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Exploring the gap between digital tools in higher education and everyday life

Sjöberg, Jeanette, Fors, Vaike

Konferensbidrag (Refereegranskat)


This article reports on a literature review of scientific empirical studies that include; student experiences, digital technologies and higher education. The aim was to analyse the material with two research questions in mind: (1) What do we know about students engagement in higher education in relation to their everyday digitally mediated learning cultures? (2) And what can we learn from studying these mundane learning strategies when organising higher education? The overarching purpose is to address the question of how HEI’s can cater for the new constellation of student groups that emerge through contemporary societal changes, and re-organise the pedagogical practices accordingly? The analysis shows that there are fourmain characteristics of students life-based digital learning resources; they are personalized, mobile, collaborative and shared and contextual. Through our review we have seen that many of these social relationships has been addressed as crucial when understanding the implications of students every day use of digital media for higher education. By all means, Conole et. al reminds us of that it exists an “underworld of non-institutional technology use” (pp. 519) among the students and teachers with under-estimated powers when it comes to enhancing the educational practices. How can this “underworld” be characterized? Through our review we conclude that there are four qualitatively different features of these social learning practices that is worth mentioningin relation to the question of what can be learnt from studying students use of digital tools in higher education:

• Student-centred learning /student-centric tools - The tools come to use in personalized ways to the extent that they are used according to the set of practices that students already are involved in when studying.

• Mobile learning - since many of the digital tools are being used through mobile computing devices, the learning environment shifts in unanticipated ways. Therefore, it could be argued that learning in higher education have potentials to become situated in students everyday practices outside of the physical school context in new ways.

• Collaborative and shared learning - According to built-in ideas of connectedness in social media and other digital applications and devices, and in connection how these technologies become embedded in contemporary social practices, learning with digital tools afford possibilities to apply social learning theory to understandings of student experiences of higher education to a greater extent than was applicable before the advent of mobile computing devices and social media.

• Contextual digital skills/digital resources - The students digital skills develops not only in relation to the tool, the cultural context in which the tool is used is crucial to understand when studying the impact and use. The tools become in this sense culture-bound; the digital tools are re-created in relation to culture and social relations and these relations are not easily changed when introducing a new digital tool.

The implications for higher education is that while classroom practices should be re-conceptualised accordingly, social media should not. However, digital and social media can add value to higher education that bridges old divides.

Nyckelord: student experiences; digital technologies; social media; higher education; ethnography; everyday

Citera: Sjöberg, Jeanette & Fors, Vaike, Exploring the gap between digital tools in higher education and everyday life, NU2016., 2016