Students brains ‘rewired’ by the internet

BBC2’s The Virtual Revolution on Saturday, February 20th 1 will claim that young people’s brains are being rewired by the Internet in such a way that they are:

  • unable to concentrate on reading an academic book for study
  • incapable of ‘linear’ disciplines like reading and writing at length

The article also states that psychologists claim that ‘within three years, hundreds of thousands of British teenagers will require medication or hospital treatment for mental illnesses caused by excessive web use.’ Sounds a bit like the old arguments about violent video games turning every teenager into a mad-axe killer, TV-watching resulting in square eyes, or masturbation resulting in blindness.

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  1. Telegraph (2011) ‘Students brains ‘rewired’ by the internet’, The Telegraph, (online) Available from: (Accessed 12 February 2011).

Digital Natives Digital Learners?

In 2001, Prensky 1 first postulated the concept of the ‘digital native’ – the generation who have grown up with technology to the extent that it is embedded into their lives and even proposed that their brains were different.  He argued that teaching and learning needed to change to meet the new expectations, needs and demands of this generation. Although interesting the proposal was not supported by an evidential base.

Kennedy et al 2 research into university study and the ‘digital native’ generation found that ‘assume that being a member of the ‘Net Generation’ is synonymous with knowing how to employ technology based tools strategically to optimise learning experiences.’

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  1. Prensky, M. (2001) ‘Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants’, On the Horizon, 9(5), (online) Available from:,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf (Accessed 30 January 2011).
  2. Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T. S., Churchward, A., Gray, K. and Krause, K. (2008) ‘First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives?’, Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), pp. 108-122, (online) Available from: (Accessed 12 February 2011).

Google Generation and Myths

There are a number of statements bandied around the Internet about the Google Generation. Some of these include:

  1. ‘They [the Google Generation] need to feel constantly connected to the web’
  2. ‘They are the “cut-and-paste” generation’
  3. ‘They pick up computer skills by trial and error’
  4. ‘They are expert searchers’

Research has shed some light onto these statements. A report from UCL  1  p19 suggests that of these statements:

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  1. UCL (2008) Information behaviour of the researcher of the future, University College London, (online) Available from: (Accessed 6 February 2011).

Twitter for teaching?

Twitter as a teaching tool continues to both interest and puzzle me. From a personal perspective, I use Twitter as as learning tool and have carefully been developing a network of people whom I follow. At the moment though, I use it for consumption and have only ever Tweeted a couple of times.

Whilst studying for H808 The eLearning Professional from the Open University I found and starting following #lrnchat, a fantastic resource for learning although I have not managed to actively participate as yet.

I also did a piece of desktop research (Activity 9-1 Desktop Research Twitter) into the potential educational uses of Twitter and found these to be greater than one might expect.  However, I have been unable to try using Twitter as a teaching tool as most of my pre-Generation X adult learners are not familiar with that technology – I may get an opportunity though with a new course I will start delivering in a few weeks time.  This is the sort of deferred action-reflection as described by Clegg et al 1 and seems to be something I am experiencing more often as technology moves so quickly presenting new possibilities but not always matched by appropriate opportunities.

Whilst reading #lrnchat daily paper, another way of using Twitter was brought to my attention. In his blog post ‘Twaining in Twitter‘, Terrence Wing looks at how to use the media features of Twitter to create a mini-course for learners. He has created such a Twitter course as both an example and a ‘how-to’:!/ISD20/favorites I have done something similar to this myself previously using Facebook for a specific group of learners (Facebook Don’t Fight It Use It) – never thought to think how it could be done of Twitter.

For my older adult learners, Twitter has some advantages over Facebook. All of my adult learners have mobile phones, although only one or two have Smartphones. This means that they can access Twitter (if we created accounts via the net first) – and most can access images but not video. I’m not sure that it would benefit the current group in terms of enhancing learning, but I can see how a short pre-course course via Twitter could be useful to introduce some basic concepts.

Something to ponder further and to try when a suitable  opportunity arises.

  1. Clegg, Sue, Tan, Jon and Saeideh, Saeidi (2002) ‘Reflecting or Acting? Reflective Practice and Continuing Professional Development in Higher Education’, Reflective Practice, 3(1), pp. 131-146, (online) Available from: (Accessed 30 December 2010). 

Excluded from web 2.0?

An article by Brabazon 1 we were directed to for H800, discusses the issue for web 2.0 as a revolution that ‘older citizens, the poor, the illiterate and the socially excluded’ are invisible in. Is this true?

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  1. Brabazon, Tara (2008) ‘Here Comes Everybody: The Power of Organizing without Organizations’, The TIMES Higher Education, (online) Available from: (Accessed 3 February 2011).

Kranzberg & Facebook

I’m going to have to stop thinking about Kranzberg’s laws of technology!  His first law basically sums up the unanticipated consequences of new technologies – the current Egypt situation 1 made me reflect about the nature of Facebook and Kranzberg.


Facebook was first ‘floated’ as a sort of idea by Mark Zuckerberg in 2003. Facemash was a prank – he hacked into the college computer system and created a site where other students could vote how attractive others were. The university banned the site. Zuckerberg was then involved with a group of learners trying to create a social network – from whom he later split (and got sued by).


From those early days of a ‘simple’ social network for students at Havard, Facebook evolved has developed into everything from a marketing tool, to education tool, to a tool for political change. The current Egypt situation is an example of Kranzberg’s first law of unanticipated consequences – who would have thought that Facebook would be a key communication tool for political change back in 2004.



  1. Giglio, Mike (2011) ‘In Egypt, Pushing Revolution by Internet’, Newsweek, (online) Available from: (Accessed 2 February 2011).

Kranzberg, Technology & Teaching Practice

Whilst driving back from my class tonight, I was musing on Kranzberg’s second law 1 in relation to my teaching.

The class I teach on a Monday evening is a lipreading class for adults with an acquired hearing loss. When I first started teaching the subject in 1995, I used a whiteboard, flipchart and OHP – oh and an Amstrad with 5 1/2 inch discs for preparing materials. As technology developed I switched to a Windows PC for prep. and more recently a data projector and electronic whiteboard instead of the OHP.

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  1. Kranzberg, Melvin (1967) ‘Computers: new values for society’, Management Review, 56(2), pp. 30-34, (online) Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011).

Invention is the mother of necessity

Kranzberg’s second law states: ‘Invention is the mother of necessity’ (Kranzberg 1986) – where technology develops it leads to more technological development. Kranzberg 1 describes this when considering the rise of computer-based technologies as a further development of the industrial revolution.

How this law applies to the development of web technologies can be seen in an unusual but interesting article by Coopersmith 2 Coopersmith discusses how the rise of cyber sex has driven the development and introduction of new technologies to meet demand – supporting Kranzberg’s second law with development driving need and stimulating need that further drives development.

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  1. Kranzberg, Melvin (1967) ‘Computers: new values for society’, Management Review, 56(2), pp. 30-34, (online) EBSCOhost  Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011)
  2. Coopersmith, J. (2006) ‘Does Your Mother Know What You Really Do? The Changing Nature and Image of Computer-Based Pornography’, History and Technology, 22(1), pp. 1-25, (online) EBSCOhost  Available from: (Accessed 30 January 2011).

ipods, Kranzberg and Educational Change

I’m still reading around Kranzberg’s first law of technology and its application to educational technologies. Whilst doing a search in the EBSCO database, an article called ‘ipods aren’t just for tunes’ popped up (Ragusa et al 2009). The article discusses the use of ipods as a technology to support learning in Australia and provides a sound example of how a new technology can be used for uses other than originally intended.

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Over-estimating the long term consequences of technology?

Naughton (2008) in his article considering technology, change and information sources, presents an argument that we over-estimate the short-term consequences whilst under-estimating the longer term consequences of new technology which is certainly compelling. However, not all technologies have longer-term consequences if considered individually, for example, the short-term impact of the audio cassette, although it could be viewed as a step on the technological path to more efficient data storage.

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