Understanding today's students

What do we know about the current generation of students we teach?

Introduction: What is it about this generation we need to know in order to help them better reach their potential in life? Take a moment to view the following presentations about the digital generation.


The research

What does the research tell us?

The assertion is that a young person's mind is moulded and shaped by it's experiences and over a period of time, this would include the brain's ability to wire and rewire itself based on technological influences. Ian Jukes and Anita Dosaj wrote a 67 page handout for a lecture they presented in Singapore in 2006 titled Understanding Digital Children (DKs) – Teaching and Learning in the new Digital Landscape . Here is one quote from this paper.

In fact, based on what we now know from the neurosciences and psychological sciences, what we’re now beginning to understand is that children today are FUNDAMENTALLY different than we are in the way they think, in the way they access, absorb, interpret, process and use information, and in the way they view, interact, and communicate in the modern world because of their experiences with digital technologies. If this is the case, it holds profound implications for all of us personally and professionally.

-- Ian Jukes and Anita Dosaj- pg 15

Jukes and Dosaj also go on to recommend that we use current brain research, in conjunction with psychological research to help us understand more about how the digital landscape our students live in impacts on their brains and minds, so that we can in turn apply this new understanding to classroom practices.

The starting point for us as teachers is to understand how truly differently digital kids think and learn from the way we think and learn - how differently they view and interact with information = how different their communications preferences are - and use this understanding to figure out what we can do to differently to take advantage of their digital preferences by modifying what we teach and how we teach it

-- Ian Jukes and Anita Dosaj- pg 32

Both Jukes and Presnky have asserted that this next generation of learners are fundamentally different from those who teach them. Without getting into the digital natives vs immigrants argument, Jukes does bring up some relevant differences and generalisations we possibly can't ignore. For example in summarizing the real digital divide…

  1. Native learners prefer receiving info quickly from multiple multimedia sources while many teachers prefer slow and controlled release of info from limited sources.
  2. Native learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking while many teachers prefer singular processing and single/limited-tasking.
  3. Native learners prefer processing pictures, sounds and video before text while many teachers prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds and video.
  4. Native learners prefer random access to hyperlinked, interactive, multimedia information while many teachers prefer to provide information linearly, logically and sequentially
  5. Native learners prefer to interact/network simultaneously with many others
  6. Native learners move seamlessly between real and virtual spaces instantaneously - virtual space is any location where people can meet using networked digital devices – chat rooms, blogs, wikis, podcasts, email, discussion threads that come and go – synchronous and asynchronous and with multitasking, can inhabit more than one virtual space at a time – while many teachers prefer to operate in real spaces.
  7. Many teachers prefer students to work independently rather than network and interact.
  8. Native learners prefer to learn “just-in-time” while many teachers prefer to teach “just-in-case” (it’s on the exam).
  9. Native learners want instant access to friends, services, and responses to questions, instant gratification and instant rewards while many teachers prefer deferred gratification and deferred rewards.
  10. Native learners prefer learning that is relevant, instantly useful and fun while many teachers prefer to teach to the curriculum guide and standardized tests.
Taken directly from Understanding Digital Children (DKs) – Teaching and Learning in the new Digital Landscape (Pg37)

The vision of the New Zealand Curriculum aspires that, "Young people will be confident, connected, actively involved, life-long learners", so what might a 21st Century Learner could look like?



21st Century Learner

With the 21st Century learner in mind, where to from here? Jukes asks some critical questions, some of which ask,

* What implications does this research on the brain, the mind and learning hold for schools?
* More personally, what implications does this research hold for how teachers do their job?
* What will students need to know and do to be able to function in the coming ages?
* What will it mean to be educated in the 21st Century?
* Does this research have any implications for teachers’ roles in addressing the learning and communications preferences of digital children?

Students and digital technology

Introduction: The fertile questions above may serve as a catalyst for further discussion amongst your own learning communities as you disseminate what it is to be a 21st Century learner in a technology rich society. For more on our students in a digital age, go to http://pwoessner.wikispaces.com/Citizenship+in+the+Digital+Age

Suggestion: As a follow on from that, watch the following video and consider how many of the technologies profiled are accessed and used in classroom learning contexts in your school. What are the possible implications of this? As well as viewing the video, read the following article on how Internet addiction is rife among US students.



Reflection: What are the potential benefits and detrimental effects of such technologies on our young people? Leave a message in the DISCUSSION tab above (which will appear in the thread below).

Subject Author Replies Views Last Message
being careful with global labels louis_h louis_h 8 452 May 27, 2010 by suzievesper suzievesper
Different brains davein2it davein2it 3 316 May 18, 2010 by sansam sansam
Nicely done front page! abendelow abendelow 1 239 May 5, 2010 by tessagray tessagray

Additional resources to consider

Fostering digital citizenship

Educational Origami - Understanding digital children - Ian Jukes

What makes a good learner?
Student Self Directed Learning

Cybersummit on 21st Century Skills

Skill set for the 21st Century - Digital Literacy

New Zealand Curriuclum Online

Mindmap ideas adapted from The 21st Century Learner (21st Century Skills) and The New Zealand Curriculum