Tech Savvy Students? Not So Fast!

Are there really educators out there who assume that our students are digital natives and highly tech-proficient? That’s a dangerous assumption to make. The research that I’ve read (Kennedy et al., 2008; Kvavik & Caruso, 2005; Schmidt, 2010), and research that I’ve done (Genereux, 2014) points to the fact that the more technologically complex a task is, the less likely it is that our students know how to do it.

Take for example, posting a photo on Snapchat. It is a much lower technological leap to use a mobile app and a mobile camera device than it is to publish a photo on a web page using HTML like was required in the early days of the web. Apps simplify everything, and almost no technological acumen is required.

What about publishing a video? Again, if they are using an app like Snapchat or Instagram, it is no problem. But if it requires using an editing program like Adobe Premiere, and uploading the edited video to YouTube, far fewer have done something like that.

It is no great secret to those of us who are teaching technology, that our students in general, are bringing minimal tech skills with them that they’ve already acquired. Of course there are exceptions, and we always have some enthusiastic learners who have some deep technological knowledge. However, true tech virtuosos fluent in a variety of technologies are few and far between. Typically, if one of my students has a deep understanding, it is in a narrowly defined area that they’ve spent a great deal of time exploring.

The article Students Say They Are Not as Tech Savvy as Educators Assume is the first time I recall seeing that students themselves say that

in order for high schools and colleges to better serve them, it is important to challenge the assumption that students are digital natives.

Just because a person is technology dependent does not mean they are technology experts. I’m completely dependent on my automobile. I drive it every day. I know a few things about how it operates. But I am far from being a car expert.

The good news is we live in an information-rich culture. If we want to get better at something, chances are good there is already good (and often free) information out there that can help us to get better. Mostly this is about being curious and having the will to learn something new. I think it is up to educators to help students to make connections about how relevant some of these technologies are, and how useful it might be to learn them.


Genereux, W. E. (2014, June), Student-Made Video Projects in a Computer Technology Course Paper presented at 2014 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition, Indianapolis, Indiana.

Kennedy, G. E., Judd, T. S., Churchward, A., Gray, K., & Krause, K. L. (2008). First year students’ experiences with technology: Are they really digital natives? Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 24(1), 108–122.

Kvavik, R. B., & Caruso, J. B. (2005). Students and information technology, 2005 : Convenience, connection, control, and learning. Boulder, CO: Educause. Retrieved from

Schmidt, H. (2010). Media creation and the net generation: Comparing faculty and student beliefs and competencies regarding media literacy within higher education. (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from Proquest dissertations and theses – full text. (UMI No. 3408757).