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The Digital Native Fundamental Attribution Error
June 16, 2010 - 9:04pm

I agree with all of Arthur Levine's conclusions in "Digital Students, Industrial-Era Universities."

Our course designs, teaching methods, and institutional structures need to embody:

--24/7 (anytime)



--Active learning


--New media

--Learning (interactive)

--Group (collaboration)

--Breadth / gatherers

Where Levine gets it wrong is to assume that this shift is being driven by the demand of digital natives for new methods of teaching and learning. Levine writes that, "Today’s traditional undergraduates, aged 18 to 25, are digital natives. They grew up in a world of computers, Internet, cell phones, MP3 players, and social networking."

I recommend that Arthur Levine, and all of you, download (buy, whatever) a copy of Clay Shirky's new book Cognitive Surplus: Creativity and Generosity in a Connected Age. Shirky talks about the fundamental_attribution_error, the tendency to explain behaviors as the result of character as opposed to the opportunity structure.

The demand for innovative, collaborative, and technology mediated active learning techniques is not limited to today's 18 to 25 year olds. In fact, I've seen little evidence that the typical 20 year old college student is actively demanding any form of advanced pedagogical practice. What I have seen is how well the traditional college age student responds to courses that leverage technology to promote active learning, collaboration and engagement. However, I've also witnessed people in their 30, 40, and 50s, and 60s (all adult working professionals that I've taught) respond in the same way.

All learners benefit from the changes that Levine is advocating for. Students at any age will begin to demand these changes when the structure that they operate in, the classes they take and the institutions they navigate, begin to support the diffusion of advances in teaching methods and student support. Give any student (at any age) a taste of a course that utilizes technology to promote active learning and they will start to demand and expect these benefits in their other courses. We should once and for all leave generational explanations and rationales for change behind.


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