Pre-service teachers in Second Life: Are digital natives prepared for a Web 2.0 experience?
Christopher T. Inman, The University of Alabama, United States
The University of Alabama . Awarded
Today’s college students, “digital natives,” have had digital technology at their fingertips (Rushkoff, 1996; Prensky, 2001a). Technology habits and expectations of young people are changing; the educational and business worlds have placed a focus on skills called “21st century skills,” to prepare students for the digital age (Lemke, 2002). Skills include collaboration, communication, creativity, problem solving, critical thinking, and technology skills (Partnership for 21st Century Schools, 2009). These skills are being addressed with Web 2.0 digital tools, and one such tool is online virtual worlds.
This study explored experiences of pre-service teachers in a virtual world (Second Life) as the virtual world was introduced into a course. Educators sometimes assume that current undergraduate students (digital natives) should be comfortable using digital technologies; this assumption is not necessarily accurate (Lei, 2009). This study used a concurrent triangulation mixed methods approach, collecting qualitative and quantitative data (Creswell & Plano Clark, 2007). Participants included pre-service teachers in two sections of Technology in Education (TE) 260; they completed three surveys, maintained a journal, and participated in two focus groups.
Students experienced problems with Second Life’s interface (Sanchez, 2009; Schultze et al., 2008). Barriers included distraction/exposure to inappropriate content (Chow et al., 2007; Hayes, 2006), student reluctance to accept Second Life as an education tool, (FitzGibbon et al., 2008; Jarmon et al., 2008; Vogel et al., 2008), and hardware/software requirements (Chow et al., 2007; Sanchez, 2009). Potential uses identified were student collaboration and brain-storming; uses corresponded with matching 21st century skills.
Students indicated Second Life activities increased confidence with using virtual worlds. Students believed Second Life or another virtual world was a viable educational tool. Although students were prepared to use Second Life operationally, they were not confident in their ability to use Second Life/virtual worlds with future students. Only 26% of students were comfortable using Second Life with future students, and only 18 % of students were comfortable using virtual worlds with future students, supporting Lei’s (2009) assertion that pre-service teachers as digital natives are not necessarily comfortable or confident in using newer Web 2.0 technologies.
Inman, C.T. Pre-service teachers in Second Life: Are digital natives prepared for a Web 2.0 experience?. Ph.D. thesis, The University of Alabama.
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