Friday, November 18, 2011

Profiles of Use: Resistors to Integrators

One of the major problems with the digital native discourse is that it frames digital literacy in generational terms and portrays all people of a certain age as possessing a uniform set of digital technology skills. Of course, we now know this is not accurate. Research shows the issue is much more complex. Our research is contributing to a deeper understanding of how learners think about and use digital technology in different aspects of their lives. Our preliminary analysis of the in-depth interviews we conducted with learners from the British Columbia Institute of Technology in 2010 and 2011 is suggesting a continuum of four "profiles of use" with the profile consisting of attitudes towards technology and use of technology. The profiles are:

Resistors deliberately limit their use of digital technology or avoid it all together. They would rather be doing other things, or are in a phase of returning to the ‘basics’, engaging in alternative practices such as letter writing instead of e-mailing. They are resentful of the idea that their age defines their digital literacy.

Cautious Users
Cautious users express concern about privacy, and consciously separate their academic and social identities. Often they will maintain this separation even when it is inconvenient. For these users, Facebook seen as purely a social and entertainment tool.

Instrumental Users
Instrumental users also conscious separate their academic, social and professional identities. Their use is driven by specific interests or needs. For example, some of our subjects talked about their passion for digital gaming, photography and sports statistics and how they used online and digital technologies to pursue these interests but not more much else. Their use tended to be separated by location. i.e, social use at home, academic use at school. This included strategies such as leaving a laptop at home in order to avoid the distractions it presented when brought to the class.

Integrators tend to be heavy smart phone users who are constantly connected. For this group the convenience of portability in one device that the smart phone provides is key. They only use a laptop or desktop computer if absolutely necessary. They value integration of technology and don't see the point of keeping academic and social activities separate.