Friday, 15 June 2007

Native or immigrant in the digital world?

Dr Jan-Martin Lowendahl
On Wednesday I attended the UKeIG annual seminar "Riding the waves or treading water?: confronting the challenges of a volatile electronic environment". The morning session included two presentations by Dr Jan-Martin Lowendahl, research director of Gartner - an information and technology research and advisory firm.

Dr Lowendahl's first presentation "Emerging IT trends and tools to deal with hype, maturity and alignment" was a general review of IT developments and how organisations could respond to these. His emphasis was not on the new technologies themselves but rather the new ways of doing things that are enabled by these technologies. An interesting concept was the "Hype Cycle" which can be applied to all emerging technologies. This starts with the trigger that creates a new technology. This results in an upward curve of increasing positive hype as people enthuse about the benefits, leading to a peak of inflated expectations. Then comes a trough of disillusionment as problems become apparent. This can be followed by an upward slope of enlightenment as the real benefits are explored followed by a plateau of productivity. Most new products follow this cycle and existing products and ideas can be located on the cycle. Clearly the idea is that you don't get carried away by products that are climbing the peak of inflated expectations, nor do you reject products that are in the trough of disillusionment. Instead you identify those that will end up on the plateau of productivity and adopt those that align with your institutional aims. Looking at the Higher Education Technology Hype Cycle Dr Lowendahl positioned some products and concepts as follows:
On the slope of inflated expectations - Technology enabled classrooms, podcasting learning content.
In the trough of disillusionment - e-learning repositories, e-portfolios.
On the slope of enlightenment - RFID Library management, 802.11x on campus, Internet2/Next Generation Internet.

In his second presentation "Digital natives hit the workplace" Dr Lowendahl explored the concept that there is an emerging generation who are native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet. They process information and behave differently than previous generations. The rest of us can only aspire to be "digital immigrants" and most of us will retain a noticeable "accent". For example, digital immigrants tend to use the word "digital" as in "digital camera" while the natives will just say "camera". The opportunities for misunderstanding and lack of clear communication are huge according to Dr Lowendahl. He contrasts the outlook of digital native learners with digital immigrant teachers.

Digital natives
Prefer receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources
Prefer random access to hyperlinked multimedia information
Prefer to interact/network simultaneously with many others

Digital immigrants
Prefer slow and controlled release of information from limited sources
Prefer to provide information linearly, logically and sequentially
Prefer students to work independently rather than network and interact.

He then considered what the impact of this generation will be when they grow up and reach the workplace. Clearly this will have an impact on libraries, both in terms of the expectations of our users and the impact on our workforce, and this was picked up by the other speakers. Sue Hill (Sue Hill Recruitment) looked at how informational professionals need to keep abreast of these developments through CPD; Val Skelton (TFPL) reported on research about who is managing information in the digital world and Peter Godwin (University of Bedfordshire) reported on information literacy teaching.

The value of this seminar was not that the issues were brand new but that the speakers were able to present them as a coherent narrative that focused on the issues that are facing the profession. SINTO will be picking up on these issues in our Members' Day next Tuesday.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

For completeness sake I'd like to include some references to the work that was represented in the table of DN vs DI “Ian Jukes and Anita Dosaj, The InfoSavvy Group, February 2003” and on the topic of the origin of DN/DI see Marc Prensky, and of course where one can search on what we have published on the subject.