from Educators' eZine
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
Some activities haven't changed much over time:
Send or Read E-mail
Research Movies, Music, TV
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 http://www.kff.org/charts/112006.htm
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?
As you investigate the case study, keep the following questions in mind:
- What type of instruction is best for students?
- Do teachers realize the impact of instruction delivery may impact learning?
- What can supervisors and colleagues do to encourage a metamorphosis in teaching styles.
Mrs. Strike and Mrs. McLaurine were both fourth grade teachers at Kindom Elementary School. Mrs. McLaurine has been at the school for 23 years while Mrs. Strike is newly-employed at the school. Mrs. Strike is in her mid 30s and has always found technology to be fun, innovative and challenging. Mrs. McLaurine has been honored as one of "the teachers to have" for many years and has won several teaching awards. She has begun using some technology such as E-mail and maintains her teacher-page on the district Website. However, she feels technology is difficult to use and wastes valuable time because "it doesn't always work".
Mrs. Strike has received a grant for incorporating innovative technology into the classroom. She recently received $20,000 to purchase iPods for each of her students. She maintains a blog on her Website, and has provided both students and parents a specific time when she will be available for IMs. She utilizes the iPods for podcasts, cooperative learning activities, and research. She often has students log-on to her Website for interactive discussions online through IMs, chats or participation via blogs. She also requires that students log-in for specific class activities at least twice a week to experience specific simulations or Websites that are relevant to the topic or theme for the week.
Mrs. McLaurine also feels that communication is vital to education. She has given her home phone number to parents as well as her school E-mail address. She incorporates hands-on activities and loves to use science to address various other subjects. She often is found at the front or middle of the classroom delivery instruction through a textbook or using transparencies to explain background information for future topics. She requires that students read a book every night in addition to a homework sheet that is assigned.
Both teachers are respected by colleagues and are supportive of both students and faculty members; they are always willing to help a lending hand. They are the sort of teachers that administrators like to have on faculty for their team building and support. Both classrooms have similar materials and have heterogeneous groups. One day as the fourth grade team was meeting with the administrative team, the principal noted some benchmark data that had significant disparities. To the principal's amazement, Mrs. McLaurine's test scores had hit rock bottom. Only 67% of students passed the test. In comparison, Mrs. Strike's class had all but two students passing the test. At first this seemed like an anomaly, so the principal, Mr. Johnson, shrugged off the data and stated he would monitor it.
Several weeks went by and another benchmark was given. This time only 48% passed in Mrs. McLaurine's class while every child passed in Mrs. Strike's class. What was going on differently? The Assistant Principal, Mrs. Baus, mentioned that maybe the mode of delivery was a key factor but Mrs. McLaurine became quite upset and reminded her of all the awards and success that she has had in the past. The principal, Mr. Johnson, de-escalated the situation and said he would review additional data.
After reviewing additional data, Mr. Johnson realized that the techniques being used by both teachers were vastly different. However, he also realized the vital role that Mrs. McLaurine had played on his faculty for years. How could he facilitate Mrs. McLaurine's awareness of her teaching deficiency with today's students? How do you maintain one's pride without alienating him/her from the group?
Questions for Discussion or Thought
- What were the differences between Mrs. Strike and Mrs. McLaurine in delivery of instruction to the students?
- Why would students want to participate in one teacher's class over the other?
- Should changes in instruction delivery be mandatory for teachers? How would this be accomplished?
- How would you "handle" Mrs. McLaurine in her teaching strategies? What problems might arise from the situation?