Technology and Diversity: Perceptions of Idaho's "Digital Natives"

By Biladeau, Shirley | Teacher Librarian, February 2009 | Go to article overview

Technology and Diversity: Perceptions of Idaho's "Digital Natives"


Biladeau, Shirley, Teacher Librarian


ARE THE STUDENTS OF TODAY WHO VISIT OUR LIBRARIES AND THE ADULTS OF TOMORROW. THEY SERVE AS A GAUGE OF THE CHANGE THAT IS TAKING PLACE IN OUR SCHOOLS, LIBRARIES, AND WORLD.

As such, in 2006, the ICFL contracted Corona Research, Inc., of Denver, Colorado, to conduct a statewide survey using focus groups to determine the perceptions digital natives hold of public libraries. The participants were 12-25 years old from all areas of Idaho: urban and rural; six different geographic areas of Idaho; economically advantaged and disadvantaged communities; and the ethnically diverse. Group participants were representative in terms of age, gender, and library usage patterns.

Defining multiculturalism in Idaho goes beyond ethnicity, as it also reaches across geographic, economic, and demographic strata. Geographically, the state has deserts, major rivers, forests, and mountains. Economically, areas include agricultural, urban, forest, manufacturing, and energy development. Demographically, Idaho has--as many other areas do--a growing population of older citizens, along with growing population of youth who are ethnically diverse. Each of these factors contributes to the cultural vitality of the individual communities and how public libraries are utilized. How has technology influenced multiculturalism in Idaho? The key findings of the Idaho "Digital Natives" study reflect the following for both public and school libraries:

1. Digital natives place a high value on learning and education. Teachers play an extremely important role in the digital natives' learning experience. The participants across all the groups indicated that education and learning were necessary to "progress" in life. Since libraries are already perceived as a trusted source of information and learning, these factors can be used to adapt web-based resources and other forms of technology to teach not only digital natives, but also others in our communities. Libraries have the ability to thrive in their role.

2. Learning about opposing viewpoints and having interactions with others are important. It is important to digital natives that they learn about other viewpoints, not only from the Internet, but also from face to face interactions with other individuals. The library provides an optimum vehicle for this to occur. As a public facility, it can provide a venue for various social, informational, and other community activities, where individuals can freely express their viewpoints.

3. Digital natives are most likely to pay attention to information that is fun and interesting. This finding relates to informational content as well as to the way information is presented. Digital natives expressed preference for learning interesting tidbits, along with current events. This provides local libraries the opportunity to be the primary repository for community information, current events, and activities. While some of Idaho's public libraries partner with school libraries to focus on the literacy efforts through Summer Reading and Family Reading week, the challenge is to continue these fun activities beyond the elementary school level, to include tweens, teens, young adults, and older adults.

4. While the Internet is typically the starting point for digital natives when a search for information is begun, the information found on the Internet. is not always trustworthy. Yet, convenience is most important when digital natives look for information. It was felt overall, by the participants that information obtained through books and libraries is much more trustworthy. This opens the door for libraries to provide a library-sponsored search engine for their patrons via a 24/7 web site, while offering digital natives the convenience and credibility that they desire when attaining information--making a web presence vital for any library.

5. The purpose of a library's physical location is shifting from one of providing tools for research to that of entertainment. …

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Technology and Diversity: Perceptions of Idaho's "Digital Natives"
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