Archive of ‘INF530’ category

Assessment Blog #3


Design Brief

The Problem: A morning robbed of joy

Located in suburban Brisbane, the Stower house is an average, middle class dwelling housing a family of four. Although the busy family are well organised and the morning begins with energy and enthusiasm, things seem to go wrong during the forty-five minutes from 6:45 to 7:30 am.  With Dad already departed for work, it is in this time that panic ensues, as unplanned extras are added to the morning routine and Mum becomes flustered trying to fit these into the tight schedule.  Consequently Mum often arrives at work late and exhausted.  Basically, the opportunity to spend time together in the morning is robbed of joy and becomes a stress filled experience.  Mum and kids would be better placed to start their day if the mornings were instead a time to congregate, eat breakfast, talk and enjoy each other’s company before facing the world.

Design Brief:

Dear Architect, Please design a solution to our morning activities that takes the stress out.  It needs to be a place that provides breakfast, but it should also be better than that. Why can’t it be a coffee house that ‘talks about the news’, is invigorating, engaging, stimulating, family-orientated.  Why does Mum have to solve all the problems? It needs to be a diplomatic process that the whole family is involved in.

The Challenge:  

Provide strategies to help Mum and the kids manage the unplanned extras in the morning in order to create a positive start to the day. This should include designing a space that provides breakfast and fosters joy, fellowship and diplomacy.

The Constraints:

  • The time cannot be expanded as it would infringe upon exercise and other household chores at one end of the morning and the start of the work/school day at the other end;

  • The activities can only happen within the home;

  • The space must be used for other family activities.


  • There are three people involved in these mornings;

  • It is a family relationship which cannot be compromised; and

  • One of the children is very anxious and unplanned extras cause a lot of stress for her.

Next Steps (Ideation):

Identify objects or conditions in the environment which may be recognised as concepts to be included or excluded to create something new (Hatchel & Weil), by undertaking the following processes:

  • Review Mum’s observations of the morning routine;

  • Interview the children to better understand their needs, their perception of the morning experience, and their desires for the morning routine;

  • Mum to brainstorm what the “perfect morning” might look like, feel like, sound like, taste like & smell like.  The purpose of this is to broaden the possibilities for a desirable outcome;

  • Research how other individuals and families manage their mornings;

  • Research how spaces can alleviate stress and foster talk and companionship;

  • Seek input from others about how a space might foster joy and fellowship in order to garner new perspectives and ideas; and

  • Develop ideas based on feedback and hold discussions between Mum and the kids to get their feedback on concepts and where possible, prototype/trial these ideas.


Dear architect,

“I chose to enhance this experience with a simple design element” (John Hockenberry), please help me.  Kind regards, Helen/Mum


Hatchuel, A., Le Masson, P., & Weil, B. (2004). CK theory in practice: lessons from industrial applications. In DS 32: Proceedings of DESIGN 2004, the 8th International Design Conference, Dubrovnik, Croatia.

Hockenberry, J. (2012, June 12). John Hockenberry: We are all designers. Retrieved August 15, 2014, from

Third Grade Classroom. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Cafe. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Applying the Learning: Reflections of #INF530


As a Teacher-Librarian, the information landscape and the impact of technology on learners and learning, has been a key focus of my practice. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote:

“the concepts and practices for a digital age of particular interest to me are:

·       for professional growth,

·      to better understand and prepare students for work, study and life, &

·       to mentor and support colleagues”.

The course work for Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age has provided many opportunities in these areas, and significantly broadened my thinking about future directions at our school.  For the purposes of this reflection, I would like to address each of these points.

Professional growth has certainly been an outcome of completing The Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age.  The environments we were encouraged to participate in, the resources and readings provided, and the assessment items all extended my knowledge, and have began to inform my practice as a teacher-librarian.  In particular, the reflective blogging has been a fruitful process for me.  I found this kept me on track with the work load of the coarse, and encouraged me to think deeply about topics.  Connecting to the blogs of other students provided insights and feedback that have informed and resonated with my own practice.  Another conversation that has stayed with me was during a Google hangout when a discussion led to the importance of creativity in the classroom.  This together, with reflections on the learning throughout the course, and the process of completing a digital essay, remind me that creativity really is the key to innovation and absolutely essential in educating students for success in the digital age.

One of the opportunities afforded through the course was to write an academic book review. The book from the list of choices available for review and criticism that gained my attention was The app Generation:  How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy and imagination in a digital world by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis. The book was a great read and together with the research undertaken to critically review it, provided new insights into how the technologies of the digital age are shaping the young people we work with.  In particular, a heightened sense of individualism, increased aversion to take risks and the need for constant endorsement are key concerns raised by Gardner and Davis (2013).  The idea that there is an increased aversion to taking risks among young people resonates with my experiences of working with students, and concerns of this nature have been raised in my educational setting in both formal meetings, and during informal conversations.  Because collaboration has been encouraged and even required in INF530, I was able to extend this conversation beyond the school walls and engage with wide ranging points of view through blogging.  I posted a blog entry titled, Narcissistic Teens & Helicopter Parents, and the comments and feedback received have contributed to the professional reflections of the teaching team I work with.  As digital citizenship is one of the key priorities of a subject we teach called Research and Technology, we are now thinking about how we can challenge our students to move beyond a position of dependence, requiring constant reinforcement, validation and aversion to risk.  We hope to assist them to move to a position of independence that is characterised by a ‘have a go’ attitude and resilience.

The course work for Concepts and Practices for a Digital Age has also informed my professional practice.  As a teacher-librarian and curriculum leader, one of the responsibilities in my role description is, “planning, teaching and evaluating collaboratively with teachers to ensure the effective integration of information resources and technologies into student learning” (Staff Handbook, 2014).  Professional conversations with mentors are required of all staff at our college as part of our ongoing professional learning.  During a recent professional conversation with my mentor, a deputy principal at the college, we identified staff induction programs as requiring more specific input in the area of digital literacies.  After showing him some of the key concepts from INF530 and the final assessment task, I decided to focus my digital essay on researching for this purpose.  Consequently, my essay aims to answer the question: What concepts and practices should high-school teachers embed in their curriculums to foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age?  Another example of how this subject is informing my professional practice was that after reading Module 3.2, Information Fluencies, I decided to conduct a survey into the use of the college’s information services website to gain feedback about its effectiveness in connecting learners to the skills, tools and information necessary for success in the digital age.  It was identified through this survey that professional development is necessary among existing staff in digital literacies and digital citizenship and we need to work towards tessellation of how staff, students and the website interact. The research for my digital essay will be initially shared with Curriculum Leaders at our college with the aim of developing opportunities for professional learning so that digital literacies are embedded into our curriculums and pedagogies.

As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. In particular, I believe these understandings need to be translated to classroom practice to prepare students for futures in connected and participatory environments.

 Image Attribution

Learning To Read At School,Woodcut 1870. [Photo]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.


Digital Essay Proposal Take 2

Connected Learning:  concepts and practices for high-school curriculums

Question:  What concepts and practices should high-school teachers embed in their curriculums to foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age?

Tool:  Blog – By using this space, I will be able to include examples, video, audio and links to extend understanding of the concepts and practices presented.


Throughout this subject we have been exposed to the concepts and practices for the digital age.  Many of these practices will have impacts for current students whose learning and working lives will require the mastering of these skills for success.  It is not enough that that the Teacher-Librarian, Deputy Principal or other specialist in the school understand these concepts. If students are to experience growth in these skills then they need to be embedded in classrooms across the curriculum.

The Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority (ACARA) stipulates the embedding of digital literacies into learning areas across the curriculum in the Information and Communication (ICT) general capability.  (ACARA, 2014, ICT capability across the curriculum, Para 1)  In particular, ACARA informs us that students need to develop skills in:

  • Applying social and ethical protocols and practices when using ICT
  • Investigating with ICT
  • Creating with ICT
  • Communicating with ICT
  • Managing and operating ICT

(ACARA, 2014Organising elements, Para 7) These skills have also been among those highlighted throughout the modules presented in INF530. If these abilities are to be developed in all subjects then it stands that teachers need skills in these areas also.  It is essential that schools investigate methods of supporting teachers in achieving and implementing the ICT general capabilities into their subjects.

Within our school context, we recently conducted a survey into the use of the College’s information services.  It was identified through this survey that professional development is necessary among existing teaching staff in digital literacies and digital citizenship in order for the ICT general capability to be embedded in classrooms.  This essay will provide an introduction for high school teachers to four concepts and practices that foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age:

  • ethics & citizenship;
  • information literacy;
  • connections; and
  • creativity.

Assessment Task #7 – Reflection

Re-imagining education in a digital age – Reflecting on my learning in INF530

 What Have I Accomplished?

Looking back at my first blog post for this subject, one of my aims in undertaking this course was to experience being a learner in the 21st Century.  This has certainly been true, both of the course materials and the experiences offered.  The multimodal nature of the readings which include podcasts, videos and infographics as well as traditional academic journal articles, blogging for critical reflection and interacting in forums, Tweet chats, Adobe connect meetings and Google hangouts, and posting and receiving updates from the class Diigo Group and Twitter hashtag are all examples of these.  These practices are examples of the changing digital landscape of education discussed by Conole (2013, p. 48).  The image below contains links to some of my interactions in these environments.

What have I discovered about myself as a learner?

I have learned that I find it really hard to study as a 40-something-year-old student. Compared to when I studied at a younger age, my fear of getting it wrong slows down every sentence I write. I also really enjoy the content, and the multimodal delivery of that content, far more than I enjoyed subjects previously studied but this means I want to read, view or listen to each and every resource in every module.  Adding this new, studious disposition to work and family commitments has made time a very precious commodity and I need to advance my skills in prioritising.

The Book Review & understanding today’s learners

For the academic book review task, I read The App Generation by Howard Gardner and Katie Davis in an attempt to broaden my insight into today’s learners.  I found it really interesting that the evidence-based, American research presented in the book certainly reflects the many conversations I have here in Australia with other teachers and parents of similar socio-economic status to those teens researched in the book. When discussing the effect technology is having on today’s youth, a heightened sense of individualism, increased aversion to take risks and the need for constant endorsement are key concerns raised by Gardner and Davis (2013).  This, they say, is the result of broad societal trends and modern parenting and is facilitated by mobile devices, apps and social media.

Collaboration is King

A key concept emphasized throughout the learning in INF530 is that scholarship in the digital age is connected and global and these two factors require collaboration.  Mimi Ito (2012) suggests that effective education in the digital age is about matchmaking.  It involves designing methods of using connections to bring people together who want to learn together.  In this paradigm, building relationships is more important than the actual piece of knowledge being cultivated.  Collaboration throughout this course has also resulted in beneficial learning opportunities.  Listening to other students discuss the importance of pedagogy and creativity in the Google Hangout provided real focus for my thinking about the digital essay topic I wished to investigate.

The digital essay

In addition to the experience of being a 21st Century learner, I have also sought to ascertain the concepts and practices that high-school teachers should embed in their curriculums to foster connected learning in the information environments of the digital age.  To this end, my digital essay aims to investigate the question about knowledge and the curriculum strategies that teachers can employ to develop the knowledge and skills necessary for lifelong learning in the 21st Century.


Conole, G. (2012). Designing for learning in an open world (Vol. 4). Springer. Available as ebook from CSU library.

Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Ito, M. (2013, October 31). Connected Learning: Everyone, Everywhere, Anytime. Retrieved May 17, 2014, from – t=26

Blog Task #3 Reflection on Bec Spink’s ‘Digital Citizenship for Students’


The post Digital Citizenship for Students by (Bec Spink) @MissB6_2 asks two important questions that I’d like to reflect upon:

  • What are the challenges of introducing digital citizenship to young people (students)?

  • How can digital citizenship awareness be supported by current research? Which research is the most useful to a digital learning environment?

In this post, Bec first raises the issues of a digital footprint and Internet safety.  She is correct in saying that safety is paramount and it is important for students to understand this, however, it is equally important to focus on building a positive digital footprint and give students strategies for doing this.  Even young students can discuss how our reputations can be damaged by poor etiquette and silly behaviour in public and brainstorm ideas for avoiding this mistake in both the physical and digital worlds.  Bec focuses on the dangers of being online.  By contrast, others such as Brett Lee, cyber safety expert, tell us that the Internet is “a great and safe world, it’s how people use it that creates issues” (2012).  In his guide for parents, he stresses that children need life skills and these include digital skills (2012). Furthermore, digital citizenship encompasses so much more than Internet safety as outlined in the Nine Elements of Digital Citizenship and placing too much focus on safety limits the students’ learning and development in these other areas.

The video from Common Sense media provides excellent advice for young students about strategies for making good choices online. For educators, their blog post, It’s never too early to teach kids online skills is also a useful resource.

Secondly, Bec outlines her concerns about students’ safety and protection online from her observations during a class investigation into  ‘online identities’. As a mother of a thirteen year-old boy and a ten year-old girl, these observations ring true with my own experiences and observations of my children, their friends and my nieces and nephews.  I regularly reflect on my children’s digital footprint and how this is evolving as they grow and as technology changes.  When thinking about the importance of my daughter’s digital footprint, I concluded that it is essential we teach our children to be aware of the information they are putting out there, to control that information and to leave a footprint that is positive and safe. This goes beyond having a good online reputation. When future employers Google her name, our daughter needs them to see a clever girl who has a sophisticated presence through what she publishes online, is well connected and makes astute decisions about who she associates with. When she applies for that job, she will need an impressive digital résumé that proves her skills and qualifications.  She must also possess a digital footprint that enhances rather than betrays all the hard work she has done to get to this point.

Another challenge Bec raises is parents’ awareness and understanding of digital footprints and digital citizenship.  A study conducted by the Australian Communications and Media Authority in 2013, titled Connected parents in the cybersafety age, found that parents are very concerned about the online risks their children may be subjected to.  A second key finding of the study is that young people are most likely to turn to their parents for advice about online issues. Thus, they conclude, it is essential that parents are educated about digital citizenship. As a parent and a teacher, I am very interested in this topic and recently blogged an article titled, Parenting Digital Teens:  the differing priorities of kids, parents and teachers, in which I discuss these issues.  The conclusion reached is that parenting adolescents has always been tricky and the digital age adds another layer of complication to this.  Open dialogue and education for all the parties involved in raising connected kids is necessary and important.

A challenge that Bec does not discuss is that provided by our own peers in education.  It is disappointing that there are some teachers in our schools who do not understand digital footprints and the protocols of digital citizenship. Who do not embed digital literacies into their curriculums and who put up barriers to up-skilling in this area.

The second question raised in this post is about how research supports the teaching of digital citizenship and Bec provides an excellent report, Digital Citizens Guide – community and stakeholder research, as a useful resource.  Although it is now three years old, another piece of research that provides interesting insight into the teaching of digital citizenship is the 2011 study by Gfk bluemoon for the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) entitled, Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media.   Finally, indicators for teaching digital citizenship can also be found in the general capabilities of the Australian Curriculum.  In particular, the Learning Continuum in the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) general capability provides explicit examples of how this should be taught across year levels.

Bec concludes her article by identifying the three principals three principals that responsible digital citizens should Practise:

Engage positively
Know your online world
Choose consciously

I agree Bec, and I believe these are principals we should live by in life, both online and off.

Image Attribution

Geralt, Blog Blogging Leave Share With Communication, CC0


ACARA. (2014). Information and Communication Technology (ICT) capability. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

ACMA. (2011). Like, post, share: Young Australians’ experience of social media (Rep.). Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

ACMA. (2013). Digital citzens guide (pp. 1-5, Rep.). Canberra, ACT: Australian Government.

ACMA. (2014). Connected parents in the cybersafety age, June 2013 snapshot (pp. 1-28, Rep.). Canberra, ACT: Australian Government.

Common Sense Media. (2013, September 30). It’s never too early to teach kids online skills [Web log post]. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Common Sense Media. (2013, September 24). Pause & Think Online. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Lee, B. (2012). Parents’ guide to Internet use. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Lee, B. (n.d.). Internet education and safety services. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Ribble, M. (2014). Nine Elements. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from

Spinks, B. (2014, March 22). Digital citizenship for students [Web log post]. Retrieved April 28, 2014, from


Learning in the Digital Age: It’s not what you know, it’s how you connect


The old adage ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know’ has a new incarnation among some educators of the digital age.  The view held by these educators is that the connections we make are the most powerful contributor to our learning.  Central to this view is the belief that due to technology and the explosion of information, the lifespan of knowledge is diminishing and the way we learn is changing.  

Theories of learning such as behaviourism, cognitivism and constructivism were developed prior to the digital age and do not take into account the impact digital technology has had on society and consequently, learning environments. The theory of connectivism developed by Stephen Downes and George Siemens attempts to do this.

Some of the key points from theory of Connectivism include:

  • Technology is altering our brains and the way we learn.  Know-how and know-what is being supplemented by know-where.  If I can google it, I don’t need to know it. The ability to talk about things is more important than the ability to name things.
  • The ability to draw distinctions between important and unimportant information is vital as is the ability to recognise when new information changes the way we think about issues and the decisions we make.
  • As knowledge grows, access is essential to learning – our ability to learn what we need for tomorrow is more important than what we know today and to get this information, learners need to access networks which are crucial sources of up-to-date knowledge.

(Siemens, 2004)

 PLNs – an example of Connectivism in action

The development of a PLN (Personal Learning Network) has been advocated as an essential component of learning in the Digital Age.  Groups such as the State Library of Victoria and the School Library Association of Victoria have been running a Personal Learning Network program throughout recent years. Below are three videos that explain personal learning networks and their benefit for educators.


The development of a PLN fits well with Siemen’s theory of connectivism because the connections made in this network are about our ‘knowing-where’ to get accurate & up-to-date information.  A PLN also involves talking about learning, sharing resources and supporting the learning of others in a network.   According to Siemen (2013), in the past a course involved a textbook and a teacher and you learned the content and concepts necessary for the exam or assignment – now students also connect with people quoted from the textbook on twitter, join google groups to discuss the concepts and so on – the teacher and the textbook are nodes in the network not the complete picture.

In schools today, there is a lot of talk about digital citizenship, digital literacy and building a positive digital footprint.  If we accept there is value in the theory of connectivism, then we must also investigate ways our learners can access networks and use these in their learning.  Getting students to build a PLN is one way educators can do all of these things – it involves digital literacy, it will provide connections that extend learning and it will demonstrate positive digital citizenship.  Access to digital and social media is essential for building a PLN and it is of much concern that some schools still shut down this avenue of learning which is so critical in contemporary society.  It is also of concern that with the diminishing lifespan of knowledge, some teachers are not engaged in networks and still view learning as a teacher and textbook model.


The Agenda with Steve Paikin. (2013, September 26). George Siemens: Changing Schools, Changing Knowledge. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Digitalang. (2012, February 21). How To Build Your PLN (Professional Learning Network). Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Downes, S. (2012). Connectivism and connective knowledge: Essays on meaning and learning networks [1.0]. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Downes, S. (2012, May 21). Downes on Connectivism and connective knowledge. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Richardson, W. (2007, December 07). Personal Learning Networks. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Siemens, G. (2004, December 12). Connectivism: A learning Theory for the Digital Age [Web log post]. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

State Library of Victoria. (2014). Personal Learning Network. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Via, S. (2010, June 10). Personal Learning Networks for Educators. Retrieved April 27, 2014, from

Image Attribution

Geralt, System Network News Personal Figures Connection, CC0


The quality of relationships in an app world


Chapter four of The App Generation questions if deeply rooted, long-term relationships have been affected by the unprecedented connectivity facilitated by new media technologies?  The importance placed on forming strong relationships in the teenage years comes from the research of Eric Ericson who established that the central task of young adulthood is the formation of deep, long-term relationships with others and in the absence of these, feelings of isolation and disconnection supervene.  (p. 97)  The authors question whether the immediate and constant accessibility to people via mobile devices and social media has positive or negative outcomes for youth.  I have listed the outcomes they present on both sides of the argument in the table below:

Positives Negatives
  • helps friends & family keep in touch when separated by geography (p. 93);
  • provides opportunities for young people with similar interests to find & interact with one another (p.93);
  • disclosure of personal feelings to others is made easier for some youth – not in the same physical space – look into a screen instead of eye contact (p. 96);
  • families have never been more connected – can contact each other throughout the day(p. 107);
  • one body of research suggests that many youth benefit from social media because the use online communication not as a substitute for in-person relationships but to augment them (p. 107).


  • connections are more often with those who reinforce one’s worldview (p. 93)
  • public documentation of relationships via social media (p. 95)
  • from 1985 – 2004 – the number of discussion partners reported by Americans (indication of a strong tie relationship) has shrunk from 2.94 to 2.08 – nearly one person (p. 98)
  • the number of people reporting they talked to no one rose from 10% to 25% (p. 98)
  • decline in trust – 1972 46% agreed with the statement that “most people can be trusted” – 2008 – 33% (p. 99)
  • evidence in student artwork of increasing isolation – isolation or solitude imagery in early 1990s = 15% – late 2000s = 25% (p. 99)
  • sense of superficiality and inauthentic communication reported by some youth (p.103)
  • communicating through a screen removes the need to take emotional risks and the vulnerability required to form deep relationships is missing (p. 103)
  • focus group reported many youth use text to break plans, even at the last minute and even to break up relationships
  • disruptive nature of notifications constantly appearing on phones & devices pulls youth away from the real moment and in-person conversations (p. 105)
  • some families spend more time on their gadgets than with each other (p. 107)
  • 71% of 14-24 year olds report they are more likely to be use racist and sexist language online than in person (p.111)
  • research suggests a link between consumption of online pornography and “hook-up” culture among high school and college students = relationships based on casual sex rather than romance (p. 114)
  • filter bubble – search engines and social media use algorithms to return results based on the user – therefore, we are encountering only like-minded people & ideas – reduces our exposure to different perspectives and ability to empathise (p. 118)


Conclusion:  Apps are shortcuts and they provide shortcuts in relationships among young people – interacting in quicker, easier and less risky (p. 118)  “If used in moderation and to augment rather than replace face-to-face contact, such conveniences can certainly enable meaningful relations and, at their best, strengthen and deepen personal bonds” (p118)


CONCLUSION:  Convenience comes at a cost and features of mediated communication may underpin the increasing isolation, declining empathy and diminished risk taking identified by a range of scholars and the focus group interviewed for this study. (p. 119)




This list suggests that there is uneven divide in the outcomes for youth and the negative column of the table is longer and more detailed than the outcomes listed on the positive side of the table.  The negative column also draws evidence from more statistics and research studies than the outcomes presented on the positive side of the argument.  One might question if the body of evidence considered by the authors is more focused on negative outcomes than positive or is the body of evidence objective and reflects the reality?  Trusting the credentials, research methodology and considered scholarship of both authors, we can reasonably accept the conclusions drawn by Gardner and Davis (2013) which are that “the quality of our relationships in the app era depends on whether we use our apps to bypass the discomforts of relating to others or as sometimes risky entry points to the forging of sustained, meaningful interactions.” (p. 93) And “only those young people able to resist the Narcissus trap and the Circean lure of the apps-of-the-moment are likely to form meaningful identity to forge intimate relationships with others.” (p. 119)


Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Portrait Of Group Of College Friends. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.

Full of Fear: Narcissistic Teens and Helicopter Parents


This chapter is titled Personal Identity in the Age of the App and asks the question “just how are youth’s identities shaped and expressed in the age of the app?” (p. 60) The researchers used literature on the topic as well as extensive interviews and conversations with veteran educators and therapists to reach their conclusions.  The author’s present a central argument that “new media technologies can open up new opportunities for self-expression.  But yoking one’s identity too closely to certain characteristics of these technologies – and lacking the time, opportunity, or inclination to explore life and lives offline – may result in an impoverished sense of self.” (p. 91) Three key concerns raised in this research about the impact of online activity on the identities of young people are youth’s emphasis on external appearances and individualism and their reduced ability to take risks.

1. Emphasis on external appearances: the packaged self

With the emergence of mobile devices and social media, participation in online environments has increased exponentially in developed countries.  For youth, this means that an online identity is now mainstream and not just the domain of the “computer geeks”.  It also means that one’s followers online are likely to be friends and family known to you in the offline world.  Because of this, young people are identifiable and there is no such thing as being anonymous.  Evidence suggests young people are very aware of this lack of anonymity and are consequently carefully crafting polished online presentations of their lives. This desire was identified as particularly high among affluent teens.  (Gardner and Davis, 2013)

The polished package is motivated out of a desire to maximise one’s value among peers and increasingly to achieve academic and career success and it is achieved through the use of apps and privacy settings. Young people will broadcast fun times and achievements but are reluctant to communicate their shortcomings.  Research by Gradner and Davis found that the youth they interviewed, sought to present “glammed-up versions of themselves” and as such “online omissions were common” (2013, p. 63). This polished package is enabled through the use of apps.  For example, a digital photo can be taken numerous times & can then be edited before it is posted so that the best look is on show.  Evidence also showed that young people know and care about their privacy online and that privacy settings were one of the tools they used to maintain a polished presentation.   Sometimes, youth reported actually wanting more privacy from people they know than from strangers and so there is an interesting paradox that they may think privacy controls hide their behaviour from adults. The focus group interviewed for this study identified the emphasis on external appearances among today’s youth as being much higher than it was among pre-digital youth.(Gardner and Davis, 2013, p. 82)

2. Increase in individualism

A second concern raised about the personal identities of the App generation is that these youth are much more self-focused and narcissistic than the youth of previous decades.  Gardner and Davis identify that this occurs within a broader societal trend “toward individualism and away from a more community-minded, institutional orientation.” (2013, p. 67) but also present much evidence that technology has played a part in this shift.  Four examples of this shift towards individualism are listed below:

  • “Psychologists often use a test called the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to measure levels of narcissism, or an inflated sense of self. …. 19% of college students taking the test in the early 1980s scored above 21 (considered a high score).  By the mid-to late 2000s, fully 30% of students scored over 21.” (p.69)
  • Selfies are example of growing narcissistic behaviour among youth & “likes” are examples of validating that behaviour. (P.75)
  • “Facebook and other social network sites emphasize self-presentation by organizing their sites around users’ individual profiles.  The standard elements of a profile on Facebook – friend list, profile picture, inventories of personal tastes and activities – are used to package the self for public consumption“ (p. 71)
  • Telling statistic – 30-40% of normal conversation is people talking about themselves but 80% of social media posts are self-focused. (p. 76)

When interrogating these findings, the authors raised a couple of questions to think about.  One of these questions is that of the arrow of causation (p. 76) – does social media make people more narcissistic or are narcissistic people attracted to social media? They also wondered if youth’s online activity was just about narcissistic validation and promoting of themselves or about maintaining & nurturing social ties?

3. Reduced ability to take risks

The third concern Gardner and Davis (2013) raise about digital youth is there seems to be a reduced capacity to take reasonable risks.  This may be seen in connection with the growing trend toward individualism, if  “one speaks about narcissism not to indicate people who love themselves, but a personality so fragile that it needs constant support” (p. 76).  There are a number of behaviours among youth that point to this need for constant reinforcement, validation and aversion to risk.  Some of the examples provided include text messaging which takes away the discomfort of face-to-face conversations, information apps that take away the risk of getting the wrong answer & location apps that take away the risk of getting lost. (p. 83) It is suggested that one of the reasons for this increased fragility may be because failure “once might have been witnessed by a few peers and then forgotten but today might become part of one’s permanent digital footprint” (p. 77)

Modern parenting is identified as another contributing factor to youth’s reduced ability to take risks and develop autonomy.  It is suggested that the heightened fear of failure among teens is fuelled by helicopter parents (ever hovering with a watchful eye) who are so concerned for their children’s happiness that they don’t ask enough of their children and micromanage them so that mistakes and disappointments are avoided.  In the interviews of teachers and therapists conducted by Gardner and Davis for their research, it was observed that “today’s parents demonstrate a passionate desire to shield their children from experiencing any sort of unhappiness or hardship  …..  this emphasis on happiness seems to leave young people unable to cope with the emotional complexity of life.” (2013, p. 80)  The helicopter parent mentality is enabled by apps and technology and contact between parents and their children now takes place on a scale that was not possible in the pre-digital era.  One example of this provided by the authors is the research by Hofer and Moore (2010) which revealed that American college students were in contact with their parents an average of 13.4 times per week. (p. 84) This high level of contact does seem to indicate that youth have a weakened ability to make their own choices and are constantly seeking reassurance and confirmation.



Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Medical Helicopter. [Photograph]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.


How to define a digital generation


In order to critique the hypothesis by Gardner and Davis that today’s youth can be characterised as “The App Generation”, two key concepts need to be explored.  These concepts are the definition of a generation and the effect of media and technologies on societies.

How do we define a generation?

Gardner and Davis examine a number of the different definitions of a generation. They look at the biological generation, defined by child birth; the calendric generation, defined by decades; the political, cultural or social generation defined by ‘big events’; and the technological generation, marked by newly emerging technologies.  They believe that  “in evoking the epithet the App Generation, [they] seek to go beyond the technology, and beyond the media of communication, into the psychology of the users.  … [and] aim to capture the cognitive, social, emotional, and even ethical dimensions of what it is like to be a young person today. (2013, p. 54)

A number of other writers have also labelled generations according to technological changes.  A very prominent example of this is Marc Prensky who said that “today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors” and as such could be called a generation of “digital natives” (2001).  This view is supported by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser in their book titled Born Digital where they claim that the digital generation can be distinguished because they study, work, write and interact with each other in very different ways to previous generations (2008, p. 2).  When making such statement about generations, Gardner and Davis warn,  “almost any generalizations about youth are likely to invite – and deserve – modifications as well as counter examples” (2013, p. 48).  In her article titled The digital melting pot:  Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide, Sharon Stoerger, wary of such generalisations, says that “what is often overlooked is the simplicity of these labels and their inability to address the complexity of the students who enter the physical and the digital classroom” (2009).

How have media and technologies affected the behaviours and consciousness of people throughout history?

“As [Marshall] McLuhan saw it, each medium …. alters the relation of the individual to the surrounding world” (Gardner and Davis, 2013, p. 22).

New technologies and media have significantly affected societies throughout history.  The invention of writing brought about fundamental change in human thought and expression, opening the way for developments in law, literature, science and philosophy.  The invention of the printing press was another technology that changed the world through its contribution to weakening religious authoritarianism and laying the groundwork for mass communication and education.

The digital technologies of the twentieth century have similarly been attributed with affecting significant global change. These include the mass media of the newspaper and publishing empires, radio and television networks and movie studios that influenced political and social thinking on a scale and speed previously unimagined.  The era of mass media was followed by the Digital Age of powerful personal computers, cable television and 24 hour news coverage, mobile phones and the World Wide Web.  This first wave of digital media was quickly followed by a second wave that heralded the introduction and widespread use of social media, hand-held devices and Web 2.0 & 3.0.  This new era changed the participation of the population from being consumers of content-delivery systems to participants and creators in a highly dynamic media environment.

Gardner and Davis examine such contributions of media and technology to behaviours and consciousness throughout history and believe that in contrast to other definitions, a generation can be thought of “in terms of the dominant media and the habits of mind, behavior, presentation of self, and relation to others that they foster – as well as those that they minimise or even expunge”. (2013, p. 53)



Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Palfrey, J. G., & Gasser, U. (2008). Born digital: Understanding the first generation of digital natives. New York: Basic Books.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1. On the Horizon, 9(5), 1-6. doi: 10.1108/10748120110424816

Stoerger, S. (2009, July 6). The digital melting pot: Bridging the digital native-immigrant divide | Stoerger | First Monday. First Monday. Retrieved April 10, 2014, from

Two Generations. [Photography]. Retrieved from Encyclopædia Britannica ImageQuest.




The App Generation: Chapter 2


This chapter outlines the two sides of the debate about how apps are impacting human experience and behaviours.

The enthusiasts of the digital world believe that through technology we are enabled to participate, master skills and knowledge, create within various media and to inform ourselves and make judicious decisions. This is a world of options.

On the other side of the debate it is claimed that new technologies encourage superficial thinking and limit reading and reflection. They believe that digital media narrows our horizons because it encourages/dictates that we interact with like-minded individuals. In this view, the world is one dependent on the restriction of each currently popular app. This is a world dictated by the technologies of the time.

The authors state that their data speaks to these debates and leads to the conclusion that “the emergence of an “app” culture allows individuals readily to enact superficial aspects of identity, intimacy and imagination. Whether we can go on to fulfil our full potential in these spheres, to take advantage of apps (“enabling”) without being programmed by them (“dependent”), remains a formidable challenge.” (Gardner & Davies, 2013 p 34)


Gardner, H., & Davis, K. (2013). The app generation: How today’s youth navigate identity, intimacy, and imagination in a digital world. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Two Timeline Display Panel Number Digit Ad, Geralt, CC0

1 2