Is there really a huge difference between the generation of those who are now in their 40’s and 50’s compared to those who are currently in their early 20’s? What about those who are currently in school? Because they are growing up in a world that operates on technology, do they learn differently than we do? Is there really a gap between generations in terms of learning styles? Marc Prensky definitely feels strongly about this. In his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrats, he talks about learning styles between generations. The younger generation seems to speak a totally different language, according to Marc. This is where the term “digital natives” comes in. We, the older generation, are “digital immigrants” because we are not as technology-savvy as they. The younger generation has been born into a world that operates on technology. Their lives evolve around the daily use of technology. Even though I’m a young man, devices like cell phones haven’t been around that long. I remember the first time ever surfing the web. I remember the first day my father bought a computer. I thought it was nothing compared to my Super Nintendo. I remember the first time I ever used a computer in my school. Times have changed so much. I had no idea many schools provide a laptop for every student. Marc Prensky believes that because the younger generation was born into a world that operates on technology, technology should be a language learned by teachers in order to allow their teaching reach out to their students.
Technology is a great thing. Technology is used to improve the way we do things now, and make things more convenient. For example, communication and travel is so much easier and quicker now that we have cell phones and airplanes. Hybrid cars have been created recently to give drivers more miles per gallon. They also help with the environment because of the combination of natural gas and electricity. Technology can also be a great way to find entertainment. Sony’s Playstation, Micrsoft’s Xbox and Nintendo’s Wii have created a new ways in which we can enjoy entertainment. Blu-Ray allows movie watching to appear almost realistic because of the quality of pictures portrayed. Sometimes technology can be a downfall for humans. Video-gaming can be so addicting to some. These addictions could possibly lead to a lack of development in social situations. The internet allows pornography to be accessed in any home with a computer and web connection. Where are we headed in terms of technology?
Back to the topic of education and technology. I have to disagree with Marc Prensky on a few points. First, I don’t think it’s fair to consider our generation and older the “digital immigrants”, and the younger generation the “digital natives.” We ourselves have grown with technology that our parents and grandparents never experienced. For every generation, there are new inventions and technology. In a few years, the current younger generation would become “digital immigrants” to their children.
Second, I don’t agree with Marc’s emphasis on putting away with the old. If education becomes a means of playing video games to help students learn the classroom, and no lecturing takes place, how can we expect our students to learn how to actively and respectfully listen to others? If their learning is based on computerized-instant gratification, how can we help teach our students to be patient? If students are behind a computer all day, how can we expect them to build social skills with each other face to face?
I believe technology should not just be a part of education, but it should be embedded into education. However, I think we should be very careful in how technology is embedded. Too much computer engagement students receive could be harmful. For example, calculators are great because they help students check their answers, but when they becomes a habit for kids to use them without first learning trying on their own causes them to rely on instant gratification. They don’t learn how to be patient and solve problems on their own. We must fully teach our students how to be patient, and solve problems. We are helping students find answers to problems and to think critically. We are teaching them how to be independent leaders for the future.
Finally, there isn’t a huge difference between us and our students. We may grow up in different environments, but generally speaking we live in the same world. They aren’t that distance from us to the point where our students are aliens. They just have more than we did at their age. This doesn’t mean we don’t have access to them now. Transforming education is unnecessary. Modifying it is ideal.