I'm doing some research on - How do students think differently because of growing up on the internet? How has it affected their thinking, learning habits, processing information. What are some of their innate ways that differ from previous generations?

This could be an interesting study, because we as educators don't recognize the differences in how this generation processes, gathers, and analyze data to solve problems. Most of us are still using traditional linear methods of releasing information that includes long hours of study and comprehension. This generation learns in smaller "bursts" of information, with the ability to jump to new topics of interest instantly to break-up boredom and re-energize. They then return to the original task with new found energy and clear thinking. Some of this comes from Prensely's book "Digital Natives". The memorization and recall of information is no longer an indicator of a students success in the workforce. Their measurement will be more on problem solving and working in teams, collaborating solution. Your thoughts....

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I want to thank all of you who are participating in this discussion. You have brought a lot of good information to the table. As I review your comments, I noticed that it generates only more questions - that's a good thing!

Let me share with you addition information and comments from other professional out there:
Michael Wesch, "A Vision of Students Today (and what Teachers Must Do)," Encyclopedia Britannica blog, Oct. 21, 2008, http://www.britannica.com/blogs/2008/10/a-vision-of-students-today-...

There is something in the air, and it is nothing less than the digital artifacts of over one billion people and computers networked together collectively producing over 2,000 gigabytes of new information per second. While most of our classrooms were built under the assumption that information is scarce and hard to find, nearly the entire body of human knowledge now flows through and around these rooms in one form or another, ready to be accessed by laptops, cellphones, and iPods. Classrooms built to re-enforce the top-down authoritative knowledge of the teacher are now enveloped by a cloud of ubiquitous digital information where knowledge is made, not found, and authority is continuously negotiated through discussion and participation.1

Sociality Is Learning

This post was originally written for the DML Central Blog. If you're interested in Digital Media and Learning, you definitely want to check this blog out.

As adults, we take social skills for granted... until we encounter someone who lacks them. Helping children develop social skills is viewed as a reasonable educational endeavor in elementary school, but by high school, educators switch to more "serious" subjects. Yet, youth aren't done learning about the social world. Conversely, they are more driven to understand people and sociality during their tween and teen years than as small children. Perhaps its precisely their passion for learning sociality that devalues this as learning in the eyes of adults. For, if youth LIKE the subject matter, it must not be educational. Unfortunately, I fear that we are doing a disservice to youth by not acknowledging the social learning that takes place during this period. Worse, what if our efforts to curtail social interactions out of a preference for "real" learning have professional costs?

Very few of us work in professions where we are forced to focus on one anti-social task all day, every day. Even academics, a notoriously hermitic bunch, have to interact with students, fellow faculty members, and perhaps grant makers at some point. Most of us are constantly relying on and honing our social skills, developing new techniques to communicate our message, navigate office politics, manage someone's expectations, and keep the peace. Those in service jobs face this in an acute way, having to manage irate customers and balance many people at once. Social skills are the bread and butter of professional life. So how do we learn them?

It's easy to point to middle school as ground zero of youth drama. The rise of status hierarchies combined with budding sexuality throws all sorts of relationships upside down. Bullying, social categories, and popularity are all there. But the key to "surviving" middle school is learning how to navigate these muddy waters with an intact self-esteem. It's not that jealousy and other social dramas disappear after middle school; it's that they get much more nuanced as people's skills improve. But for people to improve their skills, they must learn how to manage unpredictable and uncomfortable social situations. These aren't skills learned in abstract; they're learned through practice.

Over the last three decades, youth lives have gotten increasingly structured. Many youth spend little to no time in unstructured social settings, otherwise known as "hanging out." The practice of hanging out is consistently demonized by educationally-minded folks as a waste of time. Yet, it is in that space where youth learn to navigate social situations, make sense of impression management, and develop the social skills necessary to be productive adults.

Social media has created an interesting rupture in the landscape. Youth turn to it to reclaim unstructured social encounters, to create a public space that allows them to simply hang out with their friends, peers, and cohort. The flirting, gossiping, and joking around that takes place is not proof that social media is useless, but proof that it's extremely valuable. Without other spaces in which to gather, youth have developed their own. They want to be social, but we also need them to develop social skills. What's fascinating is that they're learning to do so in a mediated landscape, developing norms that will persist through adulthood. It's not like all social encounters between adults are face-to-face; learning how to interpret a Facebook post is a great skill to have when entering an email-centric corporation.

Rather than demonizing social media or dismissing its educational value, I believe that we need to embrace the environments that youth are using to gather and help them learn to navigate the murky waters of sociality. We cannot "fix" their social worlds, but we can provide the scaffolding that they need to help learn to make sense of sticky social situations. We can serve as listeners, guides, and cheerleaders. We can be there when they're trying to make a decision about a best way to handle a situation and play devil's advocate when they need to work through complicated dynamics. But to be there for youth, we have to treat them with respect and value what they're learning. We have to value the importance of learning about sociality. And we need to be able to listen as confidants, not judges.

We can continue to demonize social spaces, dismiss hanging out, and overly regulate our kids. But I believe this does them a disservice. Being a successful adult in society requires social skills. And we desperately need to give youth space to learn them. They're committed to learning; why aren't we supporting them in doing so?
Read Grown Up Digital by Don Tapscott
Have been watching the Digital Natives/MacArthur study blogs and papers for a while. Fascinating and I agree. We demonize games, social media, being on the computer - but it IS social for them. They are growing up in an "always on" world. As these studies point out, the discrepancy between how we teach them and how they learn continues to grow, and their out of school life is vastly different than the life they have in school. If we want to promote lifelong learning, in my opinion, this is not a good thing.
Aside from the other tools that all of you are discussing and learning, I have one major problem with how they learn on those computers or iPhones. They learn facts, and facts are not knowledge. I think the role of teacher, to "guide on the side" becomes more of one that puts the facts together, facilitates feedback, and deepens original stories and ideas. Ethics, feelings, and so much more must be inserted as mortar for the facts (bricks) to be held together and make sense for so many students. Just my opinion :)
Hi Donna,
I agree that technology (networks, IPhones) makes it much easier for these students to get their facts. Since getting facts is not difficult - this is where the teacher needs to focus more on how to use the facts. Memorization is not the goal - analyzing and synthesizing the facts are. How many time is class does a students raise his/her hand and correct you on the facts??? It's readably available. Students entering high school and college will be looking to us to provide them with more meaning and usage of the facts. After all, that what facts are all about - how do we use them to our advantage.
It will require a major shift for us. The multiple-choice test may not be the best way to evaluate what students know. So, your right on the mark..... :) Thanks for your insight.
Those people (students and adults) who easily adapt to new technology are the most marketable in our society. We need to be progressive with our students and give the the tools to be successful. Students are able to multi-task far better than most of their teachers, it does not mean that they are off-task. I give my students a menu of assignments for the day with choices of how to complete it (video tutorials, written directions, web links, one on one) it is up to them to decide how to complete those tasks. Many students work on a variety of things at once and already know what their learning styles are - many prefer the video tutorials that they can start and stop while completing their own work. It gives them greater control over their learning and they can go at their own pace. I have also found that these methods make it easier for students who are out sick to keep up with class because they can access at home as well as school. My classroom is no longer defined by the walls around it. We explore the world from inside those walls, as well as from anywhere we can connect to the Internet. More teachers need to think like their students to design more effective practices for this new generation. Good Luck with your research.
Hi I'm not sure if Ron is around to reply - but I have attached one of the studies that was just completed this year called Future Of Learning as part of the DML project he refers to, as well as the "original one" called Living and Learning with New Media that was a part of this original MacArthur Foundation Project in almost 2008 - they are both creative commons pieces so they are shareable. There are still grants and projects going on, in fact it is accelerating (thankfully)
I would also highly encourage spending some time on mediatedcultures.com, Dr. Michael Wesch's site (he refers to his article in Encyclopaedia Britannica's blog.) His "Machine is Changing Us" video on You Tube is legendary and I believe he did his final thesis on how technology has change authenticity for kids.
I am going to try to upload the 2 articles here I hope it works. These are the most well known works I know of, from the DML, on the topic. The more recent one is not in formal publication yet though still available through Creative Commons.
It is interesting that to me, they seem to be focusing on the "social web" as much as they are on desktop computers. An Apple II had games but was a glorified typewriter and had simple dbase or other functions available. But toward the end of the 80s we were introduced to America Online, and in my opinion that's what really started it all. There were efforts earlier, ASCII text, more bulletin boards than "online services" - The Source, Prodigy, etc but AOL caught like wildfire. It was more about communication than individual computer functions. Simple ways to communicate via a 300bps or faster modem, to me, was what they seemed to use as criteria but you are right, it is not detailed there and I could very well be wrong.
To this day being a digital native doesn't necessarily they can "program". Not from what I have seen. It's the "always on" connectivity, small world and communications that have been the biggest life changers. Most I know can cut and paste HTML to change things, but not actually program.
AOL started in 1987 - not sure when it really caught or the free CDs became a source of jokes :)
I don't think we can deny though that lowering cost of entry was a huge hurdle. AOL used to charge by the minute, as did the ISP (if you had a separate one). And, most importantly, AOL came out at 300bps. Taking that to 2400bps was a huge speed increase. A decent computer was 5000. Just like the lower price of hardware, broadband (and increased speed) and proliferation of it have made us move faster and faster into technologies - the lower barrier to entry (pre-existing platforms that can be built upon for new tools) makes us move faster with applications as well. Again, just my opinion but interesting to think about.
My old Apple IIe was a workhorse. It did start out as a "glorified typewriter", but evolved well past it before I replaced it with a 386. CompuServe, GEnie and a few others were around before AOL made it's big splash. A plea for donations got me some TI99-4A's for my classroom, and the existing educational games were so simplistic that I had to learn BASIC to program some useful stuff into them.

What most folks find hard to believe is that the early computers didn't have a harddrive, and the OS was on a disk that you alternated with your data disk, or, with the Dual Disk Drive on the Apple IIe, you could run them both at the same time. But, everything you did was lost as soon as you turned the computer off.

I am not surprised that "digital natives" do not necessarily know how to program. That is the purpose of all those "apps"! To take the programming druggery out of whatever you want to do with your computer.

How many remember DOS? And having to memorize a kazillion commands to use Word Perfect. Or working with a single page in a spreadsheet instead of an integrated set? Would I be correct in thinking that PAINT is the only basic program that has not been updated over the years?
I remember Dos and I have a stack of 51/4 floppies with programs. It was an improvement over the manual then electric typewriter. I remember writing a masters thesis and typing over and over. Today with word processing, it make it so much easier. that is one plus, but then again, when I was in school we had no ballpoint pens, calculators, transistor radios and I am not that old. Those things had not been invented or were so expensive who could afford them.
I had a Commodore Vic20 back in 1980 and I remember going to the internet when it was text based. I had Apple IIE's for my SDC students and they all had their own computer and 5 1/4 diskettes. i was the only teacher using them in 1998 and it allowed me flexibility to work with small groups,. No internet and no problems when the network went down.
I think that our students are losing some of the ability to think critically and use a book. Technology is not for everyone and we must remember that some of our students do not have access to the internet once they get home.

After seeing my 94 year old neighbor's delight at seeing her brother in Chicago on the Internet from her home in rural Virginia, I am convinced that technology IS for EVERYONE! Bertha's nephew was visiting and his wife brought their new laptop to show Big Mama what she has lived long enough to see.

Technology is available are more places than home and school. Not only are their relatives homes, but the community library. The libraries in the nearby rural counties have had computers in constant use for years. Computers are also available in many community centers and decent places where kids gather after schools.

And, as a parting note, the technology is getting smaller and smaller, cheaper and cheaper. One can do much of what was once done on a large desktop system via one's cell phone.



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