Surprise! Kids May Not Be More Tech-Savvy Than You!

by Kristie Burk

This article is dedicated to all those educators who feel like their students know more than they do about technology.

I bring you good news!

Professors from the New York Institute of Technology, the University of Connecticut and Utah State University wanted to know if middle schoolers were really more tech-savvy than their teachers.  They did some research on over 1,000 middle school students and their teachers… and their findings may surprise you.

Wang, S., Hsu, H., Campbell, T., Coster, D. C., & Longhurst, M. (2014) found that the teachers’ use of various technologies was higher than the students’ use both in and out of school!

Should I say that again!?

The teachers’ use of various technologies was higher than the students’.

The researchers found that the teachers used productivity tools, such as word processing, and search engines more frequently than the middle schoolers. Students, on the other hand, used technology mostly for social connections and interpersonal communications outside of school. Surprisingly, this study found that teachers seem to have a better grasp of the uses of technology than the digital natives.

Do you want more good news?

Researchers also found that the teachers’ age did not correlate with technology usage. Younger teachers used technology more for social connections (like their students) but they did not integrate technology into the classrooms any more than the older teachers.

Unfortunately, we’re not off the hook.  This difference between the teachers’ knowledge and the students’ knowledge may be caused by the students’ lack of opportunities to use technology for work in addition to personal use. The study finds that digital natives do not have the skills to use technology to solve complex cognitive problems; inside school, the students were not using tools that supported creativity and productivity, such as blogs or movie productions.

That’s where we come in.

I hope that the results of this study offset the belief that our students are far ahead of us when it comes to technology and remind us that it’s our job to show them how to move beyond using their devices for texting and games.

Food for thought…

Wang, S., Hsu, H., Campbell, T., Coster, D. C., & Longhurst, M. (2014). An investigation of middle school science teachers and students use of technology inside and outside of classrooms: Considering whether digital natives are more technology savvy than their teachers. Educational Technology Research and Development, 62(6), 637.



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