PopularSurprising SciencePersonal GrowthMind & BrainSex & RelationshipsTechnology & InnovationCulture & ReligionPolitics & Current Affairs
A paper argues that the younger generation is no better at technology and multitasking than older people.
01 August, 2017
Austin Wierschke (left) and Kent Augustine compete in the final round of the Sixth Annual LG Mobile U.S. National Texting Championships on August 8, 2012 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
<p class="p1"><span class="s1">People born after 1984 are considered <strong>“digital natives” </strong>- those to whom digital technology should be second nature. It’s that kid who knows more about computers than you ever did. But taken as a whole, digital natives might be a myth, argues a <a href="http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0742051X16306692?via%3Dihub" target="_blank"><span class="s2">paper</span></a> published in </span><span class="s2"><em>Teaching and Teacher Education. </em>Students who grew up in the digital world are no better at information skills simply because they were born into such an era. The study also presents evidence that these supposed “digital natives” are no better at multitasking either. In fact, assuming that they do may harm their education.<span> </span></span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s2">The term “digital native” was popularized by the author <strong>Marc Prensky</strong> in a <a href="http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf"><span class="s3">2001 article.</span></a> He differentiated between “digital natives” as those who are “native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet, and<strong> “digital immigrants”</strong> - those who are not born into the digital world but adopt the technology. The natives are supposed to </span><span class="s4">have unique characteristics that make them completely different from the digital immigrants.<span> </span></span> </p> <p class="p3"><span class="s5">Authors <strong>Paul A. Kirschner</strong> from the Open University of the Netherlands in Heerlen and Belgian <strong>Pedro De Bruyckere</strong> say no such distinction really exists. They cite a growing number of international studies that show how students born after 1984 do not have any </span><span class="s2">deeper knowledge of technology. The knowledge they have is often limited and consists of having basic office suite skills, emailing, text messaging, Facebooking and surfing the Internet.</span><span class="s5"> And the tech they use for </span><span class="s2">learning and socialization is also not very expansive. They do not necessarily recognize the advanced functionality of the applications they use and need to be significantly trained to use the technology properly for learning and problem-solving. When using technology for learning, the “natives” mainly resort to passively consuming information.</span></p> <p class="p1"><span class="s2">The paper’s authors also conclude that there is little scientific proof that digital natives can successfully do many things at once in a way that’s different from previous generations. For example, reading text messages during lecture would have the cognitive cost of not being fully focused on the class. Similarly, a 2010 study cited by the researchers found that high-intensity Facebook users were not able to master content well and had significantly lower GPAs.</span> </p> <div class="video-full-card-placeholder" data-slug="emma-seppala-on-meditation-and-productivity" style="border: 1px solid #ccc;"> <div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="4X09QHuX" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="fbb8e77e93c80e547e774642a48ac686"> <div id="botr_4X09QHuX_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4X09QHuX-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/4X09QHuX-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview"> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/4X09QHuX-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div> </div> <p>Being comfortable with digital technology does not imply special multitasking prowess. At best, the supposed “natives” may be good at <strong>“task-switching” </strong>- ability to quickly switch between different tasks. Multi-tasking, by and large, is a myth. </p> <p class="p5"><span class="s6">The researchers think that in education policy, in particular, it is imperative to not assume that the next generation is more digitally savvy just by default, changing the curriculum accordingly. The authors cite a 2011 EU Kids Online report that found </span><span class="s4">“children knowing more than their parents has been exaggerated”. In fact, assuming that the kids are digital natives might take away the support they actually </span><span class="s6">need to develop necessary digital skills. What the authors advocate is teaching the importance of focus and eliminating the negative effects of multitasking.<span> </span></span></p>
Keep reading Show less
A 17-year-old British schoolboy spots an error in the data from International Space Station's radiation sensors.
27 March, 2017
The International Space Station (ISS) is seen from NASA space shuttle Endeavour after the station and shuttle began their post-undocking relative separation May 29, 2011 in space. (Photo by NASA via Getty Images)
<p class="p1">A 17-year-old British student, <strong>Miles Solomon</strong>, spotted an error in NASA’s data while working on a school physics project. What’s more, the teenager figured out that radiation sensors on the International Space Station (ISS) were not working properly. The sensors were actually capturing “false data”. </p> <p class="p1">Once he found the error, Solomon emailed NASA, which said it “appreciated” the feedback and even invited him to help fix the problem. </p> <p class="p1">Solomon’s Tapton Secondary School in Sheffield was taking part in a project from Institute for Research in Schools (IRIS) which provided the students with real scientific data from NASA’s radiation readings. The measurements were of radiation levels from British astronaut Tim Peak’s stint on the ISS in December 2015, taken every 4 seconds. The students were encouraged to look for anomalies and promising patterns.</p> <p class="p1">When he first got the readings, Miles right away had a plan. </p> <blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">'What we got given was a lot of spreadsheets, which is a lot more interesting than it sounds,' <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39351833" target="_blank">he told <span class="s2"><strong>BBC Radio 4</strong></span>.</a> “I went straight to the bottom of the list and I went for the lowest bits of energy there were.”</span></p> </blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1"><img type="lazy-image" data-runner-src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8xODMzOTAwNi9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYxODI2NjM2M30.YcrexwA1UhSHA7Fg1wY3M_ij24mCkqBzODNVU7pQnXQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="3e26c" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="397da02b9d9194aa259cf9f76b74de70" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image"><br></span></p> <p class="p3"><em>Miles Solomon. Credit: BBC</em></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">What he spotted is that on occasions when the sensors didn’t detect any radiation, they instead recorded a negative reading of -1. As you cannot have a negative for energy, Solomon and his teacher got in touch with NASA.</span> </p> <blockquote> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">"It's pretty cool", <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39351833" target="_blank"><span class="s3">said Miles</span></a>. "You can tell your friends, I just emailed Nasa and they're looking at the graphs that I've made."</span></p> </blockquote> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">It turned out the teen noticed an error that NASA didn’t fully see for 15 months. The space scientists said they did actually know of the error’s existence but thought it happened once or twice a year rather than many times a day.</span></p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">The discovery of the error was welcomed by NASA and IRIS, which created the opportunity to get “real science in the classroom”. They hope this kind of cooperation can inspire students to become scientists. </span> </p> <p class="p3"><span class="s1">Miles is very excited, although his friends might be less enthused.</span></p> <blockquote> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">"They obviously think I'm a nerd," <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39351833" target="_blank"><span class="s3">shared</span></a> the self-deprecating student. "It's really a mixture of jealousy and boredom when I tell them all the details."</span></p> </blockquote> <p class="p4">He also doesn’t see the situation as a case of embarrassment for the world’s premiere space program.</p> <blockquote> <p class="p5"><span class="s1">"I'm not trying to prove Nasa wrong. I want to work with them and learn from them,” <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-39351833" target="_blank"><span class="s3">Solomon added</span></a>.</span></p> </blockquote>
Keep reading Show less
NASA error international space station ISS student astronaut Great Britain British teenager science news IRIS Tim Peak