I followed the blog at Education Futures to a site called The Edge and this article there by Don Tapscott, author of Grown up Digital. Tapscott draws in the recent NY Times article by Mark Taylor, which I discussed recently (scroll below). But whereas Taylor puts his focus on how universities must change due to the economic realities, Tapscott wisely focuses on how schooling must change because our students are different, and he is right: we must think for every lesson plan how we are serving best the young minds we are seeking to educate:
Yet the students, who have grown up in an interactive digital world, learn differently. Schooled on Google and Wikipedia, they want to inquire, not rely on the professor for a detailed roadmap. They want an animated conversation, not a lecture. They want an interactive education, not a broadcast one that might have been perfectly fine for the Industrial Age, or even for boomers….Growing up digital has changed the way their minds work in a manner that will help them handle the challenges of the digital age. They’re used to multi-tasking, and have learned to handle the information overload. They expect a two-way conversation. What’s more, growing up digital has encouraged this generation to be active and demanding enquirers. Rather than waiting for a trusted professor to tell them what’s going on, they find out on their own on everything from Google to Wikipedia.
Tapscott is kind enough to also offer recommendations for how we can reshape learning environments for these dramatically re-shaped young minds.
The professors who remain relevant will have to abandon the traditional lecture, and start listening and conversing with the students — shifting from a broadcast style and adopting an interactive one. Second, they should encourage students to discover for themselves, and learn a process of discovery and critical thinking instead of just memorizing the professor’s store of information. Third, they need to encourage students to collaborate among themselves and with others outside the university. Finally, they need to tailor the style of education to their students’ individual learning styles.
Interactive learning, just-in-time teaching, “deep questions,” and peer discussion are all tools Tapscott cites as being effectively employed in the “new model” of collegiate learning, and can all be applied in K-12 learning as well– and of course, are already being employed in forward-looking and progressive schools.
Another valuable piece here is the recognition that learning happens inside of social contexts, and that we need to ever more effectively intergrate student collaboration into our classrooms.
Another fixture of old-style learning is the assumption that students should learn on their own. Sharing notes in an exam hall, or collaborating on some of the essays and homework assignments, was strictly forbidden. Yet the individual learning model is foreign territory for most Net Geners, who have grown up collaborating, sharing, and creating together online. Progressive educators are recognizing this. Students start internalizing what they’ve learned in class only once they start talking to each other, says Seely Brown: “The whole notion of passively sitting and receiving information has almost nothing to do with how you internalize information into something that makes sense to you. Learning starts as you leave the classroom, when you start discussing with people around you what was just said. It is in conversation that you start to internalize what some piece of information meant to you.”
Like Taylor, Tapscott sees the need to retool for today’s students as posing significant challenges to the university, and we have to confront these brutal facts too in our schooling. It is not just a challenge to our teachers and our teaching; that we can handle, our teachers are, I believe, ready for this challenge. But there are important questions too about how we integrate off-site learning, on-line learning, collaborative learning, and how we maintain strong learning communities while students are empowered to go and learn in the world beyond our walls.