Sunday, March 1, 2009

Adopt and Adapt: Implications for teaching & learningImplications for teaching & learning

Obviously I’m an ignorant 21st century immigrant, but Prensky once again makes assertions that I find not only annoying, but make me wonder what his vision is for "Edutopia."

Catchy phrase, but on what grounds does Mr Prensky base all of his assertions about digital natives?

I agree with what many bright “connected” educators have to say about the “myth of digital natives” (read this commentary—as well as one by Chrissy Hellyer who led me to the connection!) However, I’ve not had any hard data on which to base my own thinking.

Now, having a couple 20 something digital natives live with us for several months, I wonder what data Prensky has to make these sweeping generalizations. These digital natives grew up in an economically advantaged situation, attending private schools and universities while having all the latest in technology at their finger tips. They are both very “connected” via technology, but not much more than me, the digital geezer?

Interestingly enough, there are some ways that they prefer to do “old things in the old way” that I would never even consider. For example, they both write their blogs out by hand before revising and posting. Here I am, the digital dinosaur, who hasn’t written anything by hand in many years. But Prensky says that we digital immigrants are the problem, the barrier to effective use of technology in the educational setting. Hmmm. . . . are we dialoguing with ALL kids and getting their input as to how these tools might help them learn or are we purposely creating a divide between "us" and "them"?

Implications for teaching and learning

How about Prensky's statement that today’s students request to have email and instant messaging . . . “that they NEED things faster than their teachers.” Like the digital natives, we are all expecting faster turn around time. But like us digital dinosaurs, the digital natives are questioning their “addictions” to some of these tools. For example, there are many digital natives giving up “facebook” for lent right this minute, as they think it is disruptive to their focus and studies. Interesting—what would Mr. Prensky have to say about that one?

What kind of learning does he value?

“I bet they would complete the “standard” curriculum in half the time it now takes.” So, Mr. Prensky believes the curriculum is about “getting through” or “coverage” rather than thinking and building understanding? I guess us dinosaurs just think more slowly (I do think my mind has been Googlized) than the digital natives or is it perhaps that Prensky prefers doing things fast to doing things well?

The New World of Work and the Seven Survival Skills (Wagner)

There are many futurists attempting to predict what kids will need for the unknowable future. For example, here is Tim Wagner’s list from The Global Achievement Gap:

1. Critical Thinking and Problem Solving
2. Collaboration Across Networks and Leading by Influence
3. Agility and Adaptability
4. Initiative and Entrepreneurialism
5. Effective Oral and Written Communication
6. Accessing and Analyzing Information
7. Curiosity and Imagination

Shouldn’t we educators be thinking of how we’re going to adopt and adapt our current paradigms in order to embed these key needed skills in meaningful, authentic learning, while simultaneously tapping into the appropriate (and often engaging) tools available?

Horizon Report

For that very reason, I think this report is informative and at the same time looking for solutions for the future that simultaneously recognize how kids are meeting their social needs of connection. For example, in the conclusion they state, “educational program could be positioned to step in and support moments when youth are motivated to move from friendship-driven to more interest-driven forms of new media use.” They are recognizing where kids are, but looking for specific ideas where educators can tap into for learning.

The report also recognizes that the focus should be about learning when they suggestion “kids and adults should first be on the same page on the normative questions of learning and literacy.” What a idea—dialoguing about what we need to learn and why BEFORE we talk tools!

The report also brings up the key issue of getting access to the many disadvantaged kids so this current “social revolution” doesn’t remain accessible only to the “elite.” I would like to read more about this issue so we don’t be come further divided between the haves and the have-nots. Anyone have some suggested reading, connections, thoughts on that one?

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