EBM and Clinical Support Librarians@UCHC

A blog for medical students, faculty and librarians about their use of evidence based medicine, clinical literature, Web 2.0, sources and search strategies

Trends, Education, Technology: Digital Natives, Visual Learners, Future Medical Students

BJ Nesbitt is the author of this excellent video, “A Vision of K-12 Students Today“, referenced below.

Baby Boomers who were K-12 students in the 1960’s and 1970’s received their education at a time when technology was at a certain level. There was media in the schools (remember filmstrips?), recorded music, record players. Television was the major broadcast medium, and three major networks delivered it in the U.S. People installed antennas on their rooftops for better reception.

Card catalogs were the means of checking whether the library had a specific book you needed to read in order to write a report. After you wrote the report, you typed it up on a typewriter (maybe a Selectric), and kept the white-out handy. You might have used carbon paper if you wanted to retain a second copy. Phones had rotary dials, and answering machines were being invented. Prototypical fax or photocopy machines were also in the works (mid-1960’s) but would not be commercially available for years.

To learn the news of the day, you could listen to AM or FM radio, buy a newspaper to read or watch the evening news broadcast. Magazines arrived in the mail on a monthly basis. IBM hadn’t invented a personal computer to be used by small businesses or individuals yet. Mimeograph machines were used to make many copies of a document at school. And gasoline cost 35 cents a gallon! But many of the Baby Boom generation have worked hard at becoming Digital Early Adopters.

Consider then the educational process taking place in 2008 for a person of 8 years, or 15 years, of age in this country. These students are referred to as Milleniums (or Generation Y).

They grew up using Google. They’ve been using a mouse and looking at a computer screen practically since infancy. They probably entered their middle school building for the first time clutching their cellphone.

Digital Natives are intense multi-taskers. They are visual learners. They may use the Internet Archive to check historical facts instead of checking out a book. Wikipedia – which now has 1.7 million articles in English – is their “factbook”.

If you are a parent to a Digital Native, you will be familiar with how just fast an iPod wears out. Through direct observation, you will learn the time it takes to whip a new cell phone out of its packaging on Christmas Day and get it to work (Answer? In about 4-5 minutes, based on my experience).

The Milleniums’ Digital learning experiences are not matching up with Analog teaching experiences of their teachers.

Compare their day in school in 2008 to what these students then go home to after 300pm, and:

These are daily, common, intuitive activities for the Digital Natives. They do not stop to think, “I’m going to use a Web 2.0 tool such as Facebook or instant messenger” – they simply go ahead and live their technologically-rich lives. It’s a 24×7 culture now, and it is taken for granted by many. Let us all thank Tim Berners-Lee. *

This level of technological connectedness requires a certain bandwidth, a certain level of connectivity (and willing and able parents – and school districts – to foot the hefty price tag for all that inter-connectedness). This creation, sharing and broadcasting of information – and the Digital Natives’ sophistication at adapting Web 2.0 or social networking tools to their advantage – may have seemed like science fiction in 1975 but it is a reality now, here to stay.

This video (linked below) is about the type of education these students perceive that they need in order to best develop their capabilities. I liked this video… if you are an educator, a parent, a clinician or a Digital Adopter rather than a Native, then I hope you’ll watch it, too:


Video courtesy of YouTube.com – BJ Nesbitt – copyright 2008 – all rights reserved

Also see a 2004 video featuring college age students discussing the type of education they need, entitled “Digital Students @ Analog Schools” (media player required) created by Consuelo Molina, a UCLA student and videographer.

Finally… Read a report issued Jan 11 2008 entitled, “Information Behavior of the Researcher of the Future” (35-page pdf file) by researchers at University College London.


Note: * Also see A Brief History of the Internet on the Internet Society website.

One response to “Trends, Education, Technology: Digital Natives, Visual Learners, Future Medical Students

  1. Pingback: Links of Note: Social, Informal, and Online Learning (Sept. 2009) « Peg Mulligan's Blog: Technical and Marketing Communication

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