Reading the take away statements for the required articles made me laugh. Especially the last statement “the only thing that can be said about today’s student, based upon reliable and valid research, is that they are more narcissistic than any previous generation.” Talk about hitting the nail on the head!
Having been a classroom teacher for the past 20+ years, I have noticed that students really have changed. I don’t think it is because the are “digital natives” so much as they come from a microwave mentality. Notions like soft skills, work ethics, and effective effort seem to be lost on today’s students. They are use to computers and other devices that make life easier and as a result are not use to working for something.
Step outside of the classroom for a moment and think back to the last meal or snack you made… Be honest, how many of you opened a can or a box (either from the cupboard or freezer), or a combination of the two and stirred the concoction together and called it cooking? To take that one step further, how many of you cooked verses microwaved? Personally, I tend to cook from scratch partially because of food allergies, mostly because I like to know what I am eating, but I digress.
Now, some of you may be asking what does cooking have to do with digital natives, well a lot actually. Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and see. Remember the proverbial Sunday fried-chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, and hot biscuit dinners grandmother made from scratch? Then came hamburger helper, and McDonalds. If you take a look back in history for the past 30-40 years you will see there are some direct correlations between the decline of home meal preparation and introduction of digital technology. It seems the more tech-type stuff we add to our lives the less we actually have to do. This applies to the educational system as well. We went from constructed responses to the easy to grade multiple-choice test and from research papers to essays – going from pages to paragraphs. Reeves quotes Oblinger and Oblinger’s 2005 study that stated while today’s students may be adept at using technology, their knowledge of the IT devices is only superficial.
The microwave or fast-food mentality has bled over into the classroom. Yes, students are used to using technology to make their lives easier: text messaging to ask a question instead of talking to their parents, sitting in front of a TV to play video games instead of playing outside, or calling/messaging friends instead of face-to-face communication (or often doing both at the same time with the same people). The key here is they are using technology to make their personal lives easier or for instant gratification, they are not necessarily using it to improve their academic achievement. As Brown and Duguid point out in the Reeves article “access to information does not equate to knowledge.”
So for my colleges who think we need to change our order of business to accommodate Prensky’s new digital student, I say:
“Yes, there are differences in the generations. Yes, there are students who were born and raised using IT devices. However, as research and evidence support, good teaching is still good teaching, and reading and thinking skills are still required to be successful. We do need to incorporate technology to enhance learning, not use technology to supplant teaching.”
We need to focus our energy on the substance of learning, not spend so much time on identifying students’ technological origins. It is what we are delivering that is important, not so much the tools we use. In keeping with the food analogy, if you want a pizza you don’t care what the delivery driver is driving as much as you care that your pizza is tasty, delivered hot, in 30 minutes or less…
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved fromhttp://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved fromhttp://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf