Since I was curious about any research underpinnings to shore up Marc Prensky's TLT presentation on the "Digital Native" generation, I went trolling to DEOS-L. Here's the responses so far:
"There's Don Tapscott's "Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation" (1998), an outline of which you can find at http://www.growingupdigital.com/ . However, when I read the book, I recall thinking that his sample of students was not really representative of the 'net generation' as a whole, but rather focused on a fairly privileged middle class to upper midle-class group. However, he mentions multi-processing only in passing.
Theoretically, the following article suggests that human brains in general are capable of multi-processing:
Human Brain's 'Mastermind' Located By Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
July 20, 2005 - Humans attempt to do many things at the same time,
such as driving and chatting on the phone, or working and listening
to music, and now research suggests why such multitasking may be
possible: the brain appears to have its own control center.
However, I suspect that young brains are 'hard-wired' by the multiplicity of electronic media they're exposed to at a younger age and hence develop greater facility in multi-tasking" .....Alex Kuskis
Elizabeth Fanning, apparently so slouch at educational game design herself, said this:
"i'm very familiar with marc prensky and his work. despite the logic of what prensky may have to say about natives and non-natives, after having worked as an instructional designer and in adult learning for more than 15 years, i would have to say that as a species, we are more adaptable than it might be suggested that age limits us in being. that is, i have been pleasantly surprised by older people adapting to creating new schema frameworks based on how we can currently access and process information. unfortunately, i know of no formal studies on this, although a friend of mine did do a pilot study to explore it further, using instant messaging and computation tasks -- and found no significant difference."
Lastly, Andrew Chambers' take:
"Personally as a grad student in cognition and education I doubt there is much research yet. I have seen little other than some theoretical musings. However there is a need for clarity on "perform multiple tasks simultaneously". The way the brain processes and stores information depending on the theory you use always requires a user to selectively attend to information as only limited processing can take place "simultaneosuly". There are some who theorise the Net Natives can switch between tasks faster and can thus selectively attend quicker and handle more information than those who haven't been steeped in the new mediums. In essence they aren't processing information in parallel or simultaneosuly, the brains layout and design doesn't really allow for this but they are supposedly attending to more information more quickly.
What is needed is empirical evidence of these heightened abilities. Don't be surprised that they can't come up with evidence as a lot of these researchers simply aren't researchers and their premises are not based on empirical evidence or the research findings are extrapolated from other areas. Whether this extrapolation or "transfer" of findings is valid is the question. Remember that those in business are their to sell you their ideas and services not to do scientificly accurate
studies. Be wary of hype.
Whether quality learning comes from being able to do 3 things simultaneously will depend on how much the information streams complement or interfere with each other and whether there is overloading of short term memory etc. (according to some classic theories of memory and learning)
Personally I believe that ANYONE can become net native it just takes time and practice. In other words one can learn to deal with large amounts of information. All brains are plastic and fluid and can adjust to new complex environments regardless of age and how information is delivered. Having used computers for over 25 years and the net for 15 I could be said to have some of the skills of the net natives. Then again anyone who has been using computers that long or longer would also be in the same league.
The more interesting question is how they are using the technologies. For instance video blogging, chatting, IMing etc and how this could be applied in the learning process. Closing the gap between what they do now and how we build and use classic learning management systems and learning tools is a major issue today. As someone responsible for training academic staff, developing new systems etc it is my job to
close this gap whether it is real or imagined...
See Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II: Do They Really Think Differently?:
, but be warned Prensky does state at the very top: "Here I present evidence for why I think this is so." This is obviously not a scientific refereed article. I agree with some of the theories espoused here but as you state one just needs hard research evidence..."
So there you have it. Any Ph.D candidates out there need a project?