New Slide: Teaching the iGeneration

In preparation for our upcoming Voicethread conversation on teaching for tomorrow, I’ve been doing a bunch of thinking about today’s kids—-a group that I like to call the iGeneration.

They’re an interesting bunch, aren’t they?  Completely unintimidated by digital tools, increasingly globally aware and active, and insistent on having real opportunities to interact, they’re almost always completely bored by the traditional classrooms that we’ve all come to know and love.

And while they’re comfortable using digital tools to get connected—heck, they check their Facebook profiles several times a day, send text messages like it’s going out of style, and haven’t played a video game alone in about a decade—I’m not sure that they totally understand the power of connections.

(download slide and view original image credit on Flickr)

<Sure, they know how to network—have you watched any teenagers do their homework in the past dozen years?  They’ll get three phone calls and have two instant messaging conversations going on all while trying to write an essay for English and to figure out a few algebraic equations for AP Calc.

And I’d bet that most use their networks for learning in informal situations all the time.  Figuring out the best way to blow through Halo 3 isn’t exactly a task that you can do easily on your own, you know.  Hook up with a couple of online buddies, though, and it’s a breeze.

But I’m just not sure that they know how to leverage the power of their developing networks to learn in every situation—-particularly the kinds of formal situations that schools and work environments reward.  In fact, I’m not even sure that they see their personal networks as tools for learning at all.  It’s almost as if they’ve created barriers between their social and intellectual lives.

The hitch is that intellectual growth and learning of any kind is an inherently social act, isn’t it? 

Wouldn’t our students be better off if we systematically worked to help them to see their personal networks as learning tools?  And if no one bothers to introduce the concept of networked learning to our teens, are we confident that they’ll discover it on their own someday?

Interesting stuff, huh?

And the kind of stuff that we’ll wrestle with together from August 26-28 in Voicethread.  Mark your calendars and bring your minds, huh?  I’d love to see you there.

4 thoughts on “New Slide: Teaching the iGeneration

  1. Crystal Baxter

    I agree that the younger generation does use the internet for networking. I feel that this can be a good and bad thing. The reason I feel that this can go both ways is simply because networking should not only be used for social networking. Like you stated networking should also be used to learn and gain information rather than just interacting with frieds and family. The younger generation is learning and using technology more and more everyday. I feel that the younger generation should also be taught ways that technology can help them in their future along with their social life. I feel that networking at a younger age will also help the students be able to conect with the world around them and learn as a group and as an individual. No one should be able to say I am technology illiterate.


    I agree that sharing knowledge (particularly by writing or deliberate teaching) deepens learning, but this generally only happens after fairly deep learning has already occurred.
    The shallow sharing of ignorance that characterizes a lot of attempts at “social learning experience” in schools is not particularly productive of learning.
    I support having students share the results of their projects with the class: both for the deeper learning needed to present a coherent picture and because the presentation skills need practicing. I’m less enamored of sharing the initial stages of learning—the social overhead of working in a group generally reduces, rather than increases, the learning.

  3. Bill Ferriter

    The Station wrote:
    I do a lot of learning by reading and experimenting by myself. Some learning goes quicker with social input, some goes slower.
    I’m with you, Station…in fact, the majority of my own learning starts with independent reading, experimenting and reflection.
    But if you’re anything like me, that learning rarely stays private. I use what I learn in blog posts, I share final products with other audiences, and I take what I’ve learned and apply it to my work.
    In all of those situations, I’m also collecting feedback on what I’ve learned from audiences. If I’ve shared something in a blog post that I think I’ve learned and my audience pushes back, that’s learning as a social act, even if my audience doesn’t realize that they’re participating in the process.
    If I deliver a lesson using a new instructional strategy that I learned independently and it flops in my classroom, that’s learning as a social act because I’m drawing feedback from my class even if they’re not aware that they’re involved in the process.
    Maybe I need to polish my thinking here to talk about “overtly and tacitly social learning experiences.” Both are valuable, even though they’re different.
    Any of this make sense?

  4. gasstationwithoutpumps

    I question one of your basic assumptions: “that intellectual growth and learning of any kind is an inherently social act.”
    I do a lot of learning by reading and experimenting by myself. Some learning goes quicker with social input, some goes slower. You seem to assume that group work is inherently better than individual work for learning, which may be true for some, but is counter to my own learning experience.

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