Thursday, March 24, 2011

Technology Adoption by College Students

There are a multitude of surveys and even more uneducated guesses about America's youth and technology use. Most of us over 50 make huge assumptions that students, particularly college students, are whizzes with technology. Of course we often attribute this to what we see on TV and maybe by the teen in our house who spends hours glued to the cell phone. By the way, many adults also assume that we know far less about technology because our generation did not get the tech gene.

While it may be that many of the youth of today are technology fearless, most do not race to be first in line for the latest technologies. ECAR, the Educause Center for Applied Research, does a student technology every year. ECAR does a pretty thorough job of surveying students. The 2010 survey obtained responses from 36,950 from over 125 American and Canadian college campuses. They also completed focus groups to make sure that they did not miss anything. Now I must say that results found in the ECAR study are very consistent with the 800 student survey that I do each spring. So there. If you feel the need to download their 118 page study, feel at at this site.

Here are just a few interesting results from their study:

- 49% of students surveyed describe themselves as "mainstream adopters" who wait and do not jump on the next new technology. Over 17% characterize themselves as late adopters or even "laggards" when it comes to adopting new technologies.

- Male students (44%) surveyed consider themselves to be "early adopters" or "innovators", suggesting that many males are indeed jumping on the next new thing. Female students tend to be more conservative when considering new technologies with only 26% considering themselves to be "early adopters" or innovators".

- "Almost two-thirds of the respondents own an Internet-capable handheld device."

- On average students surveyed spend an average of 21.2 hours per week on the Internet for school, work, or recreation.

From these few bullets we can see that college students are engaged with technology. From my informal discussions with faculty and other IT professionals I can see that although students are very interested in using technology for a variety of purposes, there are holes in their understanding of how most technologies work. Many do not know the intricacies of spreadsheet, how a web page is created, or what a database is. I think there is more work to be done in the area of technology fluency before students go out into the real world. Perhaps this needs to be a piece of their general education.

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