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Digital Kids

Things parents and teachers should know about this generation of digital kids.

Bethann Wright

on 17 September 2013

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Transcript of Digital Kids

Digital Kids:

What Parents and Teachers should know about this Generation
What is a digital kid?

According to authors Gunter, Gunter, & Shelly's 2010 book, Teachers Discovering Computers, Apple Computers defines a digital kid as: "hypercommunicators who use multiple tools to communicate, multitaskers who do several things at once with ease, and goal oriented as they pursue multiple goals at the same time."
They also state that, "Today's generation is profoundly different from previous generations and these differences need to be understood by teachers if they are to facilitate effective learning for today's digital students."
According to Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown, in their 2011 book, A New Culture of Learning, "In the traditional view of teaching, information is transferred from one person (teacher) to another (student). This presumes that knowledge is worth communicating and doesn't tend to change very much over time. Therein lies the pitfall of the 21st century's educational model--the belief that most of what we know will remain relatively unchanged and will be worth the effort of transferring it."

The Critical Issue:
Kids of this generation are digital They are different from any previous generation. Teachers must know this, embrace it, change their methods, integrate technology, and create lessons to motivate and prepare their students for a 21st century world and workforce.
Sir Ken Robinson, a leading education crusader, states quite well why our current education system does not work:
How are digital kids different from any other generation?

Gunter, Gunter, & Shelly state that, "today's students are essentially different from previous generations in the way they think, absorb, interpret, process, and apply information, and above all, in the way they view, interact, and communicate in this technology-rich and connected world."
Nicholas Carr, in his 2011 book The Shallows: What the Internet is doing to our Brains asserts that, our brains are plastic and our experiences with technology rewire our brains. This is a generation that possess brains that are wired differently than any generation before them. Page 116 of his book states: "It's that the Net delivers precisely the kind of sensory and cognitive stimuli--repetitive, intensive, interactive, addictive--that have been shown to result in strong and rapid alterations in brain circuits and functions. With the exception of alphabets and number systems, the Net may well be the single most powerful mind-altering technology that has ever come into general use. At the very least, it's the most powerful that has come along since the book."
Experts in the field of neuroscience agree with Carr's assertions: the brain is plastic, malleable, and use of technology rewires our brains. Dr. Paul Howard Jones a University of Bristol Professor and researcher speaks to the topic of how digital kids are different from other generations:
How do digital kids want to learn? How are they motivated?

Thomas and Brown state in the New Culture of Learning, students desire to work collaboratively with their peers. This is not a surprise to educators, but it is largely ignored. Students that are able to work together, that share a common interest are extremely motivated. These are known as collectives. Many children participate in collectives during their hours outside of school. It's what they choose to do. When teachers harness the power of the collective and use it in the classroom, students have a vested interest in a project and are able to work with students in their own classroom or across the globe. Digital kids communicate with people all over the world in collectives such as social media, blogs, and massively multiplayer online games. These examples show that digital kids prefer to work with a group of peers of similar interests to complete tasks. This generation is wired to work socially, yet most of the time in school we have students work alone. We are ignoring the way they learn outside of school. Working with peers in a collective creates its own energy and motivation for these digital kids. They feel it is absolutely imperative to stay connected in this digital world.
Thomas and Brown state that finding information is second nature to these kids--the question to them is not what is the information, but where is it. They thrive on searching for information on the Net, and if they cannot find it, they will connect with a friend to help them. Digital kids desire to create when learning. They are deeply invested in a project when creating or making is involved. Play is also a huge component of learning for a digital kid. Page 98 of their book states, "Play provides the opportunity to leap, experiment, fail, and continue to play with different outcomes--in other words to riddle one's way through a mystery." Digital kids thrive on figuring things out.
Here is a digital kid in action:
How will teachers need to change for digital kids?

In an article for the Journal of Digital Learning in Teacher Education, Yun-Jo An and Charles Reigeluth state, "There is little argument that the traditional factory model of education is incompatible with the evolving demands of the information age. The learner-centered model focuses on developing real life skills, such as collaboration, higher order thinking and problem-solving skills, that better meet the information age." This approach is often ignored in schools and classrooms. It has shown increased student motivation and learning. Digital kids have never known life without the Internet. "They have spent their entire lives using computers, cell phones, and other digital media and have integrated technology into almost everything they do. It is obvious that technology is an integral part of their lives." Some components that a classroom should have for digital kids are: collaborative and authentic learning, personalized and customized learning, and the ability for students to regulate themselves.
How will teachers need to change for digital kids?

In Tony Wagner's, The Global Achievement Gap, (2008) he quotes a professor from the University of Southern California, " We knock creativity out of kids, with our focus on memorization, teaching to the test, and making them learn things that they don't have to. Because of the web, they don't have to memorize all of what we used to memorize."
Wagner goes on to quote a former high school student that stated," High school teachers need to have kids do real research and experiments. Instead of being receivers of knowledge, they need to be participants. Let them be a scientist, a historian. Wouldn't it be great to see more interaction and engagement? More chances to work in a team and tackle a problem for which there's no easy solution?"

What do digital kids want in a teacher?

Tony Wagner interviewed a Cornell University Professor who stated, "We truly have to reorient the concept of who a teacher is and what a teacher does: the teacher as facilitator versus information dictator. Teachers also have to model the behaviors they're trying to teach. They need to show critical thinking and problem solving. Finally, they have to listen to what kids do in their free time and then try very hard to figure our how to get students from where they are to where they need to be."

While speaking to inner-city high school student focus groups, Wagner quotes students as saying. "I need a teacher I can really talk to." "I want to know my teacher cares about me." "Someone who doesn't talk down to you--who was someone you could relate to."

Those quotes say it all, don't they?
Why is it important for teachers to modify their roles and loosen up?

In the 2008 book, Global Achievement Gap by Tony Wagner he states that in order for our children to become competitive in the global job market, students must possess these Seven Survival Skills:

1. The ability to ask good questions. "It turns out that asking good questions, critical thinking, and problem solving go hand in hand in the minds of most employers and business consultants."
2. Collaboration and leading by influence. "Collaboration is an essential skill for us. Command and control leadership style is becoming less valued in organizations. People have to understand the importance of working fluidly and across boundaries."
3. Agility and adaptibility "You have to be able to take in all sorts of new information, new situations, and be able to operate in ambiguous and unpredictable ways. You have to thrive in this environment and deliver results."
4. Initiative and entrepreneurialism "Leaders today want to see individuals take more initiative and even be entrepreneurial in terms of the ways they seek out new opportunities, ideas, and strategies for improvement."
5. Effective oral and written communication "not only the ability to communicate one's thoughts clearly and concisely but also the ability to create focus, energy, and passion."
6. Assessing and analyzing information "It's not just the sheer quantity of information that represents such a challenge but also how rapidly and constantly the information is changing."
7. Curiosity and imagination " those who can think in disciplined ways, but also those who have a burning curiosity, a lively imagination, and can engage others empathetically."
Why is it important for teachers to adapt for the sake of digital kids?

Tony Wagner notes three significant ways our world has changed in a very short period of time and why methods of teaching and learning must adapt:
All students need new skills to thrive in a global knowledge economy. In order to get good jobs and be active and informed citizens in the world, tomorrow's workers need to learn to think critically and solve problems, work in teams, lead by influence, take initiative, communicate clearly, analyze information, and be curious.
In the age of information, using new information to solve new problems matters more than recalling old information. Being an independent lifelong learner and knowing how to access information, which is growing exponentially and constantly changing is far more important than rote memorization. Students of today must be able to apply what they know to new, constantly changing situations.
Today's youth are differently motivated when compared to any other generation. Digital kids have grown up tethered to the Net. Digital kids are curious multitaksers who hunger for immediate gratification and connectedness. They need and value caring adults who act as mentors and respect their dreams and can relate authentically.
What are some concrete ways to engage and teach digital kids? What should a teacher do with a classroom of digital kids?

Doug Johnson, Professor at Minnesota State University, education presenter, author, and media and technology director authors The Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide. He offers many concrete, easy follow guidelines and lesson ideas for classroom teachers for teachers at any point in their journey with digital kids. Just a few of Johnson's suggestions include:
Instead of teacher lecture--Use a computer presentation program
Instead of student writing--require writing to presented through desktop publishing.
Instead of student research--require students to use electronic encyclopedia or Web sites.
Instead of book reports --use a spreadsheet as a class database for book information.
Instead of math problems--use a spreadsheet to set up math story problems
Instead of plays, skits, or debates--video record the presentations.
Instead of timelines--use Timeliner or a mind mapping tool like Inspiration.
Instead of student speeches --use multimedia and make computerized presentations.

Several social networking sites exist to offer teachers a place to blog, share ideas, get ideas, get feedback, and join educational interest groups. Some of these include: Edmodo, Classroom 2.0, and the Educator's PLN. Do what your digital students are doing. Share ideas, get feedback, and be social via a social network made for teachers.

Make videos in class and post them on Teacher Tube or watch videos that other educators have created with their students.

Use digital storytelling websites. One of the best is www.storybird.com. It allows students to choose from hundreds of ready made art and create a digital story. It also offers theme words to create from, contests your students can enter, and the ability to post stories to share. The site is completely free and offers a nice feature for teachers to manage the stories of an entire class or several.

The Website ISTE.org stands for International Society for Technology in Education and is an excellent website for research, journal articles, webinars, conferences, and technology standards for teachers and students called NETS.

Some influential technology writers and thinkers that you may want to investigate are: Sir Ken Robinson, Ray Kurzweil, Daniel Pink, Marc Prensky, and Thomas Friedman
Points to Ponder:

Digital kids are drawn to technology. It's how they spend their spare time. Educators and parents need to provide opportunities to use technology where children can be creative, work collaboratively, express their uniqueness, solve problems, search for answers, but we must create a balance for our kids.
Nicholas Carr states to, "read a book was to practice an unnatural process of thought, one that demanded sustained, unbroken attention to a single, static object. It required readers to place themselves, according to T.S. Eliot at, "the still point of the turning world."

Parents and teachers must provide wonderfully creative times with technology and just as often "the still point" in this rapidly turning world.
Submitted by Bethann Wright
EDT 908 Concordia University Wisconsin
What are some quality resources teachers and parents can use to educate themselves on digital kids?

Doug Johnson in his Classroom Teacher's Technology Survival Guide lists a vast number our resources for the adults in charge of these digital kids.

Some influential writers in the field include:
Ian Jukes author of blog The Committed Sardine and the book Understanding the Digital Generation: Teaching and Learning in the New Digital Landscape
Jamie McKenzie author of the journal, From Now On and the book Beyond Cut and Paste
Anne Collier author of the NetFamilyNews blog and website ConnectSafely
Alan November author of the book, Empowering Students with Technology
Will Richardson author of the book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms
David Warlick author of Redefining Literacy 2.0
Doug Johnson also suggests a healthy dose of skepticism from these authors:
Alliance for Childhood author of Fool's Gold
Mark Bauerlein author of The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes our Future
Nicholas Carr author of The Shallow: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains
Larry Cuban author of Oversold and Underused: Computers in the Classroom

This presentation is designed for teachers and parents who share this digital world with digital kids where more than ever a parent is a teacher and a teacher is also a parent.

In conclusion, here is a quote from John Seely Brown found in Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap,

"My generation tends not to want to try things unless or until we already know how to use them. If we don't know how to use some appliance or software, our instinct is to reach for a manual or take a course or call up an expert. Believe me, hand a manual or suggest a course to 15 year olds and they think you're a dinosaur. They want to turn the thing on, get in there muck around, and see what works. Today's kids get on the Web and link, lurk, and watch how other people are doing things, then try it for themselves."
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