Education Studies Students 2.0?

Richard Sanders, Stephen Griffin and Stephen Dixon


At Newman University, Birmingham, as in much of UK HE, there is a concerted effort to move towards models of e-assessment, blended and distance learning. Set against this is the ongoing and persuasive discourse that tells us our students have changed (Prensky, 2001, et al), making grandiose claims as to their digital expertise. However, the rhetoric presupposes a habitual engagement with a range of technological and immersive tools whilst never questioning basic levels of skill or access. These, we feel, are dangerous assumptions, based upon the initial findings presented in this paper. Drawing on an ongoing longitudinal study – which comprises of data from two separate academic years and approximately 800 respondents – this paper provides an initial comparison of the digital literacy levels of Education Studies undergraduates against the rest of the Newman University undergraduate population. Early findings have shown that even though high proportions of all students commonly use more than one device to access internet-based services outside of Newman, the ‘nativeness’ of Web 2.0 tool use is brought into question. Student engagement with online collaborative authoring tools can be related to experiences within their programme of study – with a much higher proportion of Education Studies students having an awareness of these, due to a focus on online collaborative assessments within the programme. When investigating whether students actively contribute to differing categories of tools, there is limited content creation activity outside of social networking sites, with higher levels of contribution apparent for Education Studies students who are required to use particular tools as part of their study. Declared familiarity with particular categories of tools is also brought into question, as actual knowledge of the online tools available is limited – demonstrated in this paper by closer inspection of video sharing sites such as Youtube. Initial findings suggest that our students would fit the profile highlighted by Bennett & Maton (2010), where undergraduate technological skills are not as predominant as is often assumed. The widening participation background of Newman University may also mean that socio-economic differences in the student population may be a key factor in these initial findings (Bennett et al, 2008). These initial findings will be used to inform focus group questioning of Education Studies and other undergraduates at Newman University, to further investigate whether supposed ‘immigrant’ lecturers are actually a significant influence on student use of technology.


Sanders, R., Griffin, S. and Dixon, S. (2013) Education Studies Students 2.0?. Educationalfutures, [online] Vol. 6(1). Available at: [Accessed 01 Mar, 2024].