Thursday, August 02, 2007

"Digital Natives" are not geeks, they're just "interested" in technology

[Also posted on]

This article that I came across on today was a bit disappointing, if not totally surprising.

A recent global study spanning 16 countries undertaken by MTV and Nickelodeon, in association with Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions found that "Despite their technological immersion, digi-kids are not geeks." The study challenges traditional assumptions about their relationships with digital technology, and examines the impact of culture, age and gender on technology use.

The study, 'How Kids and Young People Interact with Digital Technology', found 59 per cent of 8-14 year-old kids still prefer their TV to PCs and only 20 per cent of 14 to 24-year-old young people globally admitted to being 'interested' in technology.

They are, however, expert multi-taskers and able to filter different channels of information."

My own personal take on this is that although they have been found to not be "geeky" in the traditional sense i.e. program and hack "code" with ease, they are comfortable enough with technology to be creators of digital content (without realizing it at times, I guess). Every time a kid shoots a picture on his/her camera and posts it on the net or remixes a piece of music for an MTV competition, s/he is treading into realm that was the domain of geeks before...simply because technology has progressed enough to allow them to do these things without much trouble.

An India-related report in the study - "Young people in India are among the fastest in Asia today to embrace digital technology to express themselves and connect with multiple communities. While the growth of mobile and digital technology in India is driven largely by the urban youth, we will gradually see this trend move beyond the urban youth and involve the youth in the rural regions of the country."

The study also found that - "friends influence each other as much as marketers do. Friends are as important as brands. Kids and young people do not love the technology itself. They just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained and digital communications such as IM, email, social networking sites and mobile/sms are complimentary to, not competitive with, TV and that TV is part of young peoples' digital conversation"

Hardly surprising, given the statistic that MySpace had 100 million registered users as of December 2006 and that the average MySpace page is visited 30 times a day!

The study apparently looked at 21 technologies that have impact on the lives of young people: internet, email, PC, TV, mobile, IM, cable and satellite TV, DVD, MP3, stereo/hi-fi, digital cameras, social networks, on and offline video games, CDs, HD TV, VHS, webcams, MP4 players, DVR/PVRs, and hand-held games consoles.

So what are the implications of these findings for educators in India? Should these tools not be leveraged for learning as well? And why are only media companies concerning themselves with these trends? Why not our boards of education curriculum planning committees and policymakers and NCERT as well?

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