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Debunking ‘digital natives’

Selwyn (2008) and Kennedy et al (2008) debunk the myth of the ‘digital native’.

It matters in equal measure for practitioners and students the policy about learning design is based on objective facts and repeated quantitative and qualitative research.

It isn’t simply that the ‘assumptions made by commentators in the Net Generation warrant critical examination, concern should be expressed that these reports were taken seriously when they published in 1999 and 2001. As Kennedy et al point out such broad generalisations risk overlooking a more complex mix of ICT skills and knowledge among student and teacher populations. If acted upon wholesale adoption of technologies or assumptions of their widespread use by this generation would risk alienating substantial parts of both teacher and student populations. The key point made by Kennedy et al is to ‘think about how well we know our students and how we can ensure we meet their real needs and not what we imagine they might need.’

FURTHER LINKS: Generation X doesn’t exist

Making the most of the student experience

On the one hand, taking a conservative stance when it comes to introducing technology into learning, it may mean that a number of student cohorts miss out on the opportunity to use new technologies for learning, on the other hand it would be far worse to make a radical and universal shift in learning methodologies just because in a handful of papers a few excitable authors (Prensky, Tapcott and others) say everything has changed only for us to find in the fullness of time that their ideas don’nt don’t stand up to empirical research.

Ideas put forward between 1999 and 2001 during the height of dot.com development which exploited the hype that was founded on assumptions and possibilities rather than empirical evidence about some families where children had grown up with technology around them. Wasn’t there an outcry about television frying our children’s minds in the 1970s. I wonder if I’m one of the remote control generation, or the zapper generation, those of us brought up for most of our TV viewing years without having to get up to change between one of the three channels offered.

Anderson on meeting student needs online

Getting the Mix Right Again: An updated and theoretical rationale for Interaction. How to be effective and efficient in meeting diverse student needs. Terry Anderson (2003)

Wagner’s (1994) “reciprocal events that require at least two objects and two actions. Interactions occur when these objects and events mutually influence one another” (p. 8).

A comment left on a blog is therefore a reciprocal interaction, like an asynchronous discussion in a forum, as there are two people (subjects) with in respective cases two objects (the blog and the comment) and two actions (the writing of the blog, the composition of a response in the form of a comment).

This does not, as Anderson suggests, negate Daniel and Marquis’s (1998) definition of interaction needing to refer “in a restrictive manner to cover only those activities where the student is in two-way contact with another person (or persons)” (Daniel and Marquis, 1988, p. 339). In 1989 they could not have known how texting would develop into meaningful interaction between two or more people, or the way in which asynchronous discussion could occur online.

  • Sims (1999) argues that interactivity allows for learner control, adaptation of the learner program, various forms of participation and communication, and as aiding the development of meaningful learning.
  • Lipman (1991) and Wenger (2001) say that interactivity is fundamental to the creation of the learning communities.
  • Jonassen (1991) says that another person’s perspective is a key learning component in constructivist learning theories.
  • Langer (1989) says that interaction develops mindfulness in learners.

There is a history of interaction as a theory in education

  • Dewey (1916) from inert information from another to your own understanding and interpretation in your head.
  • Holmberg (1989) between tutor and student, whether postal or on the phone.
  • Laurilard (1997) interaction between tutor, content and students.

The difference between formal and informal learning.

One, Anderson argues, is purposively designed to have a learning outcome. Though I do wonder, based on a recent Elluminate session in which we considered a formal and informal learning design for teaching The Green Cross Code if the informal miss has greater impact, the shock of the unexpected when you are nearly hit … Or as a driver or passenger you nearly hit (or even do hit) another?

Since both formal and informal learning can result from interaction between and amongst students alone, or as result of interaction between student and content, the participation of a teacher cannot be a defining feature of an educational interaction. (Anderson, 2003)

Anderson, 2003 suggested that due to the increasing computational power and storage capacity of computers (Moore’s Law), their increase in functionality when networked (Metcalfe’s Law), and related geometric increases in a host of technical developments (Kurzweil, 1999) created opportunity to transform student-teacher and student-student interaction into enhanced forms of student-content interaction.

In a way the interaction with the content of various kinds in mixed ways that goes on in the head Dewey (1916) has been the goal of the developers of interactive learning all along, in the training context this has occurred as facilitator-led learning was gradually transcended by workbooks in the 1980s, video-led and interactive (on laser-disc then Interactive DVD before) in the 1990s before efforts occurred to migrate content and interactivity to the web from the 1990s.

The multiple interplay of Anderson and Garrison’s (1998) Fig. 1 rings true, though how content without a student or teacher interloper baffles me and in 2011 teacher in the broadest sense should take in all educators and ancillary stakeholders.

There is no single medium that supports the educational experience in a manner that is superior in all ways to that supported via other media.

Clark’s (1994), Kozma’s (1994) Russell (2000) and many others show that there is ’a complicated interaction between content, student preference and need, institutional capacity and preference, and teaching and learning approaches to learning’.

There is also evidence that many students deliberately choose learning programs that allow them to minimize the amount of student-teacher and student-student interaction required (May, 2003; Kramarae, 2003).

While Anderson (2003) concludes that there is ’a wide range of need and preference for different combinations of paced and un-paced, synchronous and asynchronous activity, and also a strong desire for variety and exposure to different modes and modularities of educational provision and activity.’

From these observations and from the literature debate, Anderson developed an equivalency theorem as follows:

Deep and meaningful formal learning is supported as long as one of the three forms of interaction is at a high level:

• Student–teacher

• Student-student

• Student-content

The other two may be offered at minimal levels, or even eliminated, without degrading the educational experience.

High levels of more than one of these three modes will likely provide a more satisfying educational experience.

This theorem implies that an instructional designer can substitute one type of interaction for one of the others (at the same level) with little loss in educational effectiveness – thus the label of an equivalency theory.

Student-teacher interaction currently has the highest perceived value amongst students, and thus commands highest scores.

There is some evidence to suggest value in “vicarious interaction,” in which non-active participants gain from observing and empathizing with active participants (Sutton, 2001; Fulford and Zhang, 1993).

Also Cox (2006) with a nod to John Seely- (2007) (both from week 2)

For planning or development purposes, designers are encouraged to build into their programs strategic amounts of each type of interaction, and to develop activities that will encourage this amount of interaction.

This interests me because I wonder if we could take the call-centre principal and apply it to social media, a collective engagement of substance.

At Athabasca University, Anderson writes, students had access (7 days a week, 12 hours a day) to call centre staff. They were equipped with FAQ databases, course syllabi, and a limited amount of content knowledge to answer a wide variety of student inquiries.

Would this help with retention?

It would contribute to engagement. It did contribute to deeper learning. Are we now saying that this interaction must come from fellow students? Or alumni groups in social networks?

I know that in the corporate sector Epic offer clients a ‘call-centre’ like service as they have realised that online interactive learning naturally throws up situations where students want to talk to an informed and sympathetic person. No one wants to be passed from pillow to post. I say this as an informed online learner who has not just had to sleep on a problem, but the nature of responses either send you to sleep or leave you wanting to bang your head against a post.

I loathe this kind of academic language.

This is where academics address each other, a PhD student to their sponsor perhaps. It puts students and the inquisitive mind at arm’s length.

This will change in the Web 2.0 world as this content gets an airing well-beyond its original place in a printed journal and with a few tags and comments gets spread rapidly across thousands rather than a handful of readers.

‘The equivalency theorem proposed in this paper is not as complicated nor as technically detailed as other theories relevant to distance education (e.g., Jaspers, 1991; Saba and Shearer, 1994). However, its simplicity allows it to function as an accessible heuristic for distance education delivery design’. Anderson (2003)

My highlights.

The choice of words then this massive compound-noun says to me this person is trying to sound clever, elitist and worthy of the academic status they aspire to. It is poor communication. Even the chunk of referencing sticks in the gullet. We should in theory reference every word we utter, as none are our own, all could be tagged back to someone, somewhere.

Clarity counts.

By quoting Wilson here Anderson reveals his motives. Sometimes academics what to coin a phrase or word: e-tivity (Salmon, 2002), sometimes a phrase: digital natives (Prensky, 2001, 2003, but read Jones to put this terms where they belong), sometimes a theorem, this one being ‘The Equivalency Theorem’.

Wilson (1997), Anderson tells us, described three functions that a good educational theory performs.

I’ll let you read the conclusion in the paper for these.

My interest is not in developing a theorem, my quest is for understanding that I may then apply.

An important paper, dense, chronological, logical, a great intellect chew.

Anderson (2003) ends with this:

‘I am convinced that many of these alternatives should be focused on creating the most cost effective and accessible alternatives that can scale to meet the burgeoning global demand for effective and affordable life-long learning opportunities. In most cases, these models will drastically reduce the amount of teacher-student interaction, and substitute it with increased student-student and student-content interaction. For many, this scenario is a frightening one, but one that is in keeping with our tradition of expanding educational access and opportunity, and thus not one we should abhor’.

Eight years on I feel like sounding him out.

Was he prescient? Where is he now?

The fact Anderson has missed is the greater desire for increased personalisation, learning tailor to the individual and increased interaction through social networks, with the knowledgeable as well as the ignorant (whether or not they are the person’s tutor or faculty academics).

Actually, the group I find silent are the tutors and academics.

They are too busy with their heads in their professional thoughts unable to offer up a piece of their minds without attaching a price or allocated time to it. Is this the difference between a professional musician and a busker?

REFERENCE

Anderson, T., and Garrison, D.R. (1998). Learning in a networked world: New roles and responsibilities. In C. Gibson (Ed.), Distance Learners in Higher Education. (p. 97-112). Madison, WI.: Atwood Publishing.

Anderson, T. (2003). Modes of interaction in distance education: Recent developments and research questions. In M. Moore (Ed.) Handbook of Distance Education. (p. 129-144). Mahwah, NJ.: Erlbaum.

Cox, R. (2006) Vicarious Learning and Case-based Teaching of Clinical Reasoning Skills (2004–2006) [online], http://www.esrcsocietytoday.ac.uk/ esrcinfocentre/ viewawardpage.aspx?awardnumber=RES-139-25-0127 [(last accessed 10 March 2011).

Fulford, C. P., and Zhang, S. (1993). Perceptions of Interaction: The critical predictor in distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 7(3), 8– 21.

John Seely-Brown October 2007 webcast: http://stadium.open.ac.uk/stadia/preview.php?whichevent=1063&s=31 +My notes on this: http://learn.open.ac.uk/mod/oublog/viewpost.php?post=60469+The transcript of that session: http://learn.open.ac.uk/file.php/7325/block1/H800_B1_Week2a_JSBrown_Transcript.rtf

Jaspers, F. (1991). Interactivity or Instruction? A reaction to Merrill. Educational Technology, 31(3), 21 – 24.

Jonassen, D. (1991). Evaluating constructivistic learning. Educational Technology, 31(10), 28 – 33.

Jones, C (2010) A new generation of learners? The Net Generation and Digital Natives

Kurzweil, R. (1999). The age of spiritual machines. New York: Penguin Group.

Langer, E. (1989). Mindfulness. Reading, MA.: Addison-Wesley.

Lipman, M. (1991). Thinking in Education. Cambridge, UK.: Cambridge University Press.

Saba, F., and Shearer, R. (1994). Verifying key theoretical concepts in a dynamic model of distance education. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(1), 36 – 59.

Salmon, G. (2002) E-tivities: The Key to Active Online Learning, London, RoutledgeFalmer.

Sims, R. (1999). Interactivity on stage: Strategies for learner-designer communication. Australian Journal of Educational Technology, 15(3), 257 – 272. Retrieved May 25, 2002 from: http://cleo.murdoch.edu.au/ajet/ajet15/sims.html

Sutton, L. (2001). The principles of vicarious interaction in computer-mediated communications. Journal of Interactive Educational Communications, 7(3), 223 –242. Retrieved July 15, 2003 from: http://www.eas.asu.edu/elearn/research/suttonnew.pdf

Wagner, E.D. (1994). In support of a functional definition of interaction. American Journal of Distance Education, 8(2), 6 – 26.

Wenger, E. (2001). Supporting communities of practice: A survey of community-orientated technologies. (1.3 Ed.) Shareware. Retrieved Mar 12, 2003 from: http://www.ewenger.com/tech/

Wilson, B. (1997). Thoughts on theory in educational technology. Educational Technology, 37(1), 22 – 26.

Debunking the myth of the digital native

An enthusiastic of Prensky a year ago and happy to buy into such labels having lived with them in advertising and marketing where extensive qualitative research labels consumers with all kinds of spurious, though fact based terms and categories to help sell products and services. However, with the concept of ‘Digital Natives’ ;’Generation Y’ et al we fall into the trap of wanting to believe we’re living through a revolution, content to listen to the hyperbole, without doing our own research or looking at that done by others, anything less is hear say, journalistic or fiction. We are not entering a ‘Brave New World’ of Alpha, Beta and Gammas.

The true picture, as we must all suspect, is far more complex than Prensky wishes us to believe and is moving faster, sometimes in unexpected ways, than a study carried out in 2006 can tell us.

Five years ago MySpace was still dominant over Facebook and whilst mobile phones are almost universal the SmartPhone was not; this alone could be realising the desires of the 2010 student undergraduate cohort to access the internet anytime, anywhere, and so to network, as well as reading and writing blogs.

Prensky made a general assumption, that this and many subsequent reports have replaced with scientific studies that show a more complex picture that debunk Prensky’s assumptions and notions.

Prensky suggests that the ‘digital native’ and corollary the ‘digital immigrant’ are universal then they are not.

He suggests that the experience of these technologies are universal, when they are not and so a cohort of students will share ‘sophisticated knowledge’ when they do not and that they will have a similar ‘understanding’ of these technologies, let alone a desire to use them for studying, when they do not.

My view is that if people acted on Prensky’s notions then too great a part of a student cohort would be disenfranchised, just as anyone would if they had an access issue. Research such as this, particularly more qualitative research carried out frequently, if not annually, given the rate of change, is required. Universities are selling something of far greater than Kellogg’s Cornflakes or Walnut Whips, so ought to apply some of the levels of research done by advertisers.

The authors’ conclusion regarding Prensky could not be more clear:

‘The widespread revision of curricula to accommodate the so-called Digital Natives does not seem warranted and, moreover, it would be difficult to start “Adapting materials to the language of Digital Natives” (Prensky, 2001a; p. 4) when they so obviously speak with a variety of tongues. (page 10)

What are the authors’ reasons for saying this?

Evidence based research.

‘The investigation reported in this paper would have benefited from more in depth, qualitative investigation of both students’ and teachers’ perspectives on technology from a broader range of universities which reflect the diversity of Australian higher education’.

How strong do you consider their evidence to be?

Convincing, with extensive qualitative research now required. Any technological integration should be pedagogically driven.

It should be proactive.

Universities should look to the evidence about what technologies students have access to and what their preferences are.

‘Rather than making assumptions about what students like – and are like – universities and their staff must look to the evidence to inform both policy and practice’. (page 11)

More research is needed to determine the specific circumstances under which students would like their ‘living technologies’ to be adapted as ‘learning technologies’.

The key desires of this 2006 student cohort was:

  • Access
  • Convenience
  • Connectedness

They also desired:

  • Blogs
  • Instant messaging
  • Texting
  • Social networking
  • RSS feeds
  • Downloading MP3s

Which I believe will be satisfied by the current and new generation of SmartPhone i.e. we’re going mobile, though I doubt this will mean we are all suddenly jumping ship and calling this m-learning rather than e-learning.

E-learning 2001-2011: A perspective

Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

I was on H804 BR227 Block 2-A1 on the 19th March 2001. I was in Barbara’s Tutor Group.

The block reading was extensive; it had arrived in a large cardboard box, along with CD-roms. Books galore. I’ve numbered the 33 items from which I need to read x paper or chapters. Have we dumbed down in the last decade?

Is reading, if only on a Kindle, no so valid?

Has quantity of content provided been replaced by the quantity of content we generated between each other? If so, it makes contribution the peer group and module cohort all the more important.

We are meant to browse through these and select one. Skim reading as a ‘good study technique’ of the 1990s at the OU. Is this no longer so? I fancy an Amazon reviewing approach to all required reading. I’d then pick one five star, one three star and one that hadn’t received a rating. It’s about as good as my old technique – alphabetical order. Skim read 33 items then choose one? Never. Read all of them, then choose surely. In business if I had to review products, or interview new candidates would I do the job properly, or just give them a cursory glance? ‘If you find something on ODl course design in the set books, or in H80X Resources, which is not currently listed in the Reading guide, just email me with the details. Ill add it to the list. John (John Pettit).

Interestingly a article we then read from Cisco does something similar to the review suggestions above, not as basic as a start rating but ‘Sounding Off’ in which the first few words of comment and listed from sixteen or so commentators.

I then turn to printed off pages, marked up with a highlighter pen. (I can’t find myself stumbling across such paperwork with such Serendipity in ten years time should I care to reconsider the contents of MAODE 2010-2011. It will be buried in, by then, 10,000 assets in my e-portfolio. As I call it, like looking for a needle in a stack of needles. Something no string of tags can save you from … because every item has a similar set of tags. Where is ‘serendipity’ 2021? Years ago I put an ‘Enter@Random’ button in my blog., I’m yet to think of a more sophisticated way to tap into my mind).

In this article John Chambers CEO of CISCO says

‘The next big killer application for the Internet is going to be education.’

This is too often misquoted outside the realm of corporate training – what he has in mind here is how to keep 4,000 Cisco sales people up to speed and better able to sell, not how to educate classroom based school kids.

Is the next step the Open School?

To home educate? It would make better use of what the Internet offers. I do wonder how or why I’ve ended up nailed first to the locally primary school and then an affordable private school within walking distance. My wife and I are both freelance, who cares where we could be in the world as we do everything online.

Remind me to go to the estate agents. We’re selling up!

Meanwhile, I’m glad to see ‘e-learning’ used here; I was convinced it was a term coined recently. ‘Ultimately, Tom Kelly says, e-learning will be most effective when it no longer feels like learning – when it’s simply a natural part of how people work.’ If you do things in small chunks, she continues, they become just another part of your job. And what I like most of all, ‘E-learning will be successful when it doesn’t have its own name.’

My children wouldn’t call it e-learning

It’s just homework, whether in a text book or using a computer, which may or may not go online. Do we different where our TV feed comes from anymore? It’s just more TV. It is has taken me exactly one week, courtesy of a Kindle, to drop any idea of e-readers, e-books or e-reading … these are books, this is reading – the means of distribution is different, that’s all, it’s as if I have an electronic butler handing me one sheet of the book at a time. Bliss.

I’m still some way off why I’m reading this and writing about, just picking up echoes from the past as I go through it. Kelly had some insights on e-learning (which he defines as Web-based education):

  • Small is beautiful
  • Blends are powerful
  • Measure what matters
  • New technologies require new leaders

Was I listening back then?

I think we were too busy trying to reinvent the world.

These four points are understood today as:

Chunking Participation across platforms The business of measuring outcomes. Simply put ‘If technology adoption occurs faster because the sales force is better-trained, we have real business impact that’s measurable.’

And then the punch line

“One real; problem with e-learning is that traditional training people are in charge of it. No wonder it doesn’t work! Can you imagine if the post office was in charge of email?”

Does this apply to libraries?

Think of a book as a parcel, a report as a letter. Do we want it delivered by the Post … or by email? Are librarians best equipped to migrate digitised content to the e-brain?

There is then a paper, I guess the equivalent of a lecture, a piece of content purpose-written for the course. It is good to see Vygotsky, Piaget and Papert in here .. but what of Prensky from ‘The Power of Digital Game based Learning’ and this suggestion by Prensky via research done by cognitive psychologists ‘such as Bruer and Tapscott in the late nineties who speculated that the young people’s minds have been literally ‘altered by the effect of a key set of digital formative experiences‘. Prensky then, no better than a salesman links a truism with an unproven (and unfounded) suggestion. ‘Tapscott’s research indicated that young people are living, playing, communicating, working in and creating communities very differently than their parents (truism) and that the ‘hard wiring’ of young people’s brains has been effectively altered by digitally based learning experiences in the last decade.’ (unfounded, ‘effectively altered’ is what alerts me).

Let me see what I can find, where all just a click away from Google

So I buy this to feast on:

I’m going to have to go through these notes.

Courtesy of Kindle I can highlight and take notes.

I find myself rattled by everything Prensky says and how it is presented, from the glowing recommendations, to his extensive biography, to the unqualified, uncited, unresearched ‘hear say’ that considers itself to be serious study. He mentions the ‘popular writer Malcolm Bradbury’ but falls into the same trap of conjuring up presumptions that have no foundation in fact. This is less than journalism. It is invention. It may be what he thinks, but no one gets a word in edge ways to say whether he is right or wrong.

As I read I felt as if I was at best listening to an after dinner speech, at worst a stand-up comic

Prensky preaches to the converted, a certain group of secondary and primary school teachers who I can see nodding along to every platitude that Prensky offers.

That’s my summary; the report will follow

Book by book, blow by blow.

Seeing Prensky so often quoted in the OU files, in 2001 and still, surprises me.

I feel like the little boy in the crowd pointing out that the King is wearing no clothes.

I may eat my words, I often do

But for now, this is my stance, which I prefer to sitting on the fence.

REFERENCE

Cisco’s Quick Study by Ann Muoio. From FC issue 39, page 286. http://www.fastcompany.com/online/39/quickstudy.html

Prensky M (2001) Digital Game based learning, McGraw Hill.

The Google Generation; True or False?

Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. Written in 2007 (published 11 January 2008). Reviewed in 2011.

Part of the Week 1 jollies for H800.

(This picks up where I left off in the Forum Thread)

After a year of MAODE, a decade blogging and longer keeping journals (and old course work from both school and uni I might add) I feel I can tap into my own first, second, third or fourth take on a topic.

Increasingly, where this is digitised my preferred learning approach is to add to this information/knowledge, often turning my ideas inside out.

We are yet to have a ‘generation,’ (a spurious and loose term in this context) that has passed through primary, secondary and tertiary education ‘wired up’ to any consistent degree from which to gather empirical research. Indeed, I wonder when things will bottom out, when we’ve gone the equivalent journey of the first horseless-carriage on the Turnpikes of England to the 8 lanes in both directions on the M1 south of Leicester – or from the Wright Brothers to men on the moon.

I’d like to encourage learners to move on from copying, or cutting and pasting in any form, to generating drafts, and better drafts of their take on a topic, even if this is just a doodle, a podcast or cryptic set of messages in a synchronous or asynchronous discussion i.e. to originate.

I lapped up expressions such as Digital Natives, an expression/metaphor only that has been debunked as lacking any basis in fact.

I fear this is the same when it comes to talking about ‘Generation X, Y or Z.’ It isn’t generational, it is down to education, which is down to socio-economic background, wealth, access (technical, physical, geographic, as well as mental), culture, even your parent’s job and attitude.

My 85 year old Father-in-law is Mac ready and has been wired to the Internet its entire life; does this make him of this ‘Generation?’

If x billion struggle to find clean drinking water and a meal a day, where do they stand?

They’ve not been born on Planet Google, so don’t have this generational opportunity.

I find it short sighted of the authors not to go for a ‘longitudinal’ (sic) study. It strikes me as the perfect topic of a JISC, Open University, BBC tie in, the filming part funding the research that is then published every three years for the next thirty, for example.

Trying to decide who is Generation X, or Generation Y or the ‘Google Generation’ strikes me as fraught as trying to decide when the islands we inhabit became, or could have been called in turn England, Scotland, Wales, Great Britain or the United Kingdom.

We could spend an unwarranted amount of time deciding who is in and who is out and not agreed.

We can’t it’s like pouring water through a sieve. The creator of IMBD, a computer geek and film buff was born in the 60s (or 70s). Highly IT literate, then as now, he is not of the ‘Google Generation’ as defined as being born after 1993, but is surely of the type?

Personally I was introduced to computers as part of the School of Geography initiative at Oxford in 1982.

Admittedly my first computer was an Amstrad, followed by an early Apple, but I’ve not been without a computer for the best part of thirty years. I can still give my 12 year old a run for his money (though he does get called in to sought our browser problems).

And should this report be quoting Wikipedia?

Surely it is the author we should quote if something is to be correctly cited; anyone could have written this (anyone did).

Reading this I wonder if one day the Bodleian Library will be like a zoo?

The public will have access to view a few paid students who recreate the times of yore when they had to read from a book and take notes, and look up titles in a vast leather-bound tome into which we strips of paper were intermittently stuck. (not so long ago).

Is there indeed, any point in the campus based university gathered around a library when all his millions, or hundreds of millions of books have been Googliefied?

Will collegiate universities such as Oxford, Cambridge, Bristol and Durham (Edinburgh and Dublin? Harvard ?) become even more elite as they become hugely expensive compared to offerings such as the Open University?

There may be no limit to how much and how fast content can be transmitted … the entire Library of Congress in 3 seconds I am told, but there are severe limits to how much you can read and remember, let alone make sense of and store.

Is this not the next step?

To rewire our minds with apps and plug-ins? I smile at the idea of ‘power browsing’ or the new one for me ‘bouncing’ the horizontal drift across papers and references rather than drilling vertically, driven by a reading list no doubt.

I can give a name to something I did as an undergraduate 1981-1984. Reading Geography I began I the Map room (skipped all lectures) and then spent my morning, if necessary moving between libraries, particularly the Rhodes Library and Radcliffe Science Library, by way of the School of Geography Library, of course, and sometimes into the Radcliffe Camera or the PPE Reading Rooms.

I bounced physically.

I bounced digitally online as a preferred way of doing things. Though this often leaves me feeling overwhelmed by the things I could read, but haven’t read, that I’d like to read. Which is good reason ONLY to read the latest paper, to check even here if the paper we are asked to read has not already been superseded by this or fellow authors.

Old digitised news keeps like a nasty smell in the wind?

Users are promiscuous, diverse and volatile and it is clear that these behaviours represent a serious challenge for traditional information providers, nurtured in a hardcopy paradigm and, in many respects, still tied to it. (p9)

The problem with the short read and low tolerance of readers is the way papers have thus far gone from print version to digital version without, yet, thorough transmogrification.

We await new acceptable ways to write, and submit and share knowledge that is less formal and to anyone versed in reading online, digestible.

All authors for the web would do well to read Jakob Nielsen on web usability.

There is a way to do it. If it looks like it belongs in a journal or book, you are getting it wrong

Do the authors appreciate that labelling the behaviour ‘squirreling’ is self-fulfilling?

It normalises the behaviour if anyone reads about it. Whilst metaphors are a useful way to explain, in one person’s words, what is going on, such metaphors soon become accepted as fact.

There is a running debate across a series of article in the New Scientist on the way humans think in metaphors (good, can’t help it), and how ideas expressed as metaphors then set unfounded parameters on how we think (not so good, and includes things like the selfish gene, competition and so on).

This dipping, bouncing and squirreling, horizontal browsing, low attention span, four to eight minute viewing diverse ‘one size does not fit all’ individual would make for an interesting cartoon character. I wonder if Steven Appleby or Quentin Blake would oblige. ________________________________________________________________________________

Why ‘huge’ and why ‘very’ ? Qualify. Facts. Evidence. And why even, ‘very, very.’ This isn’t academic writing, it’s hear say and exaggeration.

There’s a category missing from the graph – branded information, such as Wikipedia, or Harvard Business Publication, Oxford or Cambridge University Press and Blackwell’s, to name put a few.

Where so much information is available, and so many offerings on the same topic, the key for anyone is to feel they are reading a reliable source.

The point being made later about ‘brand’ presence for BL … something we will see more of with the commercialisation of information. Even Wikipedia cannot be free for ever, while the likes of Wikileaks, for its mischief making and spy-value will always be funded from nefarious sources.

There are very very few controlled studies that account for age and information seeking behaviour systematically: as a result there is much mis-information and much speculation about how young people supposedly behave in cyberspace. (p14)

Observational studies have shown that young people scan online pages very rapidly (boys especially) and click extensively on hyperlinks – rather than reading sequentially. Users make very little use of advanced search facilities, assuming that search engines `understand’ their queries. They tend to move rapidly from page to page, spending little time reading or digesting information and they have difficulty making relevance judgements about the pages they retrieve. (p14)

Wikipedia and YouTube both exhibit a marked age separation between viewers of content (mainly 18-24s) and content generators (mainly 45-54s and 35-44s respectively). (p16, ref 17)

‘there is a considerable danger that younger users will resent the library invading what they regards as their space. There is a big difference between `being where our users are’ and `being USEFUL to our users where they are’.

Surely it would be easy to compare a population that have access and those who do not?

Simply take a group from a developed, rich Western nation and compare them to a group that are not, that don’t have the internet access, video games or mobile phones.

REFERENCE

Information behaviour of the researcher of the future. UCL 11 JAN 2008

 

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