This week, I was asked to read the following articles that discuss generational differences and the idea of Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants. You can find the articles here:
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
McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from http://fno.org/nov07/nativism.html
Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at http://paeaonline.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/10c-Gen-Diff-Matter.pdf
The question I aim to answer in this post is this one: "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?"
The readings were very engaging. It was very interesting to read Prensky's work and then read a direct rebuttal by Reeves. The Reeves paper proved to be very academic and helped paint a very thorough picture of the differences between the different generations of learners.
I come to my own personal analysis of the readings with the perspective of someone who only recently (2013-now) began to truly integrate technology into my classrooms. I, indeed, have grown up in the generation that was exposed to many new technologies, such as the Internet and mobile devices, but that didn't really impact my decision to integrate technology. Just because I use the Internet daily and have had a mobile phone since I went to college in 2005, doesn't equate to being able to effectively integrate technology tools into my classrooms. It still took quite a bit of learning and I continued my development as a technology integration teacher because I began to find tools that truly transformed the learning in my classroom.
Pensky did seem to paint the portrait that Digital Natives could just snap their fingers and turn curriculum into video games. However Reeves, while clearly being more researched and prepared to respond to Pensky's work, does come off as someone who isn't as open to change and will spend more time coming up with such a passionate rebuttable than actually looking for any possible truth in Pensky's observations of the changing educational landscape.
I have witnessed these types of interactions before in planning and staff meetings. Change is always hard and comes with a bit of anxiety. The interactions between the two articles really reminded me of teachers going back in forth in meetings on many different topics all rooted in the ever present debate of "what has always been done" versus "what is the next best thing". Both sides of this argument always have amazing points backed with passion. Unfortunately, and I am speaking from only my personal experience, those meetings often result in very little change. So what is to be done?
I recently came across a quote from Rumi that says "Somewhere beyond right and wrong, there is a garden, I will meet you there.". This quote just nails it in my opinion. I have learned that balance in teaching is absolutely necessary. Whether the debate is direct vs. inquiry-based learning, standards vs. no-standards, phonics vs. whole language, technology integration vs. no technology, I just feel that the key to everything is finding the right balance for each institution, school, or teacher. To me, finding a balance means looking at each "side" with both a critical eye and an open mindset to find what is truly best for children. Koehler and Mischra created the TPACK framework to extend the tradition of research and scholarship by bringing technology integration into the kinds of knowledge that teachers need to consider when teaching. They write "each situation presented to teachers is a unique combination of these three factors, and accordingly, there is no single technological solution that applies for every teacher, every course, or every view of teaching. Rather, solutions lie in the ability of a teacher to flexibly navigate the spaces defined by the three elements of content, pedagogy, and technology and the complex interactions among these elements in specific contexts". I appreciate and connect to the part about "flexibility to navigate the spaces". There are so many spaces and situations teachers have to navigate throughout in a teaching day or even a career, and I have found that finding a flexible balance is the key to finding an effective intersection of teaching and technology.
So what would I tell a colleague that buys into the idea of generational differences and Digital Natives vs. Digital Immigrants? I would tell them great teachers are open to new ideas and possibilities. I truly feel that if teachers are properly trained by actual educators who are using technology tools effectively, that their mindset would open to the new possibilities technology integration holds. However, you cannot just drop off the new hot technology and expect all teachers to make magic with it! Teachers need time to explore, tinker, and collaborate with tools before they can integrate them into their teaching effectively. Those were the things I needed on my own personal journey and it what I strive to provide to teachers I work with every day.
Koehler, M. J., & Mishra, P. (2009). What is technological pedagogical content knowledge? Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 9(1), 60-70.
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