Students to colleges: We are not as tech-savvy as you think we are

Millennial students who attended the New Media Consortium’s education technology conference this year made a surprising point: they say they're not as technologically savvy as many faculty and administrators might believe, reports Jenny Abamu for EdSurge.

Older generations often generalize millennials as "digital natives," assuming that they're all experts, or at least fast learners, when it comes to technology. Yet a report by the American Institutes for Research and nonprofit Change the Equation found that 58% of millennial test takers could not solve a multi-step task that required more than one computer program.

Students at the conference tried to dispel the misconception about them that they enter college with a wealth of knowledge about how to use certain tools.

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"We are not very tech savvy coming into college. Other than playing games and basic Microsoft office, there are many things we don't know," said Raamish Saeed, a senior from Saint Louis University.

Alexandra Pickett, who is the director of the Center for Online Teaching Excellence at New York State University, said many of her students struggled to leverage their social media prowess to support their school work or build their professional profile. The student panelists agreed.

If institutions try to understand their students' tech skills, rather than assuming they have them, colleges would do a better job of serving their students, writes Abamu. This can start with providing access to software like Microsoft Word and training students on how to use them to support their school work, she writes.

Alyssa Foley, a first-generation college student at Houston Community College, initially didn't have access to Microsoft Word, which is a critical tool for many academic programs .

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"I did not know how to use headers, footers or page number in Microsoft Word, so I got five points off every essay for an entire semester," Foley said. 

She was too embarrassed to ask her school for help with Microsoft Word because she felt that she needed to be the tech-savvy millennial that they probably expected of her. She says faculty should be more aware of the diversity in technological skills that exists in their classrooms and should work with their institution to provide software and the associated training to students who need it (Abamu, EdSurge, 6/20).

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