This week’s prompt regarding digital natives and generational differences in learning has forced many an edit on this blog post – many an edit!
On the one hand, I don’t buy into the assertion that modern students (“digital natives” – those raised with technology) absolutely need to have instruction altered to accommodate their learning needs, as Marc Prenzky almost demands in this article. After all, learning styles is a thing of the past. On the other hand, I am a fan of modernizing the curriculum and keeping lessons realistic – it’s best practice in my field. So if having my students format written responses as emails rather than traditional essays means I’m speaking the language of my digitally native crowd, then pat me on the back. However, though I might alter the format of an assignment, the essence of what I want learners to demonstrate is still there (in this case, communicative reporting in the formal German voice), and sometimes I get the added bonus of a modern, relevant skill (here: writing and formatting an email in German).
Also, when utilizing technology in my lessons, it’s not the focus; it’s just the most convenient medium by which to convey the lesson. For instance, though I often present beginner-level German learners with crazy comprehensible-input based stories via PowerPoint slides, these stories are based in the centuries-old tradition of storytelling and using repetition for learning, not technology. And though I may introduce myself to new classes via a creative Animoto video, the technology isn’t the focus, it’s just the means to an end (an entertaining hook to begin the new school year) that has the added bonus of adding a bit of pizzazz to the lesson.
So I suppose you could say that I am amenable to keeping my students engaged and motivated to learn by allowing them to practice skills in meaningful, interesting contexts. Technology is sometimes a great channel by which to do this, sometimes not. Therefore, on the whole, I don’t believe teachers or instructional designers must bend over backwards or jump on the techie bandwagon to design tech-laden instruction and accommodate today’s plugged-in generation of learners. Creating video game after video game to motivate digital natives to learn – a practice Prensky (2001) practically elevates to cult status – doesn’t always apply (in fact, many of his suggestions are delusional according to Jamie Mackenzie who published this post in refute of Prensky’s bogus claims).
If instruction engages learners by giving them opportunities to explore, debate, discuss, examine, defend, and experiment (moving all around Bloom’s taxonomy tonight!) with the concepts and skills they are learning, then we teachers have done our jobs and helped our digital natives emerge from their narcissistic cesspools to truly experience and learn from the world around them – using technology as the carrot or not.
Gray, P. (2014). Why is narcissism increasing among young Americans? Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/freedom-learn/201401/why-is-narcissism-increasing-among-young-americans
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
[No author]. No evidence to back learning styles (2017). The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/mar/12/no-evidence-to-back-idea-of-learning-styles
[No author]. What is comprehensible input? Teacher Vision. Retrieved from https://www.teachervision.com/learning-disabilities-month/what-comprehensible-input
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf