The Life of a Wannabe Academic

Detail of the life a new academic. The progress from graduate training to professor. Includes reflections on the job hunting process, research in technology and education, and what it is like to be a new college professor.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

A paradigm shift in education

I am presently at a conference here at UND called the Beyond Boundaries Intergrating Technology in to Education conference. Halfway through the first day and I have learned quite a bit. The keynote speaker today was a gentleman named Marc Prensky. He is an advocate for significantly changing the way that we educate today's Digital Natives. Listening to his speech today, I was in agreement with several points: Students need to be motivated to learn and being engaged in learning will increase motivation and passion for learning. However, I also disagree with many of his statements.

He argues that today's learners are different. This may be true, but I don't really agree with his points that argue for this. He says that learners today are bored in class up to 90% of the time. Hmmm, this was also true when I went through school. He also says that students today are likely to fill this bored time with other activities, such as web browsing, games, etc. We also did this, just in less sophisticated ways (pass notes, doodles, write letters or poems, etc.)

Perhaps the one thing that I tend to also disagree with is that teachers do not really need to fully understand the technology that their students use. Let the students figure it out for themselves. He gives the example of a parent giving their child a digital video camera to learn and then teach the parent how to use. I agree that this can be ture for fun new toys, I myself can become very occupied in learning a new toy. But he argues that this can be translated into the classroom. For example, giving an assignment to create a podcast. The teacher may not need to know the ins and outs, the student can do that and will likely not mind doing that. In my experience, students do not like instructors that tell them to use technology that they have never used and are unable or unwilling to give a tutorial. There is an old saying that a boss should never have his or her people do things that they themself are not willing to do. This should also be especially true in education. Teachers should be willing to learn the technology that they require their students to use.

So I am torn on Mr. Prensky's ideology. I agree that implementing technology can be a benefit to education, but I think he may go a bit too far. This definately signals a paradigm shift in how education is implemented and perceived. I forsee people like me who are somewhat stuck between the Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants will be the one's to really start this shift. But until the instructors are also true "digital natives" will any of Prensky's big ideas start to be seen.


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