If you read enough edublogs, you begin to encounter the factions that believe that students today are digital natives and have all sorts of rich information experiences all the time in their everyday lives. This is usually taken to mean that they use all kinds of electronic means of sending and receiving information, such as email. I’m already skeptical of that claim, and after the following experience from today I am even less sure about it.
We had some high school students visiting the math department at my college, and part of the program was a discussion panel with current math majors. One of the math majors was asked about some of the main differences between high school and college, and he mentioned the quantity of email that one has to keep up with as a major difference. He asked the high school students how often they checked their emails now. They all looked at each other sheepishly. The math major then asked how many students have email accounts at all. Less than half indicated that they did.
Less than half. How can that be, if they are digital natives? I think have at least half a dozen email addresses just for myself!
So now I am wondering: Do most of the students not have email accounts because they simply aren’t as technologically immersed as some people think they are? Or do they have some other electronic medium for communicating, like text messaging, that they use more frequently than email — so much more frequently that they don’t even have email accounts? I know texting is big among the 18-22 year old set right now, but it’s hard to imagine texting simply usurping the role of email, when you can get email accounts for free all over the place.