It’s been mumbled in the halls, whispered behind closed doors, and exaggerated by a younger, less patient teaching corps. “Older teachers just can’t handle new technology”. It’s simply too complicated, and too hard to grasp for those who came before the Internet generation. Well, research may argue a different point.
In an attempt to address how new technologies are affecting an aging teaching corps (who may not have had exposure to technology during their collegiate training or early formative teaching years), Eshet-Alkalai and Chajut tested age-related differences with three groups of twenty participants. Groups ranged from late high school to 40 years old with equal pairs of males and females. The study leveraged modern technologies through tests of photo-visual thinking skill, reproduction thinking skill, branching thinking skill, and informational thinking. The main findings were that the younger participants performed significantly better than the older participants in skills that required mastery and experience with computer programs. On the other hand, the older adult participants performed significantly better in tasks that required critical and creative usage of technology. In other words, it’s a draw. There seem to be equal advantages to both age groups, which neutralize the theory that younger learners are more apt to be successful in the use and integration of new technologies.
Based on the results from this study, it is evident that experience with technology, and not age-related development accounts for the observed changes in digital literacy skills. Results also show that the ability to find information using technology or digital tools does not guarantee an educated or smart use of the information or digital tools. Or, in simple terms, provided adequate time for experience and learning, you “can” teach an old dog new tricks.