Well color me surprised. When I first started my journey into EdTech in 2009, I heard the term digital native, read Prensky, and believed the hype. How many times have professors and bloggers, and researchers written that students today are different? But after reading McKenzie (2007) and Reeves (2008), I am beginning to wonder what the truth really is? Are students today really different or are by incorporating so much technology into our teaching, are we accommodating a habit that may not necessarily be good for students?
I think the answer lies somewhere in between. Times change, culture changes, and as educators we slowly adapt with the culture. Engaging students in learning is not new. As McKenzie (2007) points out, educators such as Dewey have been promoting this for almost a century. The thing that is new is that technology is now the thing that captures students’ engagement!
But if we rely on computers to do our teaching, we are doing a grave disservice to our students. Students need strong teachers to guide them in developing critical thinking, problem solving, and literacy skills. Just by having access to technology does not mean students are automatically literate in all technology applications. As Oblinger & Oblinger wrote (2005), “there is also evidence that their information literacy, especially with respect to judging the quality of information obtained on the Internet through search engines such as Google, is unacceptably weak” (as quoted in Reeves, 2008, p.11).
In addition, students need face time. The article by Reeves pointed out a book by developmental psychologist Jane Healey arguing that learning requires social interaction. Healey (1998) worried that too much screen time stifles intellectual curiosity and the development of abstract reasoning.
As teachers in the 21st century, I agree that it is important to note how different our students are from ourselves at that age. But the differences lie in their interests, not how they learn, the skills they need or the need for teachers that will guide them to success.
Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved fromhttp://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 fromhttp://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://it.coe.uga.edu/itforum/Paper104/ReevesITForumJan08.pdf