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Learning About Educational Technology Through Student Voice in Personnel Preparation

Author: James Basham;

If you’ve been around the personnel preparation scene long enough the term “digital natives” has likely been used in faculty or curriculum committee meetings. The concept of digital natives has been used multiple times to reflect on the generation of people coming into our personnel preparation programs who were born into a digital, or minimally hybridized society that is mixed between a physical and digital presence. The actual origins of the term emerged from Prensky (2001a) wherein he argued that the generation who grew up in the digital age of existence are different and likely have an upper hand in understanding and using technology in their lives. Prensky (2001b) compared these digital natives with the generation that existed prior to the digital age, who he terms digital immigrants. Of course, these terms have come under continuous debate and even academic scrutiny over the last two decades, with little to no evidence supporting the concept of digital natives (e.g., Bennett et al, 2008; Creighton, 2018). So, while the mythical digital native really does not exist, the preservice professionals in our schools today have used technology throughout their lives. This does not mean they have used technology effectively or with a great purpose that will enhance their professional existence, but it does mean they have minimally been exposed to various forms of technology throughout their lives.

Bring in Student Voice

Bringing student voice into the professional preparation classroom starts with simply offering the opportunity to share. Provides a means to gather thoughts from your students about what they have experienced in their lives growing up with technology, their lives as learners, and even their early lives as pre-service professionals. Have them share the tips, tricks, and tools that have worked for them as well as those things that have not worked. A primary goal for this dialogue would be to have them bridge their understanding of technology usage in their daily lives to how it could be used in their professional lives. As the instructor, your role is to support this bridging by facilitating understanding, even problem-solving, of the profession and the use of tips, tricks, and tools being brought forward. This could be done simply through dialogue, but consider a way to link it back to a permanent product of a toolbox that students can link to or take with them as they enter the profession. For instance, take a few minutes each week to have the students share ideas and what’s working (as well as things that didn’t) and use Google Docs or Google Forms and Sheets to create a crowd-sourced toolbox for your class.  

This activity could help both you and your students come to better understand how technology can be used in professional practice. There are various ways this can take place from simply having time to reflect and dialogue to doing more sophisticated activities. For instance, you might consider posing the following questions: 

  • Think about a time wherein technology played a critical role in a learning activity. What was the the goal of activity? What technology was used? Why does it stand out to you? What worked? Could it be improved, if yes, how? 
  • Think about a time wherein technology failed in supporting your learning. What was the goal of the activity? What technology was used? Why did it fail? What was a solution that either worked or likely could have been worked in achieving the goal?
  • Given X situation (create a case study), how might the professional in the situation more effectively deliver instruction (or services) for these students? What type of effective strategies might be used? What types of technology might be used?  
  • This week when you’re at your internship (or practicum) I wanted you to journal about the usage of technology. Reflect on how students with disabilities are using technology in their personal lives. Then look at how the students use technology as learners? What are the differences between the student’s personal and learning lives use of technology? How might you get students to use technology more effectively to support their goals?

Keep the Conversation Going

How are you bringing student voice into your professional preparation classroom? Join the CIDDL community and keep the conversation going!


Bennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The ‘digital natives’ debate: A critical review of the evidence. British journal of educational technology, 39(5), 775-786.

Creighton, T. B. (2018). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Digital Learners: An International Empirical Integrative Review of the Literature. Education Leadership Review, 19(1), 132-140.

Prenksy, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9, 5, 1–6.

Prenksy, M. (2001b). Digital natives, digital immigrants, part II. Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9, 6, 1–6.