Response to Instructor Blog

For this blog entry in Edtech 597 I need to shift away from the photoblog theme and back into the edtech world and respond to a prompt located on the instructors blog: As educational technologists, what did you take away from these generational differences readings? How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?

I addressed this topic in week two of this course stating that I did agree that the concept of separating people into digital natives and digital immigrants based on when they were born made sense.  I still believe in this notion with some caveats. To date there is no research supporting the claim that students brains are rewired because of their exposure to digital technology but it has been my experience that meeting students on their “home playing field” can increase engagement, relevance and subsequently motivation and impact. It has also been my experience that taking a digital or technology based approach is no guarantee for success. Students will quickly loose interest when they see that there is no sound educational or pedagogical advantage to the chosen technological strategy.

I do not buy into the notion that students are better multi-taskers just because that is what they tend to do. Again, from my experience as a Language Arts teacher I have seen a general shift away from fluid, focused multi-paragraph writing to choppy, disjointed compositions due, in my opinion, to the constant distractions students suffer when trying to multitask during the completion of the assignment. After each interruption of thought, students are forced to try and refocus, resulting in a lack of flow.

To me the real appeal of the Prensky article, and others like it, is the discussion they generate. Some contentions are not fact, however they do stimulate thought and for those of us who do firmly believe in the value of technology integration into curriculum and as a warning to colleagues new to technology, it is a reminder that in order for technology to be truly beneficial in the classroom, it must be implemented using sound pedagogical reasoning.

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8 thoughts on “Response to Instructor Blog

  1. Actually Barry, the research does say that this generation of students are better multitaskers than you and I. It also says that this generation of students – like us for that matter – still retain more and learn quicker if we focus on one task at a time.

    For me, Prensky’s piece becomes the bane of my existence. It is what some have taken to calling a convenient untruth (like learning styles). Something which research has shown doesn’t exist, but because it generally matches up with people own personal observations they believe it to be true.

  2. Hi Barry – I read once (I don’t remember where, unfortunately) that multitasking is actually impossible. Instead, people who say they can “multitask” really are just switching their focus quickly from one thing to another. Not surprisingly, this actually results in a decrease of productivity for most people. I think younger people are able to do this better than most, but when instructing my students I still make them focus on one thing at a time. I think they like to think that they are “great multitaskers” and sometimes feel like the more things they can do simultaneously, the better off they are. However, teaching them the technique of focusing on one thing at a time is incredibly valuable and will help them in the future.

    • I agree Jamie. It is interesting when you also consider the concept of multidisciplinary or cross curricular learning. Combining disciplines in curriculum creates real world relevance and personally I think it is a great approach, but it also makes you think about whether or not it is the optimum strategy for learning course specific concepts when students are trying to focus on too many concepts at once.

      -Barry

  3. I think a big culprit of the students writing in a choppy manner is that they are used to writing in texts, on facebook, and twitter. The only exposure they get to writing in a fluid manner is at school and usually their cell phone is going off there too.

  4. Barry,
    I know that our students cannot write a fluid sentence either. I have received “term papers” with texting shorthand. This is after I tell them that I will deduct points for texting shorthand. Many of the students do not spell check their papers either. I get many typos and many mispelled words like angles for angels. Dictionaries are foreign to them as well. At times these papers are hard to read because punctuation is not used or the comma is overused. I had a paper that had a two-page run-on-sentence. Very painful reading!

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