Are Digital Natives a Myth or Reality? University Students’ Use of Digital Technologies

Anoush Margaryan, Allison Littlejohn, Gabrielle Vojt

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


This study investigated the extent and nature of university students’ use of digital technologies for learning and socialising. The findings show that students use a limited range of mainly established technologies. Use of collaborative knowledge creation tools, virtual worlds, and social networking sites was low. ‘Digital natives’ and students of a technical discipline (Engineering) used more technology tools when compared to ‘digital immigrants’ and students of a non-technical discipline (Social Work). This relationship may be mediated by the finding that Engineering courses required more intensive and extensive access to technology than Social Work courses. However, the use of technology between these groups is only quantitatively rather than qualitatively different. The study did not find evidence to support popular claims that young people adopt radically different learning styles. Their attitudes to learning appear to be influenced by lecturers’ teaching approaches. Students appear to conform to traditional pedagogies, albeit with minor uses of tools delivering content. The outcomes suggest that although the calls for transformations in education may be legitimate it would be misleading to ground the arguments for such change in students’ shifting patterns of learning and technology use.
Original languageEnglish
JournalComputers & Education
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)429-440
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Media in education
  • Pedagogical issues
  • Post-secondary education
  • Teaching/learning strategies

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