Homo Zappiëns is a Myth

Just FYI, the digital native is a myth. The younger generation uses technology in the same ways as older people and is no better at multitasking.

In a paper(1) published in the journal Teaching and Teacher Education in June, the authors, Paul A. Kirschner and Pedro De Bruyckere, argue that the digital native (a.k.a homo zappiëns) is a yeti-like creature populating only present day culture, not present day schools. But while the myth of the existence of a yeti or other creature is fairly innocuous, the myth of their digital variants is extremely deleterious to our educational system, our children, and teaching/learning in general.

This article presents scientific evidence showing that there is no such thing as a digital native who is information-skilled simply because (s)he has never known a world that was not digital. It then proceeds to present evidence that one of the alleged abilities of students in this generation, the ability to multitask, does not exist and that designing education that assumes the presence of this ability hinders rather than helps learning.

(…)the myth of the digital native (also called homo zappiëns) and the myth of the multitasker are accepted and propagated by educational gurus, closely followed and reported on by the media (both traditional mass-media, Internet sites, and social media) and dutifully parroted by educational policy makers at all levels.

The question remains as to how education should be redesigned to make an effective, efficient and enjoyable use of the tools and technologies available. XXI century education demands seamless and ambient integration of ubiquitous computing. Maybe when we learn how to do it, we will find a new path to productivity growth.


(1) Kirschner, Paul A., and Pedro De Bruyckere. 2017. ‘The Myths of the Digital Native and the Multitasker’. Teaching and Teacher Education 67 (October): 135–42. doi:10.1016/j.tate.2017.06.001.

Featured Image: Yeti, Abel Bustos

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