Technological Skills of Digital Natives: Myth vs. Reality

Research has shown that college students are not as technologically savvy as we expect them to be. In his article, “The Myths of the Digital Native and the Multitasker,” Paul A. Kirschner found that digital natives - those born after 1984 and who have grown up with technology - “ not have deep knowledge of technology, and what knowledge they do have is often limited to the possibilities and use of basic office suite skills, emailing, text messaging, Facebook, and surfing the Internet” (Kirschner and Bruyckere 2017, p. 136).

As technology becomes an integral part of the workforce and higher education, high schools around the country are integrating these skills into their curriculum.

In the featured panel discussion, the panel will examine questions such as: Are we seeing students enter their freshman year of college with the technological skills we anticipate? Once in higher education, are we recognizing students’ deficiencies and does that affect the way faculty teach these students? Are we doing enough in higher education to prepare students for the technological skills needed to enter the workforce?

By bringing together representatives from higher education and representatives from the high school level, we anticipate a very interesting discussion on what has been done to prepare students and what needs to be done to further their expertise in technology. Panel members will share best practices that have proven to be successful and ideas for the future.

The panel will discuss and analyze universities’ expectations of students’ technological competencies and further examine their deficiencies when it comes to technology. The discussion will also seek to understand why some students are overconfident in their technological abilities and introduce strategies for adjustments. Furthermore, panel members will share knowledge about what high school educators are doing to bridge the gap and discuss what universities can do to educate students in these necessary skills.

In this featured panel discussion, panel members will discuss whether or not incoming freshmen who are “Digital Natives” are as technologically savvy as we would expect. They will explore the myths and realities of digital natives’ technological proficiency and the disparity between what academia considers vital digital literacy skills and what students’ deem are the necessary technological skills needed as they enter higher education. In addition, panel members will discuss what educators are doing to ensure high school students are able to navigate through the technological requirements needed to be a successful college student.

About the Panelist


James Cochran

Associate Dean for Research, University of Alabama

James Cochran

James J. Cochran earned a PhD in Statistics from the University of Cincinnati in 1997. He is Editor-in-Chief of the Wiley Encyclopedia of Operations Research and the Management Sciences, Wiley Series in Operations Research and Management Science, Oxford Anthology of Statistics in Sports series, and INFORMS Analytics Body of Knowledge.

He has published fourteen book chapters and over forty research articles, and he is coauthor of seven textbooks. He has received the INFORMS Prize for the Teaching of OR/MS Practice, Mu Sigma Rho Statistical Education Award, American Statistical Association’s Founders Award, Karl E. Peace Award for outstanding statistical contributions for the betterment of society, Waller Distinguished Teaching Career Award, and INFORMS President’s Award.

He is a Fellow of both the American Statistical Association and INFORMS.


Dr. Stacey Cofield

Associate Professor, UAB School of Public Health

Stacey Cofield

Dr. Cofield has been with UAB since 2003, is a Quality Matters Master Reviewer, member of the UAB Quality Matters Implementation Plan Committee, and recent past Chair of the School of Public Health (SOPH) Online Education Committee.

The 2018 UAB President’s Award for Excellence in Teaching recipient for the SOPH, Dr. Cofield has been teaching for more than 15 years in the face-to-face, blended, and online environment and was recently awarded a UAB Quality Enhancement Plan grant to implement her idea to “Create Digital Teams in an Online Environment.”

Carol Yarbrough

A+ College Ready, Computer Science Content Director

Carol Yarbrough

Carol Yarbrough began teaching high school in 2007, after working in the computer industry for 20+ years. She is currently the Computer Science Content Director at A+ College Ready. She came to her current position after teaching computer science at the Alabama School of Fine Arts for 11 years.

She was employed as a programmer/analyst, doing both scientific and business programming. She left industry and studied Education at the UAB. Carol piloted the AP Computer Science Principles course and served on the course’s Development Committee. She has been part of the CS4Alabama project, training in-service teachers to teach APCS Principles.

Paige Wilcher Craig

Media Specialist at Buckhorn High School and Technology Integration Mentor, Madison County School District

Paige Craig

Paige Craig has been an educator with Madison County Schools for 15 years; she has served as Buckhorn High School’s library-media specialist since 2012. Mrs. Craig is the Canvas administrator for BHS, as well as system advisor.

As a member of the 2013 Alabama Learning Exchange (ALEX) curriculum development team, she wrote training modules focusing on teaching and learning via iPads. As President of the Madison County Librarians’ Association, Mrs. Craig was instrumental in updating system policy for libraries. Mrs. Craig is part of the 2013 founding group of Technology Integration Mentors (TIMs) and continues to serve on the TIM Leadership Team.

Dr. Jennifer English

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education, UAH College of Engineering

Jennifer English

Dr. Jennifer M. English earned her Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral degrees in Electrical Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 1994, 1996, and 2000, respectively. She joined the University of Alabama in Huntsville's Electrical and Computer Department in 2000 rising to rank of Associate Professor in 2007.

She has served as the Associate Dean of Engineering for Undergraduate Programs since 2011. Dr. English is a strong advocate of STEM outreach and is actively involved in AAUW's Alabama Tech Trek as well as directing/co-directing multiple summer STEM programs at UAH.