Does teaching ‘digital natives’ require you to be one?

What can Epson do better to help bridge the generational gap on attitudes to technology in education?

Does teaching ‘digital natives’ require you to be one?

No modern generation quite shares the attitudes and experiences of their forebears. If we think back on the baby boomers, generation X and now the ‘digital natives’, each peer group is shaped by an individual set of circumstances that shape its behaviour and preferences.

In reviewing research into the use of technology in education, it is clear to me that there is a ‘digital divide’ in Europe not only between rich and poor, but between student and teacher attitudes towards technology’s role in the classroom.

To support this conclusion, research carried out by European Schoolnet in 2013 found that high levels of infrastructure provision in schools had no overall relationship to “student and teacher use, confidence and attitudes” towards technology in the classroom.

For a technology company like Epson, this kind of consideration is very important to the type and functionality of product we develop for schools in the future, so I’d invite any and all comment on the conclusions I have drawn beneath.

The call of the digital native

In research entitled ‘Internet Technologies for an Engaging Classroom’ (ITEC) which was funded by the European Commission, students across Europe stated a preference for more child-centred, collaborative approaches to learning as opposed to the conventional teacher-led model.

In particular students noted the following learning styles, all of which can be facilitated and supported by available technologies, like cloud-connected smart projectors.

  • Game based learning
  • Play
  • Project & discovery-based learning
  • Students working in teams
  • Teachers understanding and building links with children’s interests out of school


Teacher thinks differently

While the ICILS International report showed that surveyed teachers in the European Union were generally positive about using ICT in teaching and learning, it is also clearly a conclusion of my literature review that they have a different attitude to their students regarding how technology should be integrated.

For example, in the ICILS study, teachers appear to have been especially positive about technology’s ability to support access and management of information.

In the ITEC study teachers responded that the ‘most useful’ technologies were associated with “teacher-led, didactic classroom practices” (e.g. projectors and interactive whiteboards).

Teachers’ views on the topic reflect their sensitivity towards occasional perceived educational shortcomings of technology-led instruction.  For example the research noted that despite an overall positive attitude towards technology in the classroom:

  • “Teachers are sensitive to potential negative aspects (for example related to students’ skills in writing, calculation and estimation)”
  • “Areas of teaching and learning that are often more complex (developing critical, intellectual and social skills) were the areas that showed the highest lack of conviction from respondents”
  • “With the exception of Denmark, a majority of teachers in all participating EU countries agreed that ICT “limits the amount of personal communication among students”

Importantly also, practical implications for the teaching staff in schools were captured by the research findings, including:

  • “Teachers recognised the value of using technology in the long-term but identify a short-term impact on workload”
  • “More than a quarter still found it difficult to introduce new technologies in their teaching, a very high majority of respondents across all countries desired additional training on using technology in the classroom”

Who knows best?

My personal view as a ‘digital native’ in all but my age, is that technology does offer huge potential benefits for teachers and student alike.  My impression is also that there is very little disagreement with this statement from the teaching community in Europe.

As an executive in a technology company that works to support educators, what I take away from this is the necessity for us to do more.  Perhaps we need to develop more intuitive technologies? Or perhaps, provide more instructional support to help teachers have the confidence to integrate technology into learning more of the time?

I would very much like to hear from you on the role you think Epson can play in helping to bridge the generational divide.

Click here to find out more about Epson’s range of solutions for education.