digital natives - counterpoint
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Presented by Jessica Nikula for EDES 545January 2009
Do digital natives require new and different teaching strategies for them to be successful, engaged learners?No!(At least thats what Ill be arguing this week. )
So what is a digital native anyway?According to Prensky (2001), these are students K through college [who] represent the first generations to grow up with [digital] technology.These young people 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. (Prensky, 2001)
It is generally believed that because these young people have been immersed in technology, they require new and different teaching strategies in order for them to be successful, engaged learners. Frand; Oblinger & Oblinger; Prensky; and Tapscott (as cited in Bennett, Maton and Kervin 2008) believe that they are active and experiential learners, proficient in multitasking, and dependent on communications technologies for accessing information and for interacting with others.
There is a growing perception amongst many educators that because todays students are able to successfully multitask, such as text messaging, listening to music, and working on the computer, that they must therefore process information differently. 2. Furthermore, Prensky argues that digital natives are accustomed to learning at high speed, making random connections, processing visual and dynamic information and learning through game-based activities (as cited in Bennett, Maton and Kervin 2008).
Why do we believe that todays learners need new and different teaching strategies in order to be engaged?
How is todays multi-tasking different from the multitasking that we once did before the arrival of the digital age?I can clearly remember, as a teenager, sitting at the kitchen table in a strategic spot where I had the television in full view, trying to do my homework, and if a friend phoned, talking on the phone at the same time. I remember thinking that if I wasnt trying to watch TV and do homework, I would have probably a) finished my homework a lot sooner, and b) also had a better understanding of the material.
From personal experience, I believe that when we are multitasking, we are not doing any of the tasks particularly well. Rubinstein, Meyer and Evans (2001), and Sweller (1988) suggest that it may not be as beneficial as it appears, and can result in a loss of concentration and cognitive overload as the brain shifts between competing stimuli (as cited in Bennett, Maton and Kervin 2008).
What about the gaming argument?As you may have read in my blog post, I am not a gamer, nor have I played a computer game since Pacman and Donkey Kong came out when I was a teenager. But I have made some observations in my schools library about who the majority of gamers are, and I can safely say that this is a predominately male past time, and that there are students who dont enjoy playing games because everything happens too fast for them.
Furthermore, there is no clear evidence that the interactivity prevalent in most recreational computer games is applicable to learning (Bennett, Maton and Kervin 2008). I would agree that computer games are popular amongst students, in particular males, but this doesnt necessarily mean that we are going to be able to take the high levels of interest and enthusiasm experienced by many gamers and use it to motivate them to learn (Bennett, Maton and Kervin 2008).
A few more points to consider . . . Bennett, Maton and Kervin (2008) argue that:Generalisations about the ways in which digital natives learn also fail to recognise cognitive differences in young people of different ages and variation with age groups. Also, it seems to be unlikely that there might be a particular learning style or set of learning preferences characteristic of a generation of young people. Learning style theories (which we have learned so much about in past years), such as Howard Gardners multiple intelligences, suggest that students have different ways of learning, and different ways that they like learning.
Traditional teaching styles that incorporate lectures, and discussions, allow for both teacher-centered and student-centered situations in todays classrooms.
I believe that it is not new and different teaching strategies that will engage our learners, rather it is engaging teachers who help to develop classroom environments conducive to successful learners.
Lectures teacher centeredLectures are probably the best teaching method in many circumstances and for many students; especially for communicating conceptual knowledge, and where there is a significant knowledge gap between lecturer and audience (Charlton, 2006).present large amounts of information at one time.convey what information they want students to know.organize the lecture to specifically meet the needs of the class. share their enthusiasm for the topic, which will unavoidably affect students with respect to the content.ensure a non-threatening environment for students.
There are numerous advantages to lecturing. Teachers can:
According to Sweeder (2008-09) and Charlton (2006), there are many positive aspects of lectures in that they are:
Synchronous Spontaneous Adaptable Nonlinear Unpredictable
[L]ectures still serve as effective ways to not only engage learners, but also to develop positive relationships with students by tapping into their various emotional and cognitive intelligences; attending to unanticipated student concerns in a timely manner; seasoning lectures with timely questions to keep students active and attentive; and creating positive, academic, democratic , and supportive group environments where students listen to [teachers] as well as one another (Sweeder, 2008-09).
Engaging LecturesWhen we think of lectures, many of us will think back to our high school and university experiences, and possibly cringe at the memory. However, with the advances in technology, lectures no longer need to revolve solely around using the chalkboard and the overhead projector. We can choose to spice up our lectures using some simple techniques:
Create an [i]nclusive, engaging, enthusiastic and encouraging class room climate (Crosling, 2006) Intersperse interesting and relevant audio/visual aids Use humourous anecdotes that will help the learner to connect with the material Bring items that students can touch/feel, smell, taste, handle, etc. (Caution: be sure that all students can be involved.) (Knight, 2006) Ask questions which allow for discussion Tell stories that help to explain or expand upon the material being taught
This 4 minute video from YouTube is a good example of the effectiveness of lecture style teaching combined with discussion.
Lecture + Spice Up Technique = Engaging Class DiscussionIn many cases, if our lectures have been engaging, then a class discussion will evolve naturally. These discussions can begin as a result of students asking questions; however, they can also result from specific, probing questions that teachers ask to start off the discussion.
Discussions student-centeredDiscussions: Allow students to contribute in the direction of the lesson. Allow for all students to participate in an active process.Allow for many different ideas/perspectives to be discussed.Allow for clarification of material taught.Discussion is thought to be a useful teaching technique for developing higher-order thinking skills skills that enable students to interpret, analyze, and manipulate information (Larson, 2000).
Allow students to be engaged.Allow students who are not prepared to learn from others knowledge/ comments (Larson, 2000).Allow for clarification of students thoughts (Larson, 2000).[I]nvolves the exchange or pooling of ideas both amongst students and between students and the instructor (OSullivan, 2008)
Is there enough evidence to support a move for different teaching strategies in order for so called digital natives to be successful, engaged learners?No!
Bennett, Maton and Kervin (2008) believe that [p]roponents arguing that education must change dramatically to cater for the needs of these digital natives have sparked an academic form of moral panic using extreme arguments that have lacked empirical evidence. What do you think?
ReferencesBennett, S., Maton, K., & Kervin, L. (2008). The digital natives debate: A critical review of the evidence. British Journal of Educational Technology. 39 (5) 775 786. Retrieved January 17, 2009 from EBSCOhost database.
Charlton, B. (2006). Lectures are an effective teaching method because they exploit human evolved 'human nature' to improve learning. Medical Hypotheses 2006 (67) 1261-5. Retrieved January 13, 2009, from http://www.hedweb.com/bgcharlton/ed-lect.html
Crosling, G. (2006). Making Lectures Interesting For Your Students. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www.monash.edu.my/adm/Making%20lectures%20interesting.pdf
Knight, A. (2006). LECTURES: Organizing Them and Making Them Interesting. Retrieved January 15, 2009, from http://www.ou.edu/pii/tips/ideas/lectures.html
Larson, B. (July 2000). Classroom discussion: a method of instruction and a curriculum outcome. [Electronic version] Teaching and Teacher Education, 16(5-6), 661-667.
OSullivan, R. (2008). Classroom Discussion in Intermediate Macroeconomics: Does the Use of Interpretative Question Clusters Impact Student Learning? Draft Retrieved January 13, 2009,