When I began teaching in 1980, my students were growing up essentially the same way I had. They had never seen a computer, mobile phones were attached to cars and there were 4 channels on TV, with limited children’s programming. Over the course of my career as a teacher, I have watched changes happen in my students that can only be explained by advancing technology and media. My first classes enjoyed listening to read-alouds from chapter books and generally had long attention spans, even in first grade. As the years went by, I found my students needed faster paced lessons and help with developing their attention spans. My teaching changed with my students and we moved on together.
I agree with Marc Prensky when he said that students’ brains have probably physically changed because of the technology they have grown up around. They seem to process information very differently from the students I taught in 1980.
Our students today, and my own children, are definitely digital natives but I would have to classify myself as an enthusiastic digital immigrant. I was there when the first computer, an Apple II, was delivered to Funston Elementary along with a card reader and a disk drive so we could enter assessment information. Before that, the only computer I had seen was one that took up an entire room and was operated by people in white lab coats. I was afraid I was going to break it the first time I used it and, as I recall, it wasn’t very user friendly. It was way too easy to make an illegal error! My principal at the time told me there was no way I could break that computer. He said to go into the room, (yes, we had a room for it!) shut the door and work with it until I was no longer intimidated. From then on, that was how I approached new technology. I’ve spent the last several years as the Site Technology Specialist for my building so I suppose I’ve lost the fear of computers.
I enjoyed the video and articles included in this unit. They made me think about how much school has changed in its use of technology, but also how far we have to go. We have so much technology in our classrooms but the structure of many of those classes still looks like it did 30 years ago. Most teachers are still trying to find their way through a foreign land or have never gotten over their fear of something they don’t understand.
Effective teaching strategies are being developed to address the needs of our changing students. Incorporating new technology and teaching strategies into our students’ education may be the only way to capture their attention and prepare them for the world they will someday run.
I’m not sure all of the brain changes have been good but I agree that there is no way to go back and try it again. We are here and we have to stay here and find effective ways to teach our students. In a few more years all of the teachers will be digital natives albeit, teachers who were taught by digital immigrants for the most part. It will be a long time before technology truly merges with education and my hope is that we can give children what their brains need to help them learn during this transition.
My current job as an Instructional Coach gives me the opportunity to help to provide teachers with tools they need to reach their students. Part of my time is spent helping them with the technology they have available in their classrooms. Teachers recognize the fact that their usual teaching methods are not reaching students as well as they used to and are forcing themselves to venture into foreign territory. The video called “A Vision of Students Today” spoke to me and encouraged me to keep trying to find the best methods to reach our students and encourage other teachers to do the same.