I have the opportunity to teach privileged children who mostly experience access. I feel as though I’ve experienced more frustration with the system in the past several years than ever before. But as I’m coming to learn in my research, we must embrace this generation and certainly not put up a firewall. John Palfrey and Urs Gasser note, “Digital Natives offer feedback, often quite harsh, but in a way that can help brands to refine at the margins, or to innovate in wholly new ways” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010). If we don’t think and educate with an open mind, these Digital Natives are liable to drive us out of the business and potentially eat us for dinner! They also mention, “These Digital Natives may be innovators, but they are threatening a way of life. People are losing their jobs” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010).
Although these techy youth may not solely be to blame for job loss of boomer employees, this idea seems predominant at my school. Older teachers are being driven out of their 20-30 year careers because, simply put, from administration’s perspective, they cannot keep up with the pace at which we must deliver to today’s youth. (Obviously this may be driven by budgetary reasons too. It’s sad to see some of them go, many kicking and screaming.) With students’ basic computer skills outperforming that of their teacher who has no desire to integrate technology in the classroom, I would agree intervention should be put in place. But who wants to be forced to leave their one and only career and not given the liberty to go on their own accord after putting 20 plus years in the business?
I feel as though my classroom environment is constantly evolving to suit the needs of my students to maintain an adequate pace. If at all possible, I bend over backwards for these talented young individuals and try to provide everything they need to be efficient learners while keeping my professional expertise at the forefront. This includes posting grades online in an expeditious manner. As Tapscott mentioned, “Warp speed is the preferred speed” (Tapscott, 2008). It’s hard to believe, but I have parents who sit on their phones and computers and watch their child’s gradebook waiting for the next grade to post. I always try to utilize many features of the internet to allow my students access to complete assignments without having them use their teacher as an excuse. For instance, they can use an online textbook for assignments (no need to use the ‘I forgot my book at school’ excuse). I also upload all assignments to my website in pdf format so students can access it anywhere from their mobile devices (even when absent). I promote resourcefulness in the classroom and encourage students to problem solve when they try to use justifications for their faults.
Communication is another expectation of these privileged students. Not only do these kids want to communicate with each other, but their parents want constant communication with their child and teacher too. I’ve found the best rule of thumb is to contact parents frequently via email or phone, even for minor things, as most parents want and like the feedback. I foster a collaborative work environment in my classroom where students are seated at tables (small communities) so they can constantly run ideas back and forth regarding how to solve math problems as well as assist those in need.
It is important to know the needs of our students. I remain open to new suggestions on ways to improve my instructional delivery and classroom environment to better suit the needs of the rising Net Gens. Although this statistic may be dated, Bobby Hobgood and Lauren Ormsby noted in their article Inclusion in the 21-st century classroom: Differentiating with technology, “A 2005 U.S. Department of Education study found that whole-class instruction was the most common format experienced by secondary students with disabilities as well as students in regular education academic classes” (Hobgood & Ormsby, 2011). I hope by now many teachers recognize we cannot stand up in front of the class and expect students to learn from traditional lecture methods. Hobgood and Ormsby go on to say, “Many of the obstacles to implementing differentiated instruction can be overcome with the effective use of technology” (Hobgood & Ormsby, 2011). We need to get creative, like our students, in finding new innovated ways to deliver content.
In closing, Palfrey and Gasser comment on the fact “Digital Natives will in time revitalize the industries that they are challenging, create new jobs to replace those they are threatening, and offer new services to customers around the world” (Palfrey & Gasser, 2010). I hope I live long enough to see this come full circle because I’m already trying to flip to the ending of this book.
Hobgood, B. & Ormsby, L. (2011). Inclusion in the 21-st century classroom: Differentiating with technology. Retrieved from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/editions/every-learner/6776 on June 12, 2014.
Palfrey, J., & Gasser, U. (2010). Born Digital : Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Tapscott, D. (2008). Grown up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing Your World. New York: McGraw-Hill.