I have been involved in some recent staff developments with a variety of teachers that work with students from Kindergarten to college as well as with educators that are earning their masters or doctorate in Educational Leadership. When I am showing a new technology tool or get excited about something I have found on the web I often hear things like “this is just a tool for the now,” “this won’t last,” “everything can’t be a game in school,” “it’s just a toy, the students won’t learn anything from it,” and on and on. It is so frustrating to me that those in education are at times stuck in the mud. The tools I show them are the modern tools of the 21st Century just as the slate board, abacus, calculator, chalk board, easel, dry erase board, pens and paper are all tools that have been introduced to educational settings for decades. It’s not the tools that teach, it’s how the teachers use the tools to enhance the lessons. We live in the 21st Century where the generations in our school systems have been surrounded by technology their whole lives. The cognitive structures of these children think in a parallel manner while the traditional teacher presents material sequentially. Educators today face students as digital immigrants, those not born into the digital world, while the students consider themselves digital natives (Prensky, 2001). The gap between generations causes a great deal of frustration when trying to find instructional strategies that will produce students prepared for the world after high school.
These educators struggle to understand the new generation of learners. The connection between students and teachers isn’t there. The article Digital Natives Digital Immigrants,Prensky (2001), describes a modern-day disconnect between teachers and the students they teach:
Digital Immigrant teachers assume that learners are the same as they have always been, and that the same methods that worked for the teachers when they were students will work for their students now. That assumption is no longer valid […] So what should happen? Should the students learn the old ways, or should their Digital Immigrant educators learn the new? Unfortunately, no matter how much the teachers may wish it, it is highly unlikely the students will go backwards […] So unless we want to just forget about educating students until they grow up and do it themselves, we had better confront this issue. And in so doing, we need to reconsider both our methodology and our content (p.2).
The phrase “reconsider our methodology” is a task Prensky believes some teachers are too naïve, lazy, or scared to execute. He believes that many of today’s educators lack the ability to engage the Digital Native students in the learning process and fail to make the learning process fun and engaging.
In our school systems today, several things need to change so that we can motivate our students. First of all we have teachers who lack the knowledge of how to develop lessons using technology in our classrooms. Second, teachers who have the knowledge and training to implement lessons using technology in their classrooms can’t due to lack of equipment. Thirdly, we have administrators and teachers who are digital immigrants and are teaching students who are digital natives, comfortable with these technological changes. The educational system in the United States continues to stay the same while the world around us is constantly evolving, with technology as a key component to this change. Technology allows the educators the ability to differentiate content in the classroom, offer opportunities to collaborate, and give students ownership of their work, individuals gain essential skills necessary to be successful in and out of the classroom. As a result, student motivation can develop when educators incorporate technology to enhance the learning environment. Today’s technology offers students all kinds of new, highly effective tools they can use to learn on their own – from the Internet with almost all the information, to search and research tools to sort out what is true and relevant, to analysis tools to help make sense of it, to creation tools to present findings in a variety of media, and lastly social tools to network and collaborate with people around the world (Prensky, 2008).
If companies that provide technology tools are not going to provide the technical training or support to educators than those tools will be used in an infective manner or not at all. If districts are not willing to find the money to put the tools in educators hands they are failing their students in preparing them for the world beyond the classrooms. Educators need to open their minds’ eye to see beyond the four walls of a classroom. Make an effort to learn the tools, take a class or staff development, search the web. Find a way to reach out to your students. Get your Administrators on board with you. Do a little research. Prepare your students for their future, because “applied effectively, technology implementation not only increases student learning, understanding, and achievement, but also augments motivation to learn, encourage collaborative learning, and supports the development of critical thinking skills and problem solving skills” (Richardson, 2009, p. 3). “Technology’s role – and its only role – should be to support students teaching themselves (with, of course, their teachers’ guidance)” (Prensky, 2008). Teachers can use these technology tools to enhance student learning and guide students to a successful future.
Prensky, Marc (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5). Retrieved October 24th, 2009 from http://www.marcprensky.com/writing/Prensky%20-%20Digital%20Natives,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. California: Corwin Press Inc.,U.S