Reflections 99 : LUSENET : M.Ed./International Falls : One Thread

Kim McDonald Position Paper

Reading Reaction Paper:

Educating the Net Generation

The image of computers gathering dust in the corner of a classroom at the turn of the century sounds preposterous. Yet, across the country this problem continues to exist. The computers are becoming more prevalent in classrooms, however the training has failed to keep pace with the integration of the computers into the classroom. Teachers and parents both struggle to learn how to partially utilize the software and equipment found in homes and classrooms. Integrating computers into classroom instruction continues to increase anxiety in the older generations that did not grow up immersed in technology as the young people of today are. Don Tapscott refers to these youngsters as the "Net Generation - the N-Geners" in his article, "Educating the Net Generation." (Feb. 1999)

According to Teenage Research Unlimited (1997), Tapscott reports that being on-line is as hip as partying and dating! He states that "even though the Internet is in it's infancy and, as such, is painfully slow; primitive; limited in capabilities, lacking security, reliability and ubiquity; and subject to both hyperbole and ridicule. They, the children, still keep coming back after each frustrating experience." Adults, on the other hand, that I know become extremely agitated with the continual negative experiences they encounter while working with various software, peripherals, E-mail and the Internet. I have heard utterances from colleagues, friends and relatives that small children should be shielded from. Others have quietly risen from their seat and never parked in front of the screen again ( or at least not yet!) Tapscott refers to this frustration as "digital anxiety". I call it the clenched jaw syndrome. I have even phoned my dentist for relief from the pain in my jaw, neck and teeth from the constant whirring of the computer and the agony imposed upon my jaw while quietly clenching my teeth from this 'digital anxiety". The only relief is to eventually have success or escape the monster machine.

Tapscott continues by introducing and highlighting the "Eight Shifts of Interactive Learning", that educators and students need to strive for when thinking about teaching and learning. These "shifts" are:

1. From Linear to Hypermedia Learning

2. From Instruction to Construction and Discovery

3. From Teacher-Centered to Learner-Centered Education

4. From Absorbing Material to Learning How to Navigate and How to Learn

5. From School to Lifelong Learning

6. From One-Size-Fits-All to Customized Learning

7. From learning as Torture to Learning as Fun

8. From the Teacher as Transmitter to the Teacher as Facilitator (Feb. 1999)

Transitions or "shifts" inevitably come more easily for some individuals than others. Whether it is a transition from one job to another, one paragraph to another, one community to another, one parenting role, etc. etc. Transcott points out to the older generation that they should look to our young as we embrace the ever changing technologies and work with them to increase our own understanding as well as to facilitate the experience for others at a higher level.

Educators and parents should consider allowing the children to lead us down the pathway of technology just as they led us to new places in the woods that we might not have discovered without their free exploration and desire to discover something new. The experience of Surfing the Internet and exploring new technologies is not unlike riding a bike. The child who hops upon a bike unafraid of the potential dangers of the experience learns quickly. The child who must be prodded and forced to try riding the bike will fall miserably behind his or her peers as they move on to the new challenges of riding with no hands, wheelies and jumping obstacles. The child might even wait until much later before attempting to lose the training wheels. The key to success in the advanced world of technology mirrors the early bike lesson, to provide support and guidance from loving parents and teachers. These adults who encourage children to face new challenges, make decisions for themselves and experiment with odd combinations will grow themselves in their knowledge and thus avoid Tapscotts "digital anxiety".

-- Anonymous, June 26, 1999

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