1. Perry, William MA, RN

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The Internet has brought the spirit of global communication and collaboration to nurses and other healthcare professionals in ways never before thought possible. These resources are offered to expand your opportunities for discussion, reference, education, and research.


A valued colleague, Margaret Hansen, EdD, MSN, RN (, sent me a link to the "Myth of the Digital Native" located at The author, Bob Wall, is a public school teacher in Saskatchewan. Bob questions the implied attribute of technical competence that goes with the term digital native. I agree with many of his observations, particularly as I look at my students who range from adolescents (19 years old) to adults embarking on a second career. Although many of them are very comfortable using e-mail, Web surfing, and so forth, from the perspective of consumers, they are very much beginners when it comes to learning new applications, formulating search strategies, and critically evaluating resources. From my own informal observations, I find it curious that undergraduate nursing students seem uncomfortable with the idea of learning or interacting in Second Life, and very few admit to playing games. Most of them are avid Facebook users, but listservs, online discussion boards, and blogs are foreign to many of them.


Wall cites Marc Prensky ( regarding digital natives.


Lest this perspective appear radical, rather than just descriptive, let me highlight some of the issues. Digital Natives are used to receiving information really fast. They like to parallel process and multi-task. They prefer their graphics before their text rather than the opposite. They prefer random access (like hypertext). They function best when networked. They thrive on instant gratification and frequent rewards. They prefer games to "serious" work.


Yes, they scan, write very informally, and seem more interested in easily obtained, superficial information. Wikipedia is a primary information source for many of them. If I wander about our computer laboratory while lecturing, many have multiple windows open and flip between Instant Messenger, e-mail, Facebook, and my lecture notes. The biggest advantage I think that the "natives" have is the willingness to experiment and a lack of fear that they will "break something," and they view electronic communication and collaboration as normal rather than something new. The caveat to using the term digital natives is to remember that you cannot make the assumption that comfort in the electronic environment and willingness to explore equate with information literacy or technical competence.


On a similar note, Michelle Martin authored a piece on the work literacy blog ( entitled "Masters of Technology" citing a British study that "debunks the myth that young people are 'masters of technology,' finding that while teens may have the basic technology skills to use tools like search engines, they lack the information processing and higher order thinking skills necessary to really use them effectively. Apparently these young people don't know how to select and use proper search terms, nor do they have good skills in evaluating the information that they find online. According to the report, the greatest difficulty is getting these kids to realize that they have a problem-their self-reported levels of competence do not match with their actual performance." I have been following the connectivism course offered by George Siemens and Stephen Downs via the University of Manitoba ( and It is an international group of more than 1000 individuals from many disciplines and involves communication and collaboration using a variety of tools and approaches.


The entire post of George Siemens entitled "What is the unique idea in connectivism?" ( is worth reading, but here are the five points under the section "The Unique Ideas in Connectivism."


Connectivism is the application of network principles to define both knowledge and the process of learning.


Connectivism addresses the principles of learning at numerous levels-biological/neural, conceptual, and social/external.


Connectivism focuses on the inclusion of technology as part of our distribution of cognition and knowledge. Our knowledge resides in the connections we form- where to other people or to information sources such as databases. Connectivism acknowledges the prominence of tools as a mediating object in our activity system but then extends it by suggesting that technology plays a central role in our distribution of identity, cognition, and, thereby, knowledge.


While other theories pay partial attention to context, connectivism recognizes the fluid nature of knowledge and connections based on context. The context brings as much to a space of knowledge connection/exchange as do the parties involved in the exchange.


Understanding. Coherence. Sense making. Meaning. Connectivism finds its roots in the climate of abundance, rapid change, diverse information sources, and perspectives and the critical need to find a way to filter and make sense of the chaos.


It seems to describe the way healthcare professionals work and learn. It is far more than the ability to use a search tool. We are constantly forming human and resource networks wherein information can be rapidly retrieved, evaluated, and applied as the situation demands.


Contributed by


William Perry, MA, RN