This month I’ll be continuing the theme of technology in education and thinking about the impact of technology on young people – our learners and future learners!
In 2010 there was an article in the New York Times Magazine called Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction. The title of the article gives you a clue as to the content – in it the writer contends (with the help of a teacher called Ms Blondel and a young student called Vishal) that “… computers and cellphones, and the constant stream of stimuli they offer, pose a profound new challenge to focusing and learning.” Ms Blondel says that “students now lack the attention span to read the assignments on their own.” And she insists that “You can’t become a good writer by watching YouTube, texting and e-mailing a bunch of abbreviations.” In the meantime, Vishal spends over 16 hours during the weekend making a three minute music video (his passion) instead of doing his homework, nicely proving Richtel’s point.
It’s certainly a strong argument that kids today are not able to focus because of technology, but is it really cell phones, video games and software that are the problem or is it more about the mismatch between what we do in the classroom and how kids want to and like to learn? Don Tapscott contends in his reply to Matt Richtel that “ …the real issue is the gap between how Net Geners think and how most teachers teach.” Tapscott argues that young people who’ve grown up with the internet want their education to relate more to their world and that they want more of a say in what and how they learn.
So, which analysis is the best one? Is it hard to get learners to focus because they are so busy working on something technological? Or should we be looking at how we can relate what we do in the classroom to our learners’ increasingly technological lives? What if Vishal’s homework had been to make a music video?
Richtel, M (2010) Growing up digital, wired for distraction
Tapscott, D (2010) New York Times Cover Story on “Growing Up Digital” Misses the Mark