New versus Old: Which Is The Way to Better Learning?

from Educators' eZine

Background Information

Today's net generation, defined as anyone under the age of 29, uses an array of electronics and media devices while multitasking in several modalities simultaneously. It is a generation that not only grew up with digital and electronic devices but which easily adopts and absorbs the very latest in technologies.

And always remember: your students are very much a part of this generation. They communicate online through instant messaging (IM), chat rooms and web blogs on a regular and consistent basis. Therefore, in a time of high stakes accountability, one question emerges. Do teachers teach to the students in a modality that is comfortable and productive to them?

Before answering, consider the following facts accumulated by the Pew Internet and American Life Project,

  • 95% of parents could not identify common chat room lingo used by today's teenagers. Phrases such as POS (Parent Over Shoulder) and P911 (Parent Alert), which are commonly used to alert other people in the chat room that a parent is watching.
  • Kids who IM also use chat lingo and emoticons. The reason: a majority of parents don't know the meanings of some of the most commonly used phrases. For example, 57% did not know LOL (Laughing Out Loud), 68% didn't know BRB (Be Right Back), and 92% didn't know A/S/L (Age/Sex/Location).
  • Close to half (45%) of IM students state they engage in several conversations simultaneously. In fact, many teenagers complete homework assignments, blog, and watch TV while still maintaining an IM conversation.
  • Only about 4% of kids surveyed state that they do not participate in multitask activities while chatting or IM-ing online.
  • 61% of teenagers, ages 13-17, have a personal profile on a site such as Friend Finder or My Space.
  • Within two years of its inception, MySpace has over 47.3 million members, and is adding five million members per month. Most of its members range in age between 14 and 34, according to its founders.

Also consider the following chart:

Online teens are more likely to do some activities over others than they were in 2000:



Play Online Games



Research Current Events/News



Purchase Items



Some activities haven't changed much over time:

Send or Read E-mail



Research Movies, Music, TV



Instant Messages



Students younger than six even engage in technology of some form. The Kaiser Family Foundation recently participated in research that determined the types of technology that are utilized at such as young age. The results of this study are found in the chart below.

Source: Kaiser Family Foundation, 2006 from

So what are the implications for education? In schools today, we see some technology being utilized in the classrooms. However, is this technology being centered on the learning styles and communicative devices that teenagers use the most? Smart Boards, web quests, educational software and simulations are becoming more prevalent in classrooms today. But how often and how they are being implemented is another question altogether.

Which brings up the following Case Study:


Given: today's "Net Generation" students are well versed in the electronic communication devices. They multitask more frequently and more effectively than students from the past. Yet, educators continue to deliver instruction in the same method as for previous generations. Many educators still utilize the lecture/overhead style of delivery of instruction.

Research shows that other modes of communication are more popular with this Net Generation. Which leads to some important questions about learning, such as: What happens with learning when educators focus on students' preferred method of communication? Does the delivery of instruction engage students to participate in learning at higher levels of cognition?

Focus Questions

As you investigate the case study, keep the following questions in mind:

  1. What type of instruction is best for students?
  2. Do teachers realize the impact of instruction delivery may impact learning?
  3. What can supervisors and colleagues do to encourage a metamorphosis in teaching styles.
  1. What were the differences between Mrs. Strike and Mrs. McLaurine in delivery of instruction to the students?
  2. Why would students want to participate in one teacher's class over the other?
  3. Should changes in instruction delivery be mandatory for teachers? How would this be accomplished?
  4. How would you "handle" Mrs. McLaurine in her teaching strategies? What problems might arise from the situation?