Throwing the baby out with the bathwater?

I am going to use this blog post to discuss some of the ideas that I came across the week 3 readings of:

Prensky’s short essay (a bit long for someone who usually sticks to 30 second videos if you ask me) focused on the idea that the problem with education today, is that the education system is not designed for today’s students. Digital Natives as Presnky refers to them, have grown up with technology always readily available and, therefore, have developed differently cognitively. Different from what you may ask?…well old people. Prensky did not use that phrase, instead he opted for the politically correct version of “digital immigrants”, but they are essentially the same thing – anyone who grew up in a time before computers. Obviously technology did not appear overnight, but rather over many years, but I would place anyone that was born before 1970 in the category of digital immigrant. Since our current education system was designed for someone who had spent more time with books than with computers, it is now outdated and needs revision. I was born in 1985, so I am not sure where this leaves me, but I certainly consider myself a digital native. Am I automatically a better teacher than someone who has done it for 30 years then?

Anyways, moving on…Prensky recommends a variety options in changing the modern class room, such as:

– Creating graded tasks with skills embedded
– Instead of 5-10 min videos, use 30 second clips
– Random access (students choose where to start learning from, not necessarily beginning)
– Fast pace
– Computer movies instead of written instructions

The easiest and most effective method for Presnky was turning anything and everything into a video game. Speaking as someone who plays a lot of video games (my fiancee would say too much) I have doubts about this practice. The first being, what happens when they are out of school and their job does not want to make a video game for their every day work? My brother sells copper and my sister is a social worker. How do you make a game for them? If they decide that they are not interested in selling or caring for people anymore, is it the companies fault because they did not make work interesting enough? I believe that education is more than just teaching facts, it is about supporting young adults as they become responsible, conscientious productive members of society. As fun as video games are, not all of life is going to be a fun adventure. I know I sound like a stodgy old-timer, but discipline and restraint are valid traits even in today’s society of instant gratification.

Another question, is just because video games work – does that mean we should use them? It almost sounds like we are just selling out because our children seem to be changing. Does Prensky really think his is the first older generation to panic and think the children are changing? What about the generation gap in the 1960s? What did the parents of Flappers think during the “Roaring Twenties”? What about all the crazy children who went west for gold and land in the mid 19th century? Kids acting and learning differently from their parents is nothing new. So while I agree with Prensky that education should change along with technology, we should still make sure that we do not throw out what works with education just because of normal changes between generations.

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About Bryce Hartranft

High School Social Studies Teacher
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