Rocking the Boat

Digital Natives Don’t Exist - Learners Can’t Multitask

Heerlen (NL), September 2017 - Paul A. Kirschner, Distinguished University Professor and Professor of Educational Psychology in the Welten Institute of the Open University in the Netherlands has raised a lot of eyebrows in the international press in recent weeks with his argument that digital natives simply don’t exist and that learners, in fact, aren’t able to effectively do more than one thing at a time. 

Together with Dr. Pedro de Bruyckere, Paul recently wrote a paper on digital natives and multitasking in the journal "Teaching and Teacher Education" that presents scientifically sound evidence showing that there is no such thing as a digital native. The paper goes on to show how one of the alleged abilities of students in this generation, the capacity to multitask, simply does not exist and argues that designing education that assumes the presence of this competence hinders rather than helps learning. The article was first highlighted by the top international journal "Nature News" and the leading international science magazine "Discover". It has since been picked up by well-known outlets like the "Huffington Post" and the "Guardian Online".

The concept of digital natives is not the only thing that has been the focus of Paul’s academic wrath in recent weeks. Another issue is derived from findings of research led by his colleague Dr. Gino Camp and him and carried out by Tim Surma and Kristel Vanhoyweghen into the learning materials used in Dutch and Flemish secondary schools. The study concluded that much of this material lacks a sound scientific basis and does not adequately promote proven methods aimed at optimising teaching. This research has received a lot of attention in Dutch and Flemish press in recent weeks.

"Education is, unfortunately, influenced more by myths spread by eduquacks and self-proclaimed educational gurus than good empirical research. This wouldn’t be such a problem if it weren’t for the damage that it does to our children and their future - as well as ours!"