The Digital Generation

I began my official ISTE experience with Ian Jukes’ and Lee Crockett’s session on teaching the new generation of students today. Below are my notes from this hour session, along with questions and thoughts of my own that came up in italics.

Teaching the Digital Generation: A New Face for Learning By: Ian Jukes, Lee Crockett

– We teach a fundamentally different student
– Global digital growth HAVE and WILL affect students
– Evidence is mounting that digital bombardment has created a “cultural brain” that has been shaped by digital environment.
– Brains of digital generation are changing physically and chemically
– They’re neurologically different than we are
– The see and interact w/ people differently
– They hyperlink and simultaneously process info, not in a linear process
– Neuroplastic brains: constantly creating new thinking patterns
– Eyes process things 60,000 times faster than content of text

Digital Learning Styles vs Traditional Teaching Styles:

1. Prefer receiving info quickly from many sources vs slow info from 1 source
– Digital learners spend time using digital devices and get BORED when they get to school

This made me think of something proposed to me about 3 years ago regarding students watching television before school. Cartoons bombard students with hundreds of images every minute because that is how they are designed. A student might watch these images flash on screen, then enter a classroom with one static image of the teacher. Of course they lose interest quickly with one image. I would too!

2. Prefer parallel processing & multi-tasking vs. linear processing and single or limited tasking
– Multi-tasking aka Continuous Partial Learning
– Digital gen multi-tasks at much faster pace
– There are essential skills beyond things that help us multi-task

Many would disagree that multi-tasking is even possible because one job is essentially just not being done as well as the other. I think about the hundreds of things that I do simultaneously at any given time and realize that one things doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Nevertheless, it is certainly interesting to hear that today’s students prefer to learn and function in that manner. I wonder if they really can do more than one thing at a given time while maintaining focus or not…

3. Prefer many images w/ many colors vs. static image w/ 1 color
– Role of text is to provide further information about something that is seen in picture or image
– Info that is presented w/ image, 72 hrs later, 63% would be retained
– Info that is presented orally w/o images, 72 hrs later, only 10% would be retained
– Light & sound trained
– Start w/ visuals, then add text

Again, interesting to hear the power of an image. They’ve always said that a picture’s worth a thousand words. It’s simply proving true more and more. Students today see more power in an image than ever before. In fact, as the numbers show, they retain the accompanying info far better as well.

4. Prefer random access to hyper-linked multimedia info vs linear info that is presented logically and sequentially
– Hyperlinked brains
– Why follow someone else’ logic when I can just follow my own?

The “normal” way that our brains work – linear, logical, sequential – is no longer how our students’ brains work. Instead of sitting in class consuming the information, then maybe referring to some resource that comes to mind, and then applying that information within a conversation our students are thinking more like computers with hyperlinks that open up all of the knowledge that they know about the studied topic. I know that the Bing commercials seem obscure at times, but that’s really how students’ brains function. They’re opening up channels of all the linked information about one topic.

5. Prefer to network and collaborate w/ many others at same time vs. working independently
– Students live a hybrid existence
– Because our students have grown up with all of these things (software, programs, 2.0 tools), they
completely take them for granted
– Learning that is engaging

Funny how our education system would only allow independent work to be done in the classroom 100 years ago and yet we still do it today. Many school do not see the importance of collaborating with others as a skill that needs to be learned and honed. But it is. The research is there. Alan November talks about the power of a network. Tony Wagner writes about the ability to work with others as a survival skill in the 21st Century.

6. Prefer to learn just-in-time vs. just-in-case
– Friedman: students will deal w/ 10-17 careers by time they’re 35 yrs old!
– These jobs don’t even exist, nor does the tech to teach how to DO these jobs
– Just-in-time learning is completely different than just-in-case learning

We continue to learn things just-in-case…Just in case we have to know how to do this in the near future…Just in case we get laid off and can’t find anything in our field…Just in case. The difference between that mindset and our students is that they are constantly learning and exploring new things just-in-time. They want to know how something functions to be able to use it when they need to use it. It is not learned simply in case of something else…it is learned to stay as current as possible and maintain a sense of up-to-date skills that can be used in any way, shape, or form.

7. Prefer instant gratification and rewards rather than deferred gratification and deferred rewards vs. deferred gratification
– If you do this, this, this, then you will eventually be rewarded with good school, good job, etc.
– Doesn’t work that way!!!
– Cell phones, digital networking tools, video games, etc all prove that if you do this…you’ll be rewarded
– They are rewarded for their time put in
– Immediate feedback
– Video games ask to make decisions every ½-1 second and are rewarded every 7 seconds
for that decision

Think back to the last time you provided immediate feedback to your students. I am generally good at doing this verbally, but am terrible at at it when it comes to grading. I let the papers pile up and eventually get them back to the students. They lose all motivation to do work for me if that continues though. When a video game rewards every 7 seconds our rewards in the forms of comments, stickers, or treats every 30 minutes simply won’t suffice. My question then becomes, how does this affect how we do things in the classroom? Are students being immediately reinforced and rewarded enough to stay engaged in what we’re doing? Possibly not.

21st Century Fluencies:

Solution Fluency:
Define: have to be able to define problem correctly
Discover: turning attention to past and asking ?s that help me figure things out today
Dream: imagine things AS they WILL be
Design: how will we get there? Create roadmap to get there
Deliver: put plan into action, apply new-found knowledge to create something, must be a product
– It’s not enough to design a product, you have to deliver it!
Debrief: reflect, how could we have made this better? Evaluate, peer-evaluation, self-evaluation, own the learning

Information Fluency:
– We are consuming so much information, we’ll never be able to keep up
– Memorization is no longer critical
Ask: ask questions to get an answer
Acquire: get the information from various resources, allow to get wrong info to learn how to acquire things correctly
Analyze: how do we know if it’s real, authenticate information
Apply: within real-life, real-world context or simulated context
Assess: reflect and evaluate

Interesting how both Solution Fluency and Information Fluency have a process to them and culminate with reflection of some sort. Too often we ask out students to perform tasks, memorize facts, and create projects with no after-thought on how it all went. Why not? Why are our students not being asked how they felt they did…what they could have done better…what they could do differently next time? All of these questions are valuable in the learning process if you want students to CRITICALLY EVALUATE what they learned.

Creativity Fluency:
– There is MORE than FUNCTION, FORM is now just, if not more, important
– Being creative is a language in and of itself

Media Fluency:
– Look at content critically to determine what it is that is being aid and how well it’s being said
– What is best method to convey information? Match message and media
– Internet is digital wasteland for stuff that is not created correctly
– How can we be more effective at communicating w/ digital tools?

This fits perfectly with Harold Rheingold’s Crap Detection session which I attended. Students of all ages need to be able to research information in all forms and critically evaluate its legitimacy. Is it an authentic source or is it just crap?

Collaboration Fluency:
– Kids that are playing games online are already collaborating globally
– We interact w/o face-to-face conversations because that’s the world we live in
– Global, international, interactive collaboration
– Teamwork proficiency w/ real partners and digital partners

This fluency is what Alan November stressed in his session as well. Our students need to establish and develop their own network. They should be able to work with others in various settings that requires purposeful interactions. They should also ensure that they have this network in place upon graduation to use as a resource.


5 thoughts on “The Digital Generation

  1. Very useful notes, thank you! Numbers 2, 4 and 5 also relate to a session I attended at ISTE on the use of backchannels in the classroom. Students like them because they like to multitask, can share external links with each other, and are working with each other. I blogged about that session here — There, I linked to a research article that tries to address that same question you raise – students like to multitask, but are they really able to focus? Check out the link on my blog post for a thoughtful discussion of this based on cognitive psych.

  2. What a great capture of a session. You recorded so many good points – each one could be a blog post on their own. I read an article in a recent Wired magazine by Nicholas Carr “The web shatters focus, rewires brains” and wrote a post here:

    I think this snippet “Thinking about student learning, there seems to be a believe today that kid’s brains, these digital natives, are wired differently and that they can handle all the inputs / outputs (IM, facebook, twitter, texting, music, videos, etc.) coming at them while doing homework, studying, etc. Maybe they are wired differently and can do these things, but we should ask the question “at what cost” to true learning?” speaks to what you wrote about.

    It would be good to hear more from others about the “cost” to young people of our high tech high pace world, not just the benefits we so often read about.

    Thanks for your notes for the session – Brian

  3. Wow. I did not get to ISTE and combed twitter like a jealous fool all week. Your post gave me the most to chew on, as I have been noticing many of these changes in my student population. Thanks.
    NB: I did chuckle at all the tweets complaining about some of the tech problems in the sessions. People left because they had to sit and listen! I guess this is happening to everyone, not just our students. Seems to me that good notes is an excellent way to communicate, and I for one was glad you shared, instead of just tweeting.

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