Are Net Geners Really Tech Savvy Learners? (MSTU 4020; Week 4)

The following post is a weekly response for a graduate course on Social & Communicative Aspects of the Internet at Columbia University, Teachers College. I invite all Media Speaks readers to engage by adding comments below.

I was delighted to read Kirschner and Karpinski's article "Facebook and Academic Performance" because I'm sure this article will continue to spark plenty debates between educators and professionals, as indicated in the First Monday journals. I had first heard about the statistic that "Facebook users have lower GPAs and spend fewer hours per week studying than non-users" via Twitter. Kirschner and Karpinski's findings were significant enough to be published on TIME, although the media hype surrounding the article is a major academic criticism of the study overall. However, it's also important to mention that there is plenty of room for improvement in this study. The researchers indicate limitations and ways to better improve qualitative data at the end of the article.

Another reason I was highly engaged with this article is because it's relevant to other ideas I've been thinking about lately concerning our new generation of tech users and learners. I often wonder if students and minorities are, in fact, learning via online spaces. How do we understand literacy via online spaces in urban communities as African-Americans mobile users are on the rise, for instance? I posed a similar question about the relationship between literacy, new technology, and urban communities on Twitter a few weeks ago. I cited digital scholar, Allison Clark, who stated (paraphrasing) that we can't research or print a paper using a mobile device. I also wrote an article addressing a similar topic on The Loop 21.

Needless to say, the initial responses I received from Twitter and from my article were from people who immediate came to the defense of mobile technology.  Some stated that because mobile technology is so innovative and rapidly expanding that we can, in fact, learn and become more literate through this type of media. Though I'm reminded of the conversation we had last week about the difference between information and knowledge.

Are what we're doing (or learning) by way of Google, Wikipedia, and on mobile devices ("passive consumption of information") a true indicator of knowledge production?

Kirschner and Karpinski's article also asks us to consider whether or not Homo Zappiens or Net Geners (those multi-tasking "techies" born in the 1980s and 1990's) have a deep knowledge of technology, especially when learning-by-doing "is often limited to basic office suite skills, e-mail- ing, text messaging, FB, and surfing the Internet" (1238).

So I wonder, are net geners really tech savvy learners or simply consumers of "low level", passive, or superficial technology? How might we measure knowledge production when the majority of minority net geners are using mobile devices to access the Internet?

And now, your moment of Zin.