06 ONLINE 24 A, Paper Session
MeetingID: 895 6986 5031 Code: agG1is
Contemporary university students are "post-20th century" (McCrindle & Wolfinger, 2011). Many of them were born at the turn of the 21st century. After the Internet and the World Wide Web (WWW), in an increasingly digital world. They are growing up in a VICA (volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous) social, political, economic and technological context (Lemoin et al., 2017). These young people have been considered the first Homo Globalis or world citizens (Broennimann, 2017). They have grown up connected to virtual environments and have access to more information than any other generation (Seemiller & Grace, 2017). A fact that has brought McCrindle & Wolfinger (2011, p. 102) to argue that our era "It's not the era of experts but the era of user-generated opinion". In a world where "data is cheap but making sense of it is not'' (Boyd, 2010).
These conditions have meant that young people use multimodal forms of communication and information search (McCrlinde & Wolfinger, 2011), giving preference to non-textual content platforms (Geraci et al., 2017). They show a preference for the role of observers, seeking real practical examples before applying their learning, and the need to understand such applicability to be involved in the process (Seemiller and Grace, 2017). On the other hand, many of them show interest in social justice issues and 'changing the world' (Seemiller & Grace, 2017). They have proven to be much more receptive to gender identity issues (Broennimann, 2017) and increasingly to environmental issues. But, as Livingstone (2017) points out, many of the interpretations of this generational data can lead to hasty conclusions, especially about young people's use of digital technologies.
In this world with an overabundance of apparently unlimited technology and information, there is something everyone is seeking: to attract the attention of individuals. Human relations, publicity, media, schools, churches are all trying to obtain this limited human attribute. Everybody knows that without paying attention (which implies time), friendship, love, family, followers, business, work and learning are impossible. For Lankshear & Knobel (2001) and Lanham (2006), the scarcest product is attention in the new economy. As human beings' capacity to produce consumer goods, information, etc., widely surpasses peoples' capacity to consume them, they need to attract attention is becoming the main focus of productive activity.
In the war for attention, universities are the losers. No sense is left free; no more attention span remains. Saturation produces the effect of lack of concentration and attention required to accomplish academic work. Therefore, one of today's paramount issues is educating over-stimulated people who often feel bored. Therefore, it is necessary to understand them and hence the need to delve deeper and understand the changes taking place about the meaning they give to learning and knowing at University and beyond. That is why we set out to conduct research that would offer ways of understanding the questions: how do young people learn inside and outside the University? What are their conceptions, strategies and contexts, and the role of analogue and digital technologies, in their learning processes? In exploring these questions, we cannot forget the possible problems of dispersion and superficiality (Desmurguet, 2020) and addictions (Alter, 2018; Sampedro, 2018) due to excessive and unwise use promoted by persuasive technologies (Fogg, 2003).
This paper builds on the research project MiCREATE (Migrant Children and Communities in a Transforming Europe) whose main aim is helping to meet the challenge mentioned above by exploring, through participatory and inclusive research, how, where, with what and when university students learn.
MiCREATE adopts a participatory and inclusive research perspective (Bergold & Thomas, 2012; Nind, 2014; Wilmsen, 2008) to explore with the academic community (students, academics, managerial bodies) how better to meet contemporary students' learning needs. In the first stage have participated 50 university students, 28 from Catalonia and 22 from the Basque Country. Thirty of them were women and 20 men (55.6% and 44.4%, close to the distribution observed in Spanish universities in the academic year 2019-2020), seven of them with special needs (14%). Throughout four meetings, we explored and built with them their learning lives (Erstad & Sefton-Green, 2012), placing special attention on their university experience. In the first meeting, we made sure we had conveniently explained the research scope and aims and the kind of compromise it entailed for them and us. We signed the ethical protocols. Then, we shared a collection of assertions gathered from scientific publications and mediatic discourse on youth attitudes towards education and society across generations. We have selected contradictory views about contemporary youth. In the last two decades, they have been 'labelled' both as a better-prepared generation (Boschma & Groe, 2006; Howe & Strauss, 2000) and as superficial, unable to pay attention, more fearful and conservative and much less prepared for adulthood (Carr, 2010; Desmurguet, 2020; Haidt & Lukianoff, 2019; Twenge, 2017). In the second meeting (more or less after three weeks), they shared a reconstruction of their learning lives from childhood to the present in the second meeting. Through textual, multimodal and rhizomatic narratives, they highlighted moments, places, people, activities, objects, timeframes, turning points, etc. they considered crucial to their learning paths. The third meeting focused on learning moments, methods, and strategies they identify as relevant for their daily learning, including academic and non-academic activities undertaken inside or outside the institutional walls. In the final session, researchers, after dialoguing and conceptualising the information generated with the participants, shared a draft of their learning trajectories to read, review, and contribute to the final version of the text. Students often referred and gave a fundamental role to digital technology through all the sessions, both as learning triggers and distractors. We established a dialogue on which we base this paper through a combination of concepts derived from research and concepts arising from their productions.
Like most university students who do not suffer from the digital, social, and economic divide, participants in our research live in an analogic and virtual universe without a solution of continuity. Their leisure, social, and learning worlds are populated by computers, laptops, mobile phones, and other digital devices. Many of them recognise their proximity to the "I don't want to be here" (Sancho, 2021) and FOMO -" Fear of Missing Out" (Dogan, 2019) syndromes. At the same time, they like meeting friends and assert that the COVID pandemic impacts their social lives. Despite their dependence on mobile devices, they are aware of their power to distract them from academic tasks and make it difficult to concentrate on their studies. To avoid distractions, some close it or put it away to avoid temptations. During the COVID pandemic, for a period, they moved from face-to-face to on-line teaching and learning, computers became omnipresent. They discovered new learning, collaboration, and interchange possibilities and identified severe limitations of on-line teaching and learning. The sudden move from face-to-face Universities to on-line institutions revealed the lack of teacher training and the lack of bidirectionality or interaction between teacher-student. Our participants use a lot of information from the Internet that helps them continuously self-learn (videos, tutorials). They learn by using different platforms or valuable resources, courses, and masterclasses from great teachers. Social networks are very present in their daily lives. They all stressed the importance of controlling their influence (on moods, opinions, etc.) and pointed out the need to make healthy use of social networks and education about doing so. The insightful contributions of participants raise the need for the contemporary university to rethink the dimensions of teaching and learning, the notion of knowledge, the student experience and background, and the technological dispositif (Foucault, 1994).
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