untrue. We should think instead of how innovations are adopted, using Roger’s diffusion of innovation of and in this case an expensive one – far from being generational computers were taken up right across age groups in equal measure. It is also very wrong to assume, as the article says, that all children have the ‘knowledge’ – they do not.

‘An evaluation of students’ perceptions and engagement with e-learning components in a campus based university’. (Ituma 2011)

Another false assumption recently researched relating to the use of computers by disabled students – it turns out that some are highly digitally literate, embracing the technology and finding their own ways to overcome some of the barriers we assume to be in their way because of the benefits that are afforded them – digitised text can be read and manipulated in many ways to suit those with sight, cognitive or mobility impairments.

‘Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation within age groups.’ (Bennett, 2008:02)

And variations within those with disabilities – who of course are not a homogeneous group either.

As educators we ought to enquire first of every child or student’s exposure to and use of these devices, like swimming, playing the piano or speaking a foreign language we may be surprised at the outcome.

‘Our research suggests that we should be cautious about distinguishing a specific generation because although there are age differences there are additional factors differentiating students, specifically gender and disciplinary differences. We find significant age related differences but we are reluctant to conclude that there is a clear disconnection between a Net generation composed of Digital Natives and older students.’ (Jones and Ramanau, 2010)

Studies of school-aged children in particular have highlighted differences in the ways home access to technology is determined according to the location of the computer, rules about access and the value placed on technology as an educational or recreational device (Downes 1998; Kerawalla & Crook 2002).

What these studies suggest is that young people grow up with different histories of access to technology and therefore different opportunities. This leads to the conclusion that measures of access tell only part of the story, and that it may be more important to understand the nature of the technology-based activities in which young people engage. Bennet and Maton (2010:323)

Content creation activities (as measured by items such as creating text, graphics, audio or video) are consistently lower than might be anticipated given many claims about what young people are doing with technology. In fact, with the exception of social networking, most activities associated with Web 2.0 are engaged in by a minority of respondents on key large-scale surveys (e.g. Salaway & Caruso 2007; Kennedy et al. 2009; Jones et al. 2010. Bennet and Maton (2010:324)

Green and Hannon (2007) suggested different user types with their own particular expertise: ‘digital pioneers’, ‘creative producers’, ‘everyday communicators’ and ‘information gatherers’.

It is clear from this recent research that there is significant variation in the ways in which young people use technology, suggesting that rather than being a homogenous generation, there is a diversity of interests, motivations and needs. So while some young people might be regarded as ‘digital natives’, these are by no means characteristics shared by all young people simply because of their exposure to digital technologies. Bennet and Maton (2010:325)

The lack of evidence for the existence of an entire generation of digital natives seriously undermines arguments made for radical change to education because of a proclaimed disjuncture between the needs of young people and their educational institutions. This is not to say that education should not change at all, but merely, that the basis of the argument, as it is currently made, is fundamentally flawed. Bennet and Maton (2010:325)

Not only do they fail to acknowledge the ways in which formal education does change, but they devalue it to such an extent that it is difficult to comprehend what it could offer. It is to discount wholly the notion that formal education can and does provide an important complement to informal learning (Facer & Furlong 2001; Jenkins 2004).

In short, a defining characteristic of knowledge gained in a formal educational context is that it is pedagogized knowledge. That is, it is knowledge that has been selected, re-arranged into a particular sequence within a curriculum, and recontextualized within specific contexts of teaching and learning (Singh 2002 in Bennet and Maton 2010:327)

Elsewhere we have argued that much of the discussion about digital natives has taken the form of an ‘academic moral panic’, in which dramatic language proclaiming profound change and a series of strongly bounded divides close down genuine debate (Bennett et al. 2008).

They are the same as claims made, for example, in the late 1950s and early 1960s about a generation of students immersed in new forms of commercial culture, such as television and popular music. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)

Erasing the past in this way renders social and intellectual change an ‘article of faith’ rather than an ‘object of inquiry’ (Moore & Maton 2001). The past becomes a ‘foreign country’ and the young and old are considered to inhabit different worlds. Given the research evidence to the contrary and the illogic of such a position, it is futile to continue with these kinds of arguments. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)

Another feature of the debate is what can be termed a ‘certainty–complacency spiral’ that enables the uncritical reproduction of the terms ‘digital native’ or ‘Net Generation’ in ways that give both of them a credence they do not deserve and amplifies their significance. The more certain authors are that digital natives exist, the less likely they seem to be to question claims made about them by other authors. For example, publications comprising unevidenced claims have often been routinely cited as if they contained researched evidence. This complacent, uncritical acceptance of the veracity of such claims in turn encourages further certainty, as the number of publications adopting the term grows. (Bennet and Maton 2010:328)


Bennett, S., Maton, Karl., Kervin, L. (2008) The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology Volume 39, Issue 5,Article first published online: 5 FEB 2008 (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Downes T. (1998) Using the computer at home. In IT for Learning Enhancement (ed. M. Monteith), pp. 61–78. Intellect Books, Oxford.

Facer K. & Furlong R. (2001) Beyond the myth of the ‘cyberkid’: young people at the margins of the information revolution. Journal of Youth Studies 4, 451–469.

Jenkins H. (2004) The myths of growing up online. Technology Review. Available at: http://www.technologyreview. com/Biotech/13773 (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Jones, Chris (2012). The new shape of the student. In: Huang, Ronghuai; Kinshuk, and Spector, J. Michael eds.Reshaping Learning – The Frontiers of Learning Technologies in Global Context. New Frontiers of Educational Research. New York: Springer, (In press).

Jones C., Ramanaua R., Cross S. & Healing G. (2010) Net generation or Digital Natives: is there a distinct new generation entering university? Computers and Education 54, 722–732.

Kennedy G., Dalgarno B., Bennett S., Gray K., Waycott J., Judd T., Bishop A., Maton K., Krause K. & Chang R. (2009) Educating the Net Generation – A Handbook of Findings for Practice and Policy. Australian Learning and Teaching Council. Available at: http://www.altc.edu.au/ system/files/resources/CG6-25_Melbourne_Kennedy_ Handbook_July09.pdf (last accessed 19 October 2009).

Kerawalla L. & Crook C. (2002) Children’s computer use at home and at school: context and continuity. British Educational Research Journal 28, 751–771.

Ituma, A 2011, ‘An Evaluation of Students’ Perceptions and Engagement with E-Learning Components in a Campus Based University’,Active Learning In Higher Education, 12, 1, pp. 57-68, ERIC, EBSCOhost, viewed 13 December 2012.

Singh P. (2002) Pedagogising knowledge: Bernstein’s theory of the pedagogic device. British Journal of Sociology of Education 23, 571–582.

Trinder, K., Guiller, J., Margaryan, A., Littlejohn, A. & Nicol, D. 2008. Learning from digital natives: bridging formal and informal learning. The Higher Education Academy
<http://www.academy.gcal.ac.uk/ldn/LDNFinalReport.pdf&gt; [Accessed 20 August 2012]

Moore R. & Maton K. (2001) Founding the sociology of knowledge: Basil Bernstein, intellectual fields and the epistemic device. In Towards a Sociology of Pedagogy: The Contribution of Basil Bernstein to Research (eds A. Morais, I. Neves, B. Davies&H.Daniels), pp. 153–182. Peter Lang, NewYork.

Prensky M. (2001) Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon 9, 1–6.

Prensky, M 2009, ‘H. Sapiens Digital: From Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom’, Innovate: Journal Of Online Education, 5, 3, ERIC, EBSCOhost, (viewed 13 Dec 2012).

Rogers, E.M. (2003) Diffusion of Innovations (5th edn), New York, Simon and Schuster.

Salaway G. & Caruso J. (2007) The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Technology. EDUCAUSE, Boulder, CO.

Tapscott, D (1998) Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation McGraw-Hill Companies.

%d bloggers like this: