April 05, 2007

The Generation Gap

A former student pointed me to an article from Education Week: Outside Interests:
"Now, nearly all schools have Internet access, and students comb the world via cyberspace with simple search commands. But experts say it is the rare classroom that turns blogs, MP3 players, podcasting, video games, or cellphones into learning tools.

By falling behind the technology curve, they argue, schools risk alienating students and miss prime opportunities to teach them how to analyze and understand their increasingly complex world.

“Education is bifurcating into school and after-school,” says Marc Prensky, a New York City-based educator and consultant who coined the term “digital native” to capture the technological fluency of today’s young people. “School represents the past. After-school is where they are training themselves for the future. The danger is that as school becomes less and less relevant, it becomes more and more of a prison.”
We've heard it all before. The kids are well ahead of the teachers in terms of technology savoir faire. That's been true since some time in the 80s, I think, at least in affluent areas, and the gap is widening. School culture is dominated by teachers in their 40s and older who were born too soon to have the same level of comfort with computers.

I'm hopeful, though. The student teachers I see this year all came to the table with email addresses, digital cameras and a trail of Powerpoint slides behind them, all of which wasn't true just three or four years ago. The technologies they're already using aren't worlds apart from those their student use, and by the end of our course they've had experience making digital movies and creating instructional web pages. A good place to begin their careers.

They'll need more tech support on the job, though, and in California at least that hasn't been as well funded as it should be. Without that, they'll be giant steps behind the kids they teach in just a few years.

My adopted state is near the bottom on indicators like "number of students per internet-connected computer". We're down there with Utah and Mississippi. At least the weather's nice.



At 2:45 PM, Anonymous said...

By keeping up to date with blogs, studies, and articles about technology in the classroom, the trend I am seeing is not that educators don’t know about the technological resources available, but that they don’t know how to integrate them into their lessons.

Let me share a simple example. Buzz words in education and technology certainly include “video games”. Many teachers, though not all, seem to be adamantly oppose using them. Yet I hear kids literally begging to play the educational video game Timez Attack that teaches multiplication tables 2-12 created by Big Brainz (www.bigbrainz.com). Why would it be such a bad or hard idea to do a ‘regular’ lesson on times tables and then as supplement you provide this video game for use as a reward or during free time. Or, just use it as a reinforcement lesson by going to the computer lab and having each child practice the set of times tables they are struggling with the most.

At 9:09 AM, Jutti said...

I haven't seen the game you mention so I can't comment on it. In the past our school has used some math drill software. I had my students use it a few times. But I soon realized it wasn't an effective use of the limited time we had in the computer lab.

We went back to using our lab time to work on projects that made students have to gather information, think about it, and then create a product that required using the info in a new way.

Various studies have shown that drill type software doesn't do much to improve student learning. See my blog Marsh's Musings for links to several articles about this.

At 12:50 PM, Eric Langhorst said...

Bernie - I agree with your comments. My class was mentioned in the article you linked and one of my students was quoted about the use of studycasts in our history class.

We have always heard that when the "new" teachers reach the classroom - translate, "younger teachers" - they would use technology because they grew up with it. I have talked to several administrators though that aren't seeing much of change in younger teacher use of technology. I agree that the tools are changing very quickly - podcasting, blogs, etc. but our teachers must have a broader background in educational technology than just being able to create a PowerPoint.

I currently teach a graduate class at Park University entitled "Technology for the Classroom" and most of the students are very excited about the possible use of podcasts, blogs and web 2.0 applications once they are given the chance to use them.

Thanks for all the work you do to help teachers incorporate technology in their curriculum. I do a lesson each year on the Web Quest model in my graduate class.

Eric Langhorst

At 11:38 AM, janice said...

One thing you did not mention about the new teachers is that they are being mentored by teachers who are still teaching without technology. I have seen some of these young teachers who came in with ideas of using technology in the classroom learn to use worksheets. They still do email and search on the web, but they do not teach with tech.



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