Students, the Net Generation and Digital Natives:Accounting for Educational Change

Jones, Chris (2011). Students, the Net Generation and Digital Natives:Accounting for Educational Change. In: Thomas, Michael ed. Deconstructing Digital Natives: Young People, Technology, and the New Literacies. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, pp. 30–48.



This chapter examines a number of different terms and popularized accounts of young people who are now at the stage in their lives of engaging in university education across the world. Three of the more common terms that have been used to describe this cohort of young people are the Net generation (Tapscott 1998, 2009), Digital Natives (Prensky 2001; 2001a: 2009) and Millennials (Howe and Strauss 2000; Oblinger & Oblinger 2005).

This chapter critically examines the argument, common to writers using both terms: that the existence of an environment infused with digital and networked technologies, combined with an active engagement in these new technologies, leads directly to a sharp generational break. The chapter goes on to examine the determinist nature of the argument and the way this has been related to one particular pedagogical approach; collaborative learning. It examines the wider social and technological context and in particular the ideas of networked individualism and networked sociality. Finally the chapter concludes by examining which aspects of the Digital Native and Net Generation arguments are worth taking forward and by identifying those aspects of the arguments that need to be abandoned.

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