Digital or Diligent? Web 2.0's Challenge to Formal Schooling

Year: 2008

Author: Tan, Jennifer Pei-Ling, McWilliam, Erica

Type of paper: Refereed paper

This paper explores the tensions that arise for young people as both 'digital kids' and 'diligent students'. It does so by drawing on a study conducted in an elite private school, where the tensions between 'going digital' and 'being diligent' are exacerbated by the high value the school places on academic achievement, and on learning through digital innovation. At the school under study, high levels of intellectual and technological resourcing bring with them an equally high level of expectation to excel in traditional academic tasks and high-stakes assessment. The students, under constant pressure to perform well in standardised tests, need to make decisions about the extent to which they take up school-sanctioned digitally enhanced learning opportunities that do not explicitly address academic performance. The paper examines this conundrum by investigating student preparedness to engage with a new learning innovation - a student-led media centre - in the context of the traditional pedagogical culture that is relatively untouched by such digital innovation.

The paper presents an analysis of findings from a survey of 481 students in the school. The survey results were subjected to quantitative regression tree modelling to flesh out how different student learning dispositions, social and technological factors influence the extent to which students engage with a specific digital learning opportunity in the form of the Web 2.0 Student Media Centre (SMC) designed to engage the senior school community in flexible digital-networked learning. What emerges from the study is that peer support, perceived ease of use and usefulness, learning goals and cognitive playfulness are significant predictors of the choices that students make to negotiate the fundamental tensions of being digital and/or diligent. In scrutinising the tensions around a digital or a diligent student identity in this way, the paper contributes new empirical evidence to understanding the problematic relationship between student-led learning using new digital media tools and formal schooling.