Are students different?

April 29, 2013 | | Comments Off on Are students different?

Dr. Cory Steiner, the ND K12 Data Steward, has a great post today reflecting on the statement “Are students different?”.

As you might know, I do believe that kids are different today.  They have grown up in an environment where they have access to information almost immediately and can communicate with others on demand.  My own children speak to their grandparents more in a week on their cellphones than I did in a year and regularly interact with distant relatives on Facebook.  They have learned to think critically through immersive digital worlds that interest and challenge them far better than our old Atari game systems ever could. They instantly end arguments by Googling the correct answer on their smart phone and use the same smart phone to engage in anytime, anywhere access to their personal interests. Their connectivity allows immersion into personal interests and learning at levels never before possible.

I believe that we, as educators, have a decision to make.  We can continue to view these changes as bad/negative and continue to have students memorize facts while sitting in classrooms that are disconnected from the reality of the world they have grown up experiencing.  Or we can move to meet them closer to the reality of their life by making sure they have access to connected devices everyday, in every class and teachers willing to change their instructional practice to support the new learning environment. WHAT we teach (standards, Common Core, etc) does not change, but we should change HOW we teach to foster student engagement and develop critical thinking skills, collaboration and creativity in students.

We need to help students become digitally literate so they can effectively function and be productive in either career or college. They need to learn how to evaluate information and media for accuracy and validity. They need to be mentored to safely and effectively collaborate using digital tools.  These are just a few of the new items that will expand the definition of “literate” in the 21st Century.

As Cory so precisely noted, we need to stop blaming students for being different.  We have to stop asking “is it good or is it bad?” and just accept that “it is”. The world is different, the kids are different and we need to embrace the new realities and make the changes to our education system that our kids need for the future.



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