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To Teach in 2012....!



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 September 12, 2012.



The article makes some valid arguments for the use of technology in the classroom, but my biggest issue with this piece is it is an opinion piece. He uses statistics like, Today‟s average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (not to mention 20,000 hours watching TV).” , but cites no source for his information. He cites no imperial studies on the topic or other he hold a similar belief. I am all about changing and adapting education to meet the needs of changing learners but historically these dramatic changes have been made with little or no research to demonstrate the effectiveness of the new changes. I am all about data driven research and data based change. I am saddened by the many failures that have come through education because they are implemented before they have been tested. Are we as educators really that removed or different form our students, we are all humans seeking for meaning and truth.

When I first started reading the "Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants" article, I agreed with the author that there is in fact a generation of learners who have grown up using technology on a daily basis, and a generation of people learning to use technology at all. Mark Prensky makes a good point that the Digital Natives generation is characterized by a completely new brain structure resulting from years of technology use, so they are inherently able to navigate new technological devices with ease.
Prensky presents a significant difference between students today and 30 years ago, which is a brain structure that has been changed due to technology usage. In that respect, students today are different in their ability to navigate unfamiliar devices and interfaces with ease, as a result of their familiarity with technology in general. When I reflected on my own experience in school compared to students today, I realized that education has become somewhat “gimmicky.” By that I mean that students today are impressed and motivated by teachers who use technology to teach, while students when I was in school were motivated by more simple games and reward systems. Prensky put it well when he said that digital immigrant students are “used to the instantaneity” of technology and the gratification it can produce. As teachers, we have to be prepared for that and create lessons that will mimic instantaneous learning.
What seems to remain constant among students is their response to interactive activities and praise. The manner in which those two entities are imparted doesn’t seem to matter, but students in my experience consistently respond well to them, whether they are pen and paper games and notes, or digital games and typed comments.

Writing from the perspective of a digital immigrant, Prensky makes some excellent points in his article concerning educators and the ways they educate their students. Prensky recognizes the great divide between the Digital Natives and the Digital Immigrants. Writing this article in 2001, Prensky recognized the influence of technology on the k-college generation, also known as the generation-D (for digital). Generation-D “have spent their entire lives surrounded by and using computers, videogames, digital music players, video cams, cell phones, and all the other toys and tools of the digital age.” Instead of bashing the tech generation on their desire for instant gratification, Prensky has embraced a new motto: the Nike motto, “Just Do it!” Recognizing the differences of learning, and the expectations between the teachers and the generation-D pupils, Prensky boldly admits that he and other, “digital instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely different language.” In an effort to close the tech language gap, Prensky argues that educators must abandon their comfort zone in an effort to engage, reach and teach to the tech generation. According to Prensky, “there is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokémon characters with all their characterizes, history and evolution can’t learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world. It just depends on how it is presented.” The intellect of the tech generation is not in question; rather Prensky challenges educators to teach outside of their comfort zone in an effort to speak the language of their pupils. Though their accent may be thick, little by little an educator can become more fluent in their students’ tech language. What might this cost an educator? It might cost a 25-year veteran teacher to toss out their lesson plans (the same ones they have been using for 25 years) and revamp while simultaneously updating their content with infused technology. Though this may be uncomfortable and at times painful to many tenured educators, I agree with Prensky that it is a necessary step educators must take to insure that each student is receiving the very best education that each teacher can provide them.

Prensky states that, “a really big discontinuity or “singularity” has taken place with the arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technologies in the last decades of the 20th century.” The continued growth and accessibility of digital technology since the article was written in 2001, validates Prensky’s argument that there is no going back to the old ways. Some of Prensky’s statements are extremely opinion-based, and bring to mind the pedagogical bandwagons that have resulted in failure due to a lack of research. However I do believe that many of his conclusions would be proved valid, if actual studies were conducted to test his theories. Possibly, eleven years later, now there is empirical data that supports Prensky’s argument. I am curious to find out if that is the case.
I agree with Prensky’s argument that this generation of “digital natives” thinks and processes information differently than that of their “digital immigrant” predecessors, and that teaching methods need to be adjusted accordingly. I do not think that teachers need to reinvent the wheel, or start from scratch. Digital technology can be integrated into pre-existing curriculum in such a way that it engages learners in the material and makes instruction more effective. How is this going to happen? I don’t think that it is fair or realistic to expect the older generations of “digital immigrants” to innovate curricula to include technology in effective ways. In general, these educators simply do not have the life experiences to support this train of thought, without assistance from the younger “digital native” generation which has grown up surrounded by technology, and has a deep understanding of how technology is now embedded in our culture and our intelligence.
The current generation of emerging educators, like me, who grew up in the digital world but can also somewhat relate to the old ways of teaching and thinking, will be the catalyst for effectively integrating technology into preexisting curricula. The life experiences of these first “digital natives” are unique from any past or future generation. This generation is proficient in utilizing digital technology, yet can still remember what it was like before every classroom had a computer, and each child a cell phone. In my opinion these emerging educators are in the prime position to connect with experienced educators to, as Prensky says, “learn new ways to do the old stuff”.
I believe that we are at a crossroads, or turning point in education. Nobody can deny the fact that digital technology is a major part of our culture, and that it is has a dramatic effect on the way the digital generation processes information. Nobody can reasonably expect educators to start from scratch after a lifetime of experience teaching the “old school” way. Realistically, we cannot expect all “digital immigrant” educators to put in the amount unpaid time and effort that it would take to learn how to use technology as proficiently as their “digital native” students.
BUT…If emerging educators who are “digital natives” are willing to step up to the plate, create, and innovate accessible and effective ways to integrate digital technology into preexisting methods of teaching, I think that the experienced “digital immigrant” educators would be willing to meet us half way.