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The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence

by Sue Bennett, Sue Bennett, Karl Maton, Karl Maton, Lisa Kervin, Lisa Kervin
British Journal of Educational Technology ()


The idea that a new generation of students is entering the education system has excited recent attention among educators and education commentators. Termed ‘digital natives’ or the ‘Net generation’, these young people are said to have been immersed in technology all their lives, imbuing them with sophisti- cated technical skills and learning preferences forwhich traditional education is unprepared. Grand claims are being made about the nature of this generational change and about the urgent necessity for educational reform in response.A sense of impending crisis pervades this debate.However, the actual situation is far from clear. In this paper, the authors draw on the fields of education and sociology to analyse the digital natives debate. The paper pre- sents and questions the main claims made about digital natives and analyses the nature of the debate itself.We argue that rather than being empirically and theoretically informed, the debate can be likened to an academic form of a ‘moral panic’.We propose that a more measured and disinterested approach is now required to investigate ‘digital natives’ and their implications for education. The one thing that does not change is that at any and every time it appears that there have been

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