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How Different Are Young People Today? How Similar?



This week we opened our class by looking at Marc Prensky's metaphor of "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." Prensky argues that young people today are fundamentally different than they were ten, twenty, fifty, of five hundred years ago. But is this true?

Take some time to reflect on the students in your classroom currently. To what extent have digital technologies influenced them to the point that they are different than when you were in school? To what extent are your students the same as when you were their age? Do you agree with Prensky? Disagree? How? Why?

Please explain yourself fluently and insightfully in approximately 700, and pepper your comments with some quotes taken from the articles handed out in class.

This blogsite posting will come due at the beginning of our next class meeting on April 23, 2012.



Just last week I was working with a student on a writing assignment about what he did over spring break. His response was played video games. I asked him if there was anything else he did and his response was that he only played videogames, watched TV, and ate. Growing up, spring break was a time to play outside on roller skates or bikes, go to museums, and day trips with the family. Students today are watching more TV and playing more video games than ever. “Today’s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games” (Prensky, 2001). I do not agree that this is necessarily an accurate statement, but do find it alarming. TV and video games can at times be a great distraction for students when trying to do most educational assignments today. Today’s students also have some advantage with all of the technology available. Students can get extra help on a topic by sites such as Khan academy, or iPad apps designed just for education.
I think that the students I am working with, are very similar to how I was growing up. I wanted to watch TV after school instead of doing homework. I loved watching movies in class on a rainy day, and can easily multitask on different things. One difference that I notice was the parents. The parents of students I have now allow their kids to watch hours of tv and hours of playing video games a day. My parents allowed us to watch 30 minutes of TV a day, and video games were not allowed in the house.
I both agree and disagree with Prensky’s article. I think that there needs to be a medium in the middle between the two extremes. I agree, “today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky). While students today still need to learn key skills like reading, writing, math and science, they also need to learn about technology. Technology could be utilized in today’s classroom to help teach students in ways that they would better understand. During my student teaching placement I was going to teach a unit on poetry. To me this was the most boring, useless, annoying thing that I ever had to learn in class. My master teacher had a binder of worksheets, templates, and essays about various forms of poetry. Reading through the binder I felt like I would fall asleep teaching it, and knew that the students wouldn’t enjoy it at all. I decided to make “lectures” on PowerPoint’s, and then had the students post their poems on a class wiki. The students were ecstatic about being able to write their poems! While the material they were learning had not changed, the method of teaching the lesson had.
I also agree that “there is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokemon characters with their characteristics, history, and evolution cant learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 100 nations of the world” (Prensky). If the names and populations were placed in a video game, students would easily memorize all of the information. I also agree that students now like to parallel process and multi task. If we can learn to foster this style of learning we can allow students to learn in a preferred manner.
I disagree with some of the extremes of the article. There are far greater challenges of our school system than technology. I also disagree that the problem is with a “language” barrier between teachers and students. I think that students would be more eager to learn in different ways, but that teachers are too burnt out and tired to re create the entire curriculum they have been teaching for 20 years.
“Reading does not just happen, it is a terrible struggle” (Prensky). We need to still teach out students how to read and write even though it is very challenging. Students today feel like everything should happen instantly, and that there is no point in doing things that are hard. Sitting still and reading is ever harder, and this too needs to be taught. We need to teach our students how to sit, and read, and find the enjoyment in reading. If teachers can find a balance of using technology in the classroom, and also teach kids skills such as listening and sitting when there is not something exciting happening.

Digital Natives state that current students process learning in school differently than past predecessors due to the emergence of technology. Marc Prensky makes very valid points on the conflict educators are facing teaching the Digital Natives and I have to disagree with Prensky. Therefore, I do not think technology is the main culprit in the issue with education. Other factors contribute to the decline of education such as old practices, standardize tests, lack of creativity, and so on. Then the question comes to mind, what about those children that do not have access to the technology the article is referencing?
I agree that teachers are behind on technological advances, but I do think it is very important to have students learn the basics. Prensky advises that teachers should take a different route when presenting a subject such as video games, “Games capture their attention and make it happen.” Eventually kids will catch on to what is going and stop wanting to play educational games. I have seen that with successmaker. The first year they were excited to use the program and the following year they were over it. All they did was click any answer.
From where I stand, integrating technology into the classroom is a great idea, but it should not be the main focus. I think the problem in the classroom is the lack of freedom and creativity. Getting tablets for kids to read on will be fun for a while, but then it will be boring because they still have to read. Are kids different now then from my generation? Depends on how one looks at it? Socially yes, they are growing up faster watching older peers copying things from the media, but school wise, no. School is still school. Kids did not want to do homework back then and they do not want to do homework now.

After reviewing the article, "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" by Marc Prensky again, my argument has changed to the fact that students from today are not fundamentally different from students five hundred years ago. All children have the same innate need to eat, sleep and laugh regardless of the technologies that have been introduced into their lives. A fifteen-year-old boy will still have the same feelings and emotions about falling in loving for the first time that a fifteen-year-old boy had one hundred years ago. However, Prensky argues differently. “It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today’s students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.” The article argues that the new wave of digital natives have had their brains programmed differently causing them to fundamentally react to situations in a new way. I do not agree that technology has changed the internal programming of our generation but I can tolerate some of the arguments made by this article.

I do agree with Prensky’s article to a certain extent. I think that technology has began to change the way that a fifteen year old boy reacts to how he feels about falling in love for the first time. However, this is not because of the chemical make-up of the fifteen-year-old boy but is rather how his feelings and emotions have been altered by the mass amounts of technology that have been thrown his way since the day he was born. Whether or not it is understood that the digital natives brain is fundamentally changed, “we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed”. It is absurd to believe that the boy will not react in a different way than someone who was born one hundred years ago and who was never faced with the same influences.

This is where we are faced with the issue of how a student learns in the classroom. I agree with Presnky to a certain extent but do not agree with the facts provided in his second article. I do not feel that brains and thinking patterns of students today are fundamentally different to that of past generations. A student from one hundred years ago still fundamentally learns in the same way that a student learns today. However, the way that either student would react to a new concept or situation is completely and utterly different from each other due to the manner in which it is presented. I think that to be a substantial educator, it is ridiculous to deny this fact. Students may fundamentally learn the same as students from one hundred years ago but the way in which information is received and retained has completely evolved.

I argue that it is important for educators to recognize that students are processing and receiving information in a totally new and unique way. Educators must be able to adapt to the extent that they provide information to remain interesting to the student. I think that if an educator tries to present a subject the same way it was one hundred years ago, then they are setting their students up for failure. I think educators are doing their students a disservice to admit and recognize the fact that technology is a huge influence in their learning style and then not try to incorporate it into their teaching. I am not arguing that teacher’s must succumb to the ways of the digital native and completely reinvent their teaching techniques, but some willingness to try to sprinkle technology through out the school day should be acceptable.

Therefore, I appreciate the statements made throughout Prensky’s article but I have a hard time buying into the idea. I do not feel that teacher’s need to completely change to reach the minds of students who are digital natives as Presnky argues. “Or they can chose instead to accept the fact that they have become Immigrants into a new digital world, and look to their own creativity, their Digital Native students, their sympathetic administrators and other sources to help them to communicate their still-valuable knowledge and wisdom in that world’s new language.” I do not think that a teacher from the previous generation needs to reinvent the wheel to continue to teach their subject, but they may need to acknowledge the introduction of technology in the everyday lives of our learners.

Students have not changed significantly since I was in school, or since my grandfather
was in school. Brain elasticity was just as much of the human physiology then as it is now. The
only difference is that we are aware of it. Prensky (2001) States that, “Our students have
changed radically.” The word radical, along with the rest of his article, imply that due to the
increase in stimuli that students are exposed to in the digital age, they have changed into
something that would be unrecognizable 100 years ago. Prensky is wrong.
Radical change in students seems to suggests that the fundamental experiences of
digital natives are different to digital immigrants. I do not see how a student’s physical and
emotional experiences have changed since I was in school. Prensky actually uses a good
analogy describing “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” speaking different languages. This is
probably a very reasonable assessment of the change that has taken place. However, merely
speaking different languages does not seem significant enough a change as to describe it as
This article seems to be attempting to justify the failures of society to educate our
students. The author names the divide in digital fluency as the most serious problem in
education. To me this avoids more difficult truths. The one question that seems to be avoided in
this article is, Has technology had a positive effect in the growth and development of the human
mind and experience? I think that the answer is as yet uncertain. Can technology be used in a
positive productive manner. Yes. Is being exposed to reality TV and addicting internet games
beneficial for children? No. So to argue that students “thrive on instant gratification and frequent
rewards” (Prensky, 2001) and that it is the educator’s fault for not supplying this kind of
environment is missing the point. What Prensky should be seeking to discover is, how can we
encourage students to view these instant gratifications and satisfactions as a more limited and
insubstantial form of joy, than, say, achieving a long term goal like completing a marathon or
understanding the subtleties and symbolism in Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd.
Understanding the difference between instant pleasure and long-term joy is an important part
human development. It is not something that we should simply give up on because there is
more stimuli to receive instant gratification from.
I believe that children today are fundamentally the same as they have been for
thousands of years. Technology has changed society, culture, and yes education. It has
changed children's’ perceptions of reality. However, all these are subjective and circumstantial.
The concept of ‘objectivity’ and ‘objective truth’ is what is being lost in both society and
education. Should we change to accommodate this disintegration by breaking down
Shakespear into more “manageable” learning modalities. Maybe we could design a
Shakespeare App that students could play a games instead of reading Macbeath. They would
gain the same amount of understanding and joy right?
Prensky M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On The Horizon (MCB University Press)
9(5) p. 1-6.

After reading Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, By Marc Prensky, I agreed and disagreed with Prensky on many aspects especially, “Our students have changed radically.” Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach. I do not agree that they educational system is obsolete per say I believe that the old system of specific time frames are out dated and we need to adjust to our students who have short attention spans when we plan our lessons. I agree that we also need to take into account the culture that our students grew up in, as this also affects how they learn because depending on our surroundings we think differently.
According to Prensky, “The environment and culture in which people are raised affects and even determines many of their thought process.” Meaning, that not everyone thinks in a linear manner and we need to realize this and change the way that we present the material to our students. We also need to realize that with the invention of video games our brains have been retrained, creating “hypertext mind. They leap around.” This creates an environment where their minds can not hold onto a singular set of information for a long period of time. They gather the “gist” of the idea about what they are focusing on, but do not give 100% of their attention to the material.
I agree that we have lost the reflection portion of our brains with all the non-stop stimulation that we are receiving on a daily basis, whether it is television, internet, computers, phones or video games our brains have forever been re-programmed. I agree that we give less and less time to our reflective process and just go full speed ahead without thinking about the consequences of our actions. This would be a great area to work on with students to try and help them become more accustomed to the older way of learning.
With the invention of video games and the changing brain structure there are also new ways that we can go about teaching students as they have developed a higher sense of “ parallel processing, graphic awareness and random access,” these of which we are completely ignoring. I believe that if we acknowledge and help foster this type of learning we will be able to better reach out students. I do not agree however with the Digital Game-Based learning however, that some believe will help our students achieve these goals.
Many of the Digital Game- Based learning that I have witness does not necessarily work because students see this solely as a game and or get bored easily and because they are very technologically savvy they have found ways in which they no longer have to complete the assignments that are game based. However, those that did find the games helpful did receive better grades, those who found the games to be boring and or lackluster in appearance did not see a significant change. The United States military has also taken note of this phenomenon and has begun to train their military using technology to stimulate the brains of our digital natives. We as teachers need to take the next steps and become more aware of the different ways in which we can help the digital natives that we are seeing in our classrooms. We need to change we can no longer “choose to ignore (our) eyes, ears and intuition, (nor can we) pretend the Digital Native/ Digital immigrant issue does not exist.”

This article argues that students today are digital natives in today tech savvy society. It brings up a very difficult question to answer, do students today think differently than they did back in 1965? Prensky states that, “today’s students think and process information fundamentally different from their predecessors.” I agree that students have different ways of processing information, but I don’t completely agree that students today think completely different. Students today have access to countless tools that involve different forms of technology to help them learn. He calls today’s students, “native speakers of the digital language of computers, video games and the internet.” The difference between the students from 1965 and the students now is the availability and access to digital media. Before email, social networks, txt, the Internet, students relied on different technology to get through school. Technology today does not make students think differently, they just have more options to gather information. Today’s students are still looking for ways in which they can understand what they are being taught. They still want to be engaged in what they are learning.

Prensky points out that research has shown that, “people who grow up in different cultures do not just think about different things, they actually think differently.” The Environment and culture in which people are raised affects and even determines many of their thought process.” I think that over all students want to be excited about what they learn and how they are learning. No matter where the students are, different cultures, different environments, when it comes to school students will still be struggling to pay attention, to be participating, to learn. The only things that have changed are the instruments used to shape the learning of our students.

I also agreed when he said that, “it is highly unlikely the Digital natives will go backwards.” I think that as teachers we must keep up with technology so that we are able to meet the students needs. At the end of the day it doesn’t matter what technology students are using teachers will still use different strategies to teach. Technology is simply a tool that provides assistance for students as well as for teachers in the classroom. As teachers we must embrace the new technology and use it to the benefit of our students.

Over all, I think that even though times change and technology gets more advanced students are still relatively thinking similarly to students in 1965. Technology has become a source that helps student’s process things differently. Yet, the struggles in school are still the same. The teacher’s mission is still involves trying to make learning exciting and engaging for students.

In Marc Prensky’s articles, “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants” Parts I and II, Prensky states, “...neurologist research found that rats in “enriched” environments showed brain changes after as little as two weeks.” My question here was what exactly is an “enriched” environment? It it one with music, healthy food and adequate amounts of water? Does it include shelter and protection from the weather? Or is it an environment that has flashing lights, loud noises and realistic looking images? I can easily see how a brain can change given the proper care, but is this what Pensky is referring to?

My mom has always said that I am of the Sesame Street generation. Meaning that I cannot focus on anyone one thing for too long. I start something, stop it, start something new and eventually get back to the first thing I had started. (Similar ideas to what Pensky wrote about in the ‘What About Attention Spans?’ section of his article.) However, I was usually able to grasp the information given in class and normally got my assignments correct and completed on time. Did I drive my teachers crazy with my constant moving around and doodling on homework papers? Probably. Would I have learned more and retained information better if I would have focused more? Maybe. If someone would have told me that if I would just sit and listen I might have an easier time with school would I have listened? No way.

So is it the teachers job to crack the whip and force all students to be little robots or create lesson plans that are so technologically advanced that a child cannot look away for fear of missing something exciting? I don’t think either one would work. There needs to be some middle zone that is attainable for both the teachers and students.

When referring to students (or adults) that are said to have no attention span, the author writes “Their attention spans are not short for games, for example, or for anything else that actually interests them.” (Pensky) The author then goes on to say, “It generally isn’t that Digital Natives can’t pay attention, it’s that they choose not to.” At first I agreed 100% with this statement, then I thought more about it and decided that I could see both sides. I think that if I was super interested in math, yes, I’d love to take classes on it, read about famous mathematicians and enjoy solving math related problems. I hate math. I’ve never been good at it and avoid it any way I can. But when math is presented to me in a way that I am able to understand, I have a lot less resistance to it. I think sometimes teachers expect their students to grasp a new concept without teaching to all the learning styles. This does not mean that kids today have a shorter attention span. I think students sitting in classrooms 100 years ago felt the same way when there was a subject that was difficult to comprehend.

I thought the portion of the article that referred to reflection was very interesting. I agreed with the portion when the author talked about how we need to reflect on our experiences in order to make decisions and learn. In Prensky’s words, “our twitch-speed world” is one of the biggest challenges for our students. A teacher may read a passage then ask the class to think about what they just heard and then reflect on the ideas making conclusions (what will happen next, why do you think that happened, what would happen in____ had not happened...) When a teacher expects a student to make these conclusions, the students have difficulties doing so because they are so used to getting information instantly, they are not sure how to reflect, to sit and just think the information over.

I think that students have changed, maybe not “fundamentally” but they are different. I think I’m different than I was in high school. I’m still just as distracted. Since I began writing this paper, I’ve checked my e-mail, posted on Facebook, changed my Pandora station (and thumbs upped and down songs), started my Roomba, chatted via Whatsapp to a friend in Germany, sent text messages, talked on the phone, among many other “distractions”. Does this mean my brain is different from my ancestors or my students? Since technology is forever changing and becoming more accessible to our everyday lives, will my students have even more distractions they will have to deal with? Probably. I think it comes down to teaching students the importance of priorities and how to learn. Teaching them that things are not always easy and do not always come instantly, but instead take time, hard work and diligence. I’m still trying to learn this myself.

I see several similarities in my current students when compared to myself in school. I did not notice it at first when I started working in a classroom. My students are talkative, goofy, stubborn, and would prefer it if Math were to disappear off the face of the earth. Pretty typical. It has become abundantly clear that my students ARE capable of being quiet, following directions, and being engaged in a task. Turns out, they love the computer more than me. I don’t take it personally when they can’t WAIT for a discussion to be over so they can hop on the computer and do a SuccessMaker or Academic Skill Builder activity. I can’t pretend that I was any different; I used to be excited to play on the computer when I was younger. Granted, the computer took up the entire space of a desk, it was a black screen and had giant green pixels, and all I knew how to play was Tetris or the really, really, really old version of Oregon Trail. Oh, and the computer was at my house. Fast forward 15 years, there is an abundant availability of computers and new version of Oregon Trail.
One of the clearest differences between ‘my generation’ of students and current students is their lack of engagement with materials such as books, writing, and listening. The students are capable of utilizing these. What is difficult is that the students are not absorbing it. The students I currently have seem to be ‘putting up’ with the reading, discussion or activity we are doing so they can get to what they really want: their computer time.
While reflectin on the comparison of current students to myself, a few of Marc Prensky’s thoughts came to mind. First and foremost; “[our current students] are used to the instantaneity of hypertext, downloaded music, phones in their pockets, a library on their laptops, beamed messages and instant messaging. They’ve been networked most or all of their lives. They have little patience for lectures, step-by-step log, and “tell-test” instruction” (Prensky, 2001 p.3). The students in our classrooms today are ‘wired’ differently than the students from 15 years ago. I have only been in the school profession for five years and I have seen the shift; libraries become computer labs. Voicemails become emails. Laptops have even become iPads. There is such an incredible shift! The students are ready for it- but are the educators?

I agree with Prensky’s idea that student thinking (and therefore learning) has changed. Prensky presents his idea with the concrete explanation that kids are affected when ‘they have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all other toys and tools of the digital age” (Prensky, 2001, p.1). When the students are ‘conditioned’ to take in information differently their entire lives, this learning style is generalized into the classroom as well. Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, Part II starts with a quote by Dr. Bruce D. Berry; “Different kinds of experiences lead to different brain structures” (2001). This quote supports Prensky’s presented idea that students learn differently now than they did before the stimulation of technology. The experiences of ‘my generation’ are different than the experiences of ‘digital natives’.
A few thoughts that are presented by Prensky were not easily swallowed. I think his statement that ‘Digital Immigrants think learning can’t (or shouldn’t) be fun” (Prensky, 2001, p. 3) is a strong generalization. Granted, Prensky does explain that there is a stronger “accent” in some than others. I still think that many of the teachers who feel learning can’t or shouldn’t be fun have long since put their wrist-slapping rulers away and retired. I understand that Prensky cannot speak for individual teachers and has to generalize for the sake of his argument. This past month alone I have met teachers that are a year away from retiring that utilize technology more often than me. I have also met the teachers that refuse to check emails or even submit grades online because “that’s not what they’re being paid to do”.
Prensky’s argument opens the eyes of the stubborn to see that students have not been the only ones to change. The culture of the students has changed, and Digital Natives are a product of it.

Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital natives digital immigrants. On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol 9 No. 5, December 2001).
Prensky, Marc. (2001). Digital natives digital immigrants part II: Do they really think differently?. On the Horizon (NCB University Press, Vol 9 No. 6, December 2001).

Throughout human history, there has never been a shortage of life changing events that altered the course of human history and left a lasting impression on the generations to come. Technology is no different from the life altering events of the past – it has changed the way we live, forever. However, all of that being said, there are certain aspects of our culture and our lives that no life changing event will alter. There are certain universal hungers that all of us have. From the moment of our creation we are in need of the basics, food, water, shelter etc. In addition to these there are other hungers that run even deeper in the human heart that will also never change…. The hunger to love and be loved – the desire to experience the genuine and the authentic in our relationships and in the lives we live - the need for safety, comfort, community, belonging and purpose. Every child has these universal hungers, and so does every 95 year old. I believe these universal hungers will remain constant through every life changing event in past and future history. In these powerful desires, the students of today are the same as the students from the 90s, the 80s, the 70s, the 60s etc. etc.

Now, all of that being said – there are also just as many ways that the students of today are different from the students of just 15 years ago. Technology has changed the way we communicate, the way we interact, the way relationships end and begin. Technology has changed the world forever. Now, unlike any other time in history – virtually all history, facts, and knowledge can be attained, NOT EVEN AT THE TOUCH OF A BUTTON – but rather at the sound of a voice. Technology has made more information available to more people than ever in human history. The scary thing to think about is…. look at how far we have come, and the internet really only become available to consumer with the last 15 years!

I do believe technology has the ability to improve the quality of life for people, however I do disagree with Prensky on one aspect of the role of technology in our classrooms. Please bear in mind that what I about to share is completely and totally opinion: Technology should absolutely become a part of the educational system – however, so too, should the training/teaching of certain ethics of technology. I worry that screens have replaced face to face conversations. Emoticons have replaced human emotions! I would wonder how many people have been “broken up with” over text or in an email or even worse, a face book post? I wonder how many people have apologized to someone for something hurtful over social media. One might argue what difference this makes…. It is simple, there is no risk in conveying an emotion or thought over social media. Along those same lines I worry that because technology is so INSTANT and RIGHT NOW and quick that our students are losing the experience and life skill that discipline brings to a person’s life. Before the wide availability of the internet students would spend countless hours researching from textbooks, and journals. Let me be clear, I did this – it sucked. I would much rather look something up online than in books. But I KNOW that I am grateful for the discipline and patients that those long research projects taught – these are life skills that I have been able to apply to my relationship and area of my life that are not always “a quick fix.”

Are there technology ethics/manners that we need to be aware of??? What do you think?