Training University Students into Digital Natives – Challenge Taken!

Csilla Jaray-Benn's picture

“Please turn on your phones!”

With a mobile phone in her hand and a big smile on her face, Nora starts by asking the audience a series of questions:

  • How many of you are digital immigrants?  – The majority.
  • How many of you are digital natives? – Not many.
  • Who thinks their students know more about technology than they do? –
  • Almost everyone.
  • Do you think students should teach you about technology? – The
  • majority.
  • Do you think a teachers’ role should be the same whether it be with or without technology?

Nora raises the point that despite what we might think, not all young people are digital natives. She mainly teaches graduate students training to become English language teachers at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.

Nora then asks the audience to list the applications they use most frequently. These consist of: Facebook, Twitter, Skype, WhatsApp and Quizlet. When asking the same question of her students, the result is very similar; in other words, they mainly use social media applications to communicate with friends. The problem is that despite supposedly being ‘digital natives’, university students don’t take advantage of the enormous value that mobile applications, and technology in general, can bring to the learning process. Nora would prefer to see her students as autonomous, creative and motivated people as opposed to passive ‘hallgato’ (Hungarian for ‘listener’) in a lecture room.

Next Nora demonstrates some of the activities she uses with her students to show them how technology can be used in a purposeful and meaningful way for learning.

1. Memes
An activity her students enjoy a lot, is creating memes, then having other students guess the story behind the meme. This structured activity helps them engage in long and meaningful discussions.

2. Student-created videos
Nora shows us a short video with a very simple scenario: a student can be seen entering one elevator in the university campus but coming out of another. Students were then asked to create a story based around this scenario. Nora’s students enjoyed the task and came up with a story where the student is being tele-transported around the university campus.

3. Online presentations
Students are asked to prepare many presentations while at university, but they never actually see themselves presenting. However, in Nora’s class, student presentations are recorded. Recording ensures that students rehearse several times, which is very beneficial for spoken language development. Moreover, recording gives an opportunity for providing students with positive feedback. Nora also tries to guide her students towards thinking more visually and globally during the preparation phase. To do this, she encourages them to use Prezi presentation software (, which forces students to see the presentation as a whole and therefore think ahead. All student presentations are then given a QR code and uploaded onto online platforms, such as Edmodo ( for further sharing.

Nora also suggests the following tools:

  • Pearltrees ( ) for bookmarking and sharing is available on any platform. Nora asks her students to use this software in other subjects as well as English.
  • Evernote ( ) for note taking and sharing.
  • Edmodo ( can be used as a virtual classroom where students upload their work.

Nora sums up by saying that despite our students being digital natives, they don’t use technology for the purposes of learning. Our role as a teacher is to show them how they can make technology part of their learning. This was a lively, very interactive session with many questions from the ‘digital immigrant’ audience.

You can watch this presentation at:

Contact info: and @noranem