Document Type

Conference Paper


A great deal has been written over the past few years about the characteristics of a new generation of students and the implications for teaching and learning. This generation, which has variously been referred to as the ‘Net Generation’, ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘Generation Y’ are claimed to be very different to their predecessors in their familiarity with technologies and the regularity with which they use them. Additionally, some commentators have claimed that their immersion in technology during their developmental years has changed the way that they learn and perhaps even the physiology of their brains. This paper reports on some preliminary results from a large cross-institutional study of the implications for University teaching of the characteristics of this generation of students. This paper focuses in particular on the results of a survey of the frequency with which 2588 first year students at the University of Melbourne, the University of Wollongong and Charles Sturt University, use 41 different applications of new technologies in their study and personal lives. The results indicate that there is greater diversity in frequency of use of technology than many commentators have suggested. Importantly, the use of collaborative and self-publishing ‘Web 2.0’ technologies that have often been associated with this generation is quite low. The results of this large survey suggest that to accept the claims of some of the commentators on the changes needed in universities to cater for this generation of students without undertaking further research is likely to be a substantial mistake.