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ࡱ> q` 1lbjbjqPqP ::az%< < < F R R R f jjj8&$f OhVV"xNNNNNNN$PhRNR P"PPNR R gN444PR R I4PN44nmBR R EJ ѻjuC IN0 OCSS@EESR F>U,4$NN^ OPPPPf f f  jf f f jf f f R R R R R R  Doing it for themselves? How South African university students learn to use computers for their studies. Brown, C, Czernieiwcz, L. and Pedersen, J. (2008) Abstract Globally universities are grappling with how they should be adapting to the new generation of university students who are purported to be tech savvy and to learn in different ways. The South African higher education sector, with its changing and increasingly diverse student body, is facing similar concerns. This preliminary study seeks to inform this issue by investigating what computer experience academics can expect students to have, how students learn to use computers, how they solve problems and how they acquire new computer skills. We find differences in age and experience and suggest that whilst there is a small distinct group of students who show the characteristics of the digital native, there is much diversity in how students come to learn and continue to learn about computers. We observe too that although younger students of all levels of experience are learning informally, universities still have a very important role to play in terms of training and support. Introduction The notion of a new generation of university students who are digital natives is currently prevalent in the education and information society discourse. Digital natives supposedly come into universities familiar with computers; and it is purported that with regards computers, they learn informally (either teaching themselves or through social networks such as family and friends) rather than needing to be taught  ADDIN EN.CITE Prensky200740040012Prensky, MChanging paradigms200814 August2007http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf (Prensky 2007). The implication is that because they enter the institution with new kinds of literacies and ways of learning (especially using computers), they need to be taught differently. Indeed, educators are challenged to think of new ways to stimulate and engage with these learners. South African universities, like those in higher education globally are grappling with the best way to respond to new kinds of students generally. The challenge is refracted by the local context where the student body is particularly diverse, and has changed rapidly over the last fourteen years. Real daily dilemmas exist in relation to ICT related decisions which may further disadvantage already disadvantaged students while addressing the imperative to adequately prepare students for the new information age  ADDIN EN.CITE Broekman200227827817Broekman, IEnslin, PPendlebury, SDistributive Justice and Information Communication Technologies in higher education in South AfricaSouth African Journal of Higher EducationSouth African Journal of Higher Education29-351612002(Broekman et al. 2002). This paper draws on a study of 3533 university students in 6 diverse South African universities to investigate the general claims about the ways students learn to use computers, and about their experience with computers. It addresses several inter-related questions: How do students learn to use computers? Do age cohorts learn in different ways? How relevant is experience in terms of how students learn about computers when they get to university? The findings are based on four questions about student experiences using computers; namely when they first started using a computer, how they originally learnt, how they acquired new skills and what they did when they had a problem doing something on a computer. In order to examine subtle difference between age and experience in our context students were discuss the findings according to three age groupings  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007MelbourneMcCrindle200639839827McCrindle, MNew generations at work2006www.mccrindle.com.au(McCrindle 2006; Perillo 2007) namely; Young - under 22, born after 1985 and classified as digital natives (1804 respondents); Middle - between 22 and 25 years of age, born after 1982 often considered digital natives but also called cuspers  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007Melbourne(Perillo 2007) as they were born early in the digital native generation (752 respondents); Older - between 25 and 42 years of age, born after 1965 (187 respondents), described as Generation X (1965 1979). These groups were further divided according to 2 levels of experience namely; Inexperienced students - fewer than four years since they first started using a computer; Experienced students - using a computer for more than four years. Findings We found that students experience using computers is diverse, ranging from less than two years (17%) to more than 15 years (8%). There is some relationship between when students started using a computer and their age: young students (<22) have slightly more experience (67% have been using a computer for over 4 years) when compared to older students (over 26 years where 57% have been using a computer for more than 4 years). When examining how students learn to use computers only a few cited formal courses (either community based, credit bearing or commercial) as their source of learning. The main sources of learning were themselves, family or friends, school or university. Overall, young students indicated that they first learnt to use a computer either through school (45%) or by teaching themselves (42%). However there are interesting differences in how young people with different levels of experience learnt. For inexperienced young students, university has played a big role in teaching them how to use a computer as 23% said they first learnt through a university training course and 17% generally as part of their studies. University support structures also have an important role to play for this group - when trying to solve a computer related problem 55% will ask a lab assistant, tutor or lecturer and 58% will ask a friend. Friends are also an important resource for skills acquisition - 47% of respondents report this. However, even with this small amount of experience 30% of these students also indicated that they are self taught which suggests a high interest and self-efficacy with regards to computers, characteristics also noted amongst young university students in New Zealand  ADDIN EN.CITE Sherry200539739710Sherry, CFielden, KThe millennials: Computer savvy (or not?)HERDSA 2005489-=4992005(Sherry & Fielden 2005). This ability flows into their problem solving strategies with 46% reporting solving computer problems themselves. Whilst confidence amongst young students is reported in other studies, this is usually associated with high technology proficiency  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007MelbourneMcCrindle200639839827McCrindle, MNew generations at work2006www.mccrindle.com.au(McCrindle 2006; Perillo 2007) - it is therefore especially interesting to observe this amongst young students with low levels of experience. University training plays a very small role for experienced young students. Instead where students have more than 4 years experience, school was the dominant place of learning (over 50% cited school as their source of learning) followed by teaching themselves (51%). Their skills are also evident in their problem-solving strategies with 70% indicating they try and solve computer related problems themselves and 35% saying they refer to a manual or help page. In South Africa much emphasis has been placed on the introduction and teaching of computers in secondary schools and it is encouraging to see this starting to benefit higher education. This group of students also cite learning from family as a key way of learning to use computers. Family continues to play an important role for this group of students in terms of where they go for help with 38% of young students with extensive experience saying they get help with computer problems from family and 35% saying friends. Friends are also a dominant source of learning new skills (50%). The importance of family as a source of learning within this group suggests that this learning could have been situated within the home and suggests that young students with high experience have grown up with computers in the home. We have previously noted the importance of home computer access as a enabler for use of ICTs for learning  ADDIN EN.CITE Brown200732332317Brown, C Czerniewicz, L If we build it will they come? Investigating the relationship between students access to and use of ICTs for learningSouth African Journal of Higher EducationSouth African Journal of Higher Education2162007(Brown & Czerniewicz 2007) and other researchers have linked home computers this to high patterns of use  ADDIN EN.CITE Selwyn199824824817Selwyn, NThe effect of using a home computer on students' educational use of ITComputers and EducationComputers and Education211-277311998(Selwyn 1998) Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: how students from different groupings learn to use computers Students in the middle grouping fall somewhere between the younger and older group in terms of their reported behaviours. They seem to have learnt slightly less from informal sources (ie teaching themselves and friends and family) and are slightly more reliant on the university than their younger cohort. Inexperienced students in the middle age group indicate they rely less on teaching themselves compared to younger students with the same level of experience (15% compared to 31% of younger inexperienced students ), and few students in this group resort to their own devices for solving computer problems (15%). They also learn less often from social networks of family and friends (16% compared to 31% of younger inexperienced students). Their reliance on the institution is also evident with regards to support with 45% saying they ask a lab assistant/ tutor/ lecturer if they have a problem and 47% asking a friend. Experienced students in the middle age group predominantly learnt to use a computer at school (52%). They employ a diverse range of strategies when solving problems that ranges from doing it themselves (62%), asking friends (65%) and asking a member of teaching support staff 33% (ie lab assistant, tutor or lecturers) or IT support 28%. Like younger experienced students, they learn new skills by teaching themselves (55%) but draw slightly less on friends (45%) and even less on family (14%) rather learning through their university courses (28%) and training. It is interesting that this group of students (born in the early eighties and an early part of the digital native generation) appears to form a bridge between younger and older groups and suggests that even amongst the commonly classified digital native generation subtle differences exist, a point emphasised by Perillo  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007Melbourne(2007), who suggests that cuspers may show characteristics of both their preceding generationsS. Older students cite university as their place of learning more frequently than younger students, even when they have average or high levels of experience (overall 47% of older students learnt to use a computer through university compared to 18% of younger students). This demonstrates how critical university training (whether formal or informal) is for the older cohort of students particularly older inexperienced students where university is their primary source of learning (65%). Few older inexperienced students indicated they learnt at school (22%) or taught themselves (15%). In terms of problem solving strategies 50% rely on a member of teaching support staff (ie lab assistant, tutor or lecturers) and 22% on IT support. New skills are predominantly acquired through friends (47%). Older experienced students are very similar to younger experienced students as learning to use a computer at school (41%) and teaching themselves (43%) are reported as the dominant source of learning. They also show high self efficacy by problem solving themselves (66%) or using manuals or help pages (43%). However, they are different in how they learn new skills in that family plays a very small role (13%) and friends a much lesser role (35%) compared to their younger counterparts and they either teach themselves (66%) or learn as part of their university courses (30%). Discussion In South Africa, students levels of experience using a computer are varied and cannot be assumed; however, the younger the student the more experience of and exposure to computers they are likely to have had. While many students have formally learnt to use a computer at school, informal learning such as teaching themselves and learning through family or friends is dominant. At the same time, differences in how students learn, how they solve problems and how they acquire new skills are apparent particularly between younger and older age groups with different levels of experience. Many Experienced Young students acquired their computer skills in school prior to university which indicates that improved computer education at secondary schools level has had a positive impact. However, informal sources (such as teaching themselves and learning through family and friends) is also an important source of learning for this group and even more important way of solving problems and learning new skills. This concurs with other studies  ADDIN EN.CITE Hoffman200539539510Hoffman, MVance, DComputer literacy: what students know and from whom they learned itSIGCSE'05356-3602005Missouri(Hoffman & Vance 2005) which have determined that educational tasks are largely learnt through the formal channels of school but that social and optional tasks are learnt informally. In addition, the acquisition of computer skills from family members at an early age indicates a high availability of technology suggesting this group has grown up with technology. For many Inexperienced young students, university was the first place they undertook any formalised training and plays an important role in acquiring computer skills both due to contact with peers and computer courses taught to students. Despite their lack of experience, their enthusiasm for and confidence with using ICTs are evident as informal learning is still evident amongst many of this group who teach themselves what they need to know or learn from their peers. This suggests that interest and self-efficacy in relation to ICTs are higher for younger students irrespective of level of experience before starting university and is in line with other international studies suggesting that younger students draw strongly on the social networks of their friends and family  ADDIN EN.CITE Hoffman200539539510Hoffman, MVance, DComputer literacy: what students know and from whom they learned itSIGCSE'05356-3602005Missouri(Hoffman & Vance 2005). However this level of confidence and social networking is not evident amongst all students. Inexperienced Older students depend more on formal channels of university to learn how to use computers. They appear to have fewer resources to draw on when it comes to solving problems; and draw less on family and friends than the younger students, relying instead on face to face contact such as IT support, lab assistants and tutors/ lecturers. Even amongst Experienced Older students there are differences in approach to learning. Whilst they have long term experience using computers with family, friends and school playing an important role initially, this group learns new skills through university training opportunities. Thus older students (no matter what level of experience) rely more heavily on university to learn new skills than younger students do. Conclusion Despite varying levels of experience and exposure to computers, younger South African students are indeed showing they can do it for themselves employing their own resources as well as those of the people around them to learn about computers, acquire new skills and solve problems Even young students with little experience who are new to using computers are showing their interest in and confidence with regards to computers and learning through informal channels. However, this does not negate the important role of formalised support and training within universities as many inexperienced students (particularly older ones) rely on the university as a source of learning and support. We also note differences in how younger and older groups of students acquire new skills with university structures playing a greater role for older students and social networks being more important for younger students. There is clearly a small (11%) but distinct group of South African students who display some of the characteristics of digital natives in that they have grown up with computers, are independent when solving computer problems and learning new skills, and who draw extensively on their social networks. For the rest, the categorisation of the digital native as being young people born since the nineteen eighties does not work in our context. In fact, we note that students who were born in the early eighties (our middle group), were situated somewhere between the younger and older students in their practices. While it is possible that South Africans are lagging behind in terms of technological exposure compared to first world countries such as Australia and the US, it is more likely that in our context experience is more relevant to a students technological identity than age is. The data also needs to be examined to consider relationships between access to ICTs, ICT use (both socially and for learning) and demographic variables such as gender. Our preliminary data indicates that although some South African students can be considered digital natives, there are differences in the way younger students approach learning to use computers that need to be taken into account in academic teaching. The findings also suggest that the notion of the digital native needs to be redefined in order for that concept to be more nuanced and more context appropriate. References  ADDIN EN.REFLIST Broekman, I., Enslin, P. & Pendlebury, S. (2002). Distributive justice and information communication technologies in higher education in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education. Vol 16 no 1: pp 29-35. Brown, C. & Czerniewicz, L. (2007). If we build it will they come? Investigating the relationship between students access to and use of ICTs for learning. South African Journal of Higher Education. Vol 21 no 6. Brown, C. & Czerniewicz, L. (2008). Trends in student use of ICTs in higher education in South Africa. In World Wide Web Applications. Cape Town 3-6 September 2008. Hoffman, M. & Vance, D. (2005). Computer literacy: What students know and from whom they learned it. In SIGCSE'05. Missouri. McCrindle, M. (2006). New generations at work. Perillo, S. (2007). Reaching generation y: To be or not to be relevant. In Australian Anglican Schools Network. Melbourne. Prensky, M. (2007). Changing paradigms. [Internet]. Available from: < HYPERLINK "http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf" http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf >, [Accessed 14 August, 2008]. Selwyn, N. (1998). The effect of using a home computer on students' educational use of IT. Computers and Education. Vol 31: pp 211-277. Sherry, C. & Fielden, K. (2005). The millennials: Computer savvy (or not?). In HERDSA 2005.  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ࡱ> q` 1lbjbjqPqP ::az%< < < F R R R f jjj8&$f OhVV"xNNNNNNN$PhRNR P"PPNR R gN444PR R I4PN44nmBR R EJ ѻjuC IN0 OCSS@EESR F>U,4$NN^ OPPPPf f f  jf f f jf f f R R R R R R  Doing it for themselves? How South African university students learn to use computers for their studies. Brown, C, Czernieiwcz, L. and Pedersen, J. (2008) Abstract Globally universities are grappling with how they should be adapting to the new generation of university students who are purported to be tech savvy and to learn in different ways. The South African higher education sector, with its changing and increasingly diverse student body, is facing similar concerns. This preliminary study seeks to inform this issue by investigating what computer experience academics can expect students to have, how students learn to use computers, how they solve problems and how they acquire new computer skills. We find differences in age and experience and suggest that whilst there is a small distinct group of students who show the characteristics of the digital native, there is much diversity in how students come to learn and continue to learn about computers. We observe too that although younger students of all levels of experience are learning informally, universities still have a very important role to play in terms of training and support. Introduction The notion of a new generation of university students who are digital natives is currently prevalent in the education and information society discourse. Digital natives supposedly come into universities familiar with computers; and it is purported that with regards computers, they learn informally (either teaching themselves or through social networks such as family and friends) rather than needing to be taught  ADDIN EN.CITE Prensky200740040012Prensky, MChanging paradigms200814 August2007http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf (Prensky 2007). The implication is that because they enter the institution with new kinds of literacies and ways of learning (especially using computers), they need to be taught differently. Indeed, educators are challenged to think of new ways to stimulate and engage with these learners. South African universities, like those in higher education globally are grappling with the best way to respond to new kinds of students generally. The challenge is refracted by the local context where the student body is particularly diverse, and has changed rapidly over the last fourteen years. Real daily dilemmas exist in relation to ICT related decisions which may further disadvantage already disadvantaged students while addressing the imperative to adequately prepare students for the new information age  ADDIN EN.CITE Broekman200227827817Broekman, IEnslin, PPendlebury, SDistributive Justice and Information Communication Technologies in higher education in South AfricaSouth African Journal of Higher EducationSouth African Journal of Higher Education29-351612002(Broekman et al. 2002). This paper draws on a study of 3533 university students in 6 diverse South African universities to investigate the general claims about the ways students learn to use computers, and about their experience with computers. It addresses several inter-related questions: How do students learn to use computers? Do age cohorts learn in different ways? How relevant is experience in terms of how students learn about computers when they get to university? The findings are based on four questions about student experiences using computers; namely when they first started using a computer, how they originally learnt, how they acquired new skills and what they did when they had a problem doing something on a computer. In order to examine subtle difference between age and experience in our context students were discuss the findings according to three age groupings  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007MelbourneMcCrindle200639839827McCrindle, MNew generations at work2006www.mccrindle.com.au(McCrindle 2006; Perillo 2007) namely; Young - under 22, born after 1985 and classified as digital natives (1804 respondents); Middle - between 22 and 25 years of age, born after 1982 often considered digital natives but also called cuspers  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007Melbourne(Perillo 2007) as they were born early in the digital native generation (752 respondents); Older - between 25 and 42 years of age, born after 1965 (187 respondents), described as Generation X (1965 1979). These groups were further divided according to 2 levels of experience namely; Inexperienced students - fewer than four years since they first started using a computer; Experienced students - using a computer for more than four years. Findings We found that students experience using computers is diverse, ranging from less than two years (17%) to more than 15 years (8%). There is some relationship between when students started using a computer and their age: young students (<22) have slightly more experience (67% have been using a computer for over 4 years) when compared to older students (over 26 years where 57% have been using a computer for more than 4 years). When examining how students learn to use computers only a few cited formal courses (either community based, credit bearing or commercial) as their source of learning. The main sources of learning were themselves, family or friends, school or university. Overall, young students indicated that they first learnt to use a computer either through school (45%) or by teaching themselves (42%). However there are interesting differences in how young people with different levels of experience learnt. For inexperienced young students, university has played a big role in teaching them how to use a computer as 23% said they first learnt through a university training course and 17% generally as part of their studies. University support structures also have an important role to play for this group - when trying to solve a computer related problem 55% will ask a lab assistant, tutor or lecturer and 58% will ask a friend. Friends are also an important resource for skills acquisition - 47% of respondents report this. However, even with this small amount of experience 30% of these students also indicated that they are self taught which suggests a high interest and self-efficacy with regards to computers, characteristics also noted amongst young university students in New Zealand  ADDIN EN.CITE Sherry200539739710Sherry, CFielden, KThe millennials: Computer savvy (or not?)HERDSA 2005489-=4992005(Sherry & Fielden 2005). This ability flows into their problem solving strategies with 46% reporting solving computer problems themselves. Whilst confidence amongst young students is reported in other studies, this is usually associated with high technology proficiency  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007MelbourneMcCrindle200639839827McCrindle, MNew generations at work2006www.mccrindle.com.au(McCrindle 2006; Perillo 2007) - it is therefore especially interesting to observe this amongst young students with low levels of experience. University training plays a very small role for experienced young students. Instead where students have more than 4 years experience, school was the dominant place of learning (over 50% cited school as their source of learning) followed by teaching themselves (51%). Their skills are also evident in their problem-solving strategies with 70% indicating they try and solve computer related problems themselves and 35% saying they refer to a manual or help page. In South Africa much emphasis has been placed on the introduction and teaching of computers in secondary schools and it is encouraging to see this starting to benefit higher education. This group of students also cite learning from family as a key way of learning to use computers. Family continues to play an important role for this group of students in terms of where they go for help with 38% of young students with extensive experience saying they get help with computer problems from family and 35% saying friends. Friends are also a dominant source of learning new skills (50%). The importance of family as a source of learning within this group suggests that this learning could have been situated within the home and suggests that young students with high experience have grown up with computers in the home. We have previously noted the importance of home computer access as a enabler for use of ICTs for learning  ADDIN EN.CITE Brown200732332317Brown, C Czerniewicz, L If we build it will they come? Investigating the relationship between students access to and use of ICTs for learningSouth African Journal of Higher EducationSouth African Journal of Higher Education2162007(Brown & Czerniewicz 2007) and other researchers have linked home computers this to high patterns of use  ADDIN EN.CITE Selwyn199824824817Selwyn, NThe effect of using a home computer on students' educational use of ITComputers and EducationComputers and Education211-277311998(Selwyn 1998) Figure  SEQ Figure \* ARABIC 1: how students from different groupings learn to use computers Students in the middle grouping fall somewhere between the younger and older group in terms of their reported behaviours. They seem to have learnt slightly less from informal sources (ie teaching themselves and friends and family) and are slightly more reliant on the university than their younger cohort. Inexperienced students in the middle age group indicate they rely less on teaching themselves compared to younger students with the same level of experience (15% compared to 31% of younger inexperienced students ), and few students in this group resort to their own devices for solving computer problems (15%). They also learn less often from social networks of family and friends (16% compared to 31% of younger inexperienced students). Their reliance on the institution is also evident with regards to support with 45% saying they ask a lab assistant/ tutor/ lecturer if they have a problem and 47% asking a friend. Experienced students in the middle age group predominantly learnt to use a computer at school (52%). They employ a diverse range of strategies when solving problems that ranges from doing it themselves (62%), asking friends (65%) and asking a member of teaching support staff 33% (ie lab assistant, tutor or lecturers) or IT support 28%. Like younger experienced students, they learn new skills by teaching themselves (55%) but draw slightly less on friends (45%) and even less on family (14%) rather learning through their university courses (28%) and training. It is interesting that this group of students (born in the early eighties and an early part of the digital native generation) appears to form a bridge between younger and older groups and suggests that even amongst the commonly classified digital native generation subtle differences exist, a point emphasised by Perillo  ADDIN EN.CITE Perillo200739639610Perillo, SReaching Generation Y: To be or not to be relevantAustralian Anglican Schools Network2007Melbourne(2007), who suggests that cuspers may show characteristics of both their preceding generationsS. Older students cite university as their place of learning more frequently than younger students, even when they have average or high levels of experience (overall 47% of older students learnt to use a computer through university compared to 18% of younger students). This demonstrates how critical university training (whether formal or informal) is for the older cohort of students particularly older inexperienced students where university is their primary source of learning (65%). Few older inexperienced students indicated they learnt at school (22%) or taught themselves (15%). In terms of problem solving strategies 50% rely on a member of teaching support staff (ie lab assistant, tutor or lecturers) and 22% on IT support. New skills are predominantly acquired through friends (47%). Older experienced students are very similar to younger experienced students as learning to use a computer at school (41%) and teaching themselves (43%) are reported as the dominant source of learning. They also show high self efficacy by problem solving themselves (66%) or using manuals or help pages (43%). However, they are different in how they learn new skills in that family plays a very small role (13%) and friends a much lesser role (35%) compared to their younger counterparts and they either teach themselves (66%) or learn as part of their university courses (30%). Discussion In South Africa, students levels of experience using a computer are varied and cannot be assumed; however, the younger the student the more experience of and exposure to computers they are likely to have had. While many students have formally learnt to use a computer at school, informal learning such as teaching themselves and learning through family or friends is dominant. At the same time, differences in how students learn, how they solve problems and how they acquire new skills are apparent particularly between younger and older age groups with different levels of experience. Many Experienced Young students acquired their computer skills in school prior to university which indicates that improved computer education at secondary schools level has had a positive impact. However, informal sources (such as teaching themselves and learning through family and friends) is also an important source of learning for this group and even more important way of solving problems and learning new skills. This concurs with other studies  ADDIN EN.CITE Hoffman200539539510Hoffman, MVance, DComputer literacy: what students know and from whom they learned itSIGCSE'05356-3602005Missouri(Hoffman & Vance 2005) which have determined that educational tasks are largely learnt through the formal channels of school but that social and optional tasks are learnt informally. In addition, the acquisition of computer skills from family members at an early age indicates a high availability of technology suggesting this group has grown up with technology. For many Inexperienced young students, university was the first place they undertook any formalised training and plays an important role in acquiring computer skills both due to contact with peers and computer courses taught to students. Despite their lack of experience, their enthusiasm for and confidence with using ICTs are evident as informal learning is still evident amongst many of this group who teach themselves what they need to know or learn from their peers. This suggests that interest and self-efficacy in relation to ICTs are higher for younger students irrespective of level of experience before starting university and is in line with other international studies suggesting that younger students draw strongly on the social networks of their friends and family  ADDIN EN.CITE Hoffman200539539510Hoffman, MVance, DComputer literacy: what students know and from whom they learned itSIGCSE'05356-3602005Missouri(Hoffman & Vance 2005). However this level of confidence and social networking is not evident amongst all students. Inexperienced Older students depend more on formal channels of university to learn how to use computers. They appear to have fewer resources to draw on when it comes to solving problems; and draw less on family and friends than the younger students, relying instead on face to face contact such as IT support, lab assistants and tutors/ lecturers. Even amongst Experienced Older students there are differences in approach to learning. Whilst they have long term experience using computers with family, friends and school playing an important role initially, this group learns new skills through university training opportunities. Thus older students (no matter what level of experience) rely more heavily on university to learn new skills than younger students do. Conclusion Despite varying levels of experience and exposure to computers, younger South African students are indeed showing they can do it for themselves employing their own resources as well as those of the people around them to learn about computers, acquire new skills and solve problems Even young students with little experience who are new to using computers are showing their interest in and confidence with regards to computers and learning through informal channels. However, this does not negate the important role of formalised support and training within universities as many inexperienced students (particularly older ones) rely on the university as a source of learning and support. We also note differences in how younger and older groups of students acquire new skills with university structures playing a greater role for older students and social networks being more important for younger students. There is clearly a small (11%) but distinct group of South African students who display some of the characteristics of digital natives in that they have grown up with computers, are independent when solving computer problems and learning new skills, and who draw extensively on their social networks. For the rest, the categorisation of the digital native as being young people born since the nineteen eighties does not work in our context. In fact, we note that students who were born in the early eighties (our middle group), were situated somewhere between the younger and older students in their practices. While it is possible that South Africans are lagging behind in terms of technological exposure compared to first world countries such as Australia and the US, it is more likely that in our context experience is more relevant to a students technological identity than age is. The data also needs to be examined to consider relationships between access to ICTs, ICT use (both socially and for learning) and demographic variables such as gender. Our preliminary data indicates that although some South African students can be considered digital natives, there are differences in the way younger students approach learning to use computers that need to be taken into account in academic teaching. The findings also suggest that the notion of the digital native needs to be redefined in order for that concept to be more nuanced and more context appropriate. References  ADDIN EN.REFLIST Broekman, I., Enslin, P. & Pendlebury, S. (2002). Distributive justice and information communication technologies in higher education in South Africa. South African Journal of Higher Education. Vol 16 no 1: pp 29-35. Brown, C. & Czerniewicz, L. (2007). If we build it will they come? Investigating the relationship between students access to and use of ICTs for learning. South African Journal of Higher Education. Vol 21 no 6. Brown, C. & Czerniewicz, L. (2008). Trends in student use of ICTs in higher education in South Africa. In World Wide Web Applications. Cape Town 3-6 September 2008. Hoffman, M. & Vance, D. (2005). Computer literacy: What students know and from whom they learned it. In SIGCSE'05. Missouri. McCrindle, M. (2006). New generations at work. Perillo, S. (2007). Reaching generation y: To be or not to be relevant. In Australian Anglican Schools Network. Melbourne. Prensky, M. (2007). Changing paradigms. [Internet]. Available from: < HYPERLINK "http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf" http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky-ChangingParadigms-01-EdTech.pdf >, [Accessed 14 August, 2008]. Selwyn, N. (1998). The effect of using a home computer on students' educational use of IT. Computers and Education. Vol 31: pp 211-277. Sherry, C. & Fielden, K. (2005). The millennials: Computer savvy (or not?). In HERDSA 2005.  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