By Frances Hersh
 

Marc Prensky has written extensively about educating students in the digital age. 
My remarks today will explain his hypothesis and then show you how I apply his research in my classroom.
Prensky postulates that:
Today's students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.   
Today's students have not just changed incrementally from those of the past, they haven't simply changed their slang, their clothes, or their styles, as has happened between previous generations.
  A really big discontinuity has taken place; an event that changes things so fundamentally that there is absolutely no going back.
  This is the arrival and rapid dissemination of digital technology in the last decades of the 20th century.
 Today's students - K through college - represent the first generation to grow up with this new technology.  They 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. 
 Today's average college grads have spent less than 5,000 hours of their lives reading, but over 10,000 hours playing video games (20,000 hours watching TV).  Computer games, email, the Internet, cell phones and instant messaging are integral parts of their lives.
 It is now clear that as a result of this ubiquitous environment and the sheer volume of their interaction with it, today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors.
 These differences go far further and deeper than most educators suspect or realize. It is very likely that our students' brains have physically changed - and are different from ours - as a result of how they grew up.  But whether or not this is literally true, we can say with certainty that their thinking patterns have changed.
 The designation Marc Prensky has found for these new learners is "Digital Natives".  Our students today are all "native speakers" of the digital language of computers, video games and the Internet. 
 So what does that make the rest of us? Those of us who were not born into the digital world but have, at some later point in our lives, become fascinated by and adopted many or most aspects of the new technology are, and always will be, compared to them; Digital Immigrants.
 The single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language. 
 We must take our cues from our students' behaviors abandoning, in many cases, our own predigital instincts and comfort zones. Teachers must practice putting engagement before content when teaching.
 We need to pay attention to how our students learn, and value and honor what our students know.
 Teachers needn't master all the new technologies. We should continue doing what we do best: leading discussion in the classroom. But we must find ways to incorporate into those discussions the information and knowledge that their students acquire outside class in their digital lives.
 But what all teachers should learn to do is to evaluate our students' uses of the new technologies, and teach our students the important lessons about those technologies.
 Teachers can and should be able to understand and teach where and how new technologies can add value in learning.
 The title of the course I teach at the high school is TV and Video production.  I use some very cool technology.  But the applications and hardware I am using will be obsolete before any of my students can master them.  So what I teach are skills that will not be outdated:  Time, peer and resource management, logic, problem solving and critical thinking.
 My students make videos.  While you watch them, and I am sure you will be entertained by them, I want you to try to keep in mind the workplace and life skills they are learning.
 

 

 
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