The Task of Educating Generation M

"Once a new technology rolls over you, if you're not part of the steamroller, you're part of the road."-Stewart Brand "Technology is ruled by two types of people: those who manage what they do not understand, and those who understand what they do not manage."-Mike Trout "The internet is just a world passing around notes in a classroom"- Jon Stewart


As school districts, administrators and teachers approach the challenge of effectively incorporating technology in their curriculums, several factors must be considered about the learner, educational technology and the process of educational change:

Redefining the learner:
The most important thing to consider when approaching education today is the evolving nature of our students. “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky, 2001, p.1). Because today’s generation accepts and processes information in a distinctly different manner than previous generations, the same methods of instructional delivery cannot be employed to reach and teach these students effectively.
Understanding their language:
The gap between the generation of ‘Digital Natives’ and ‘Digital Immigrants’ is ever-expanding. Because our students are operating in an entirely different ‘culture,’ their expectations of information and education are also very different. Their norms (parallel processing and multi-tasking) and values (instant gratification and frequent rewards) affect their interest and access to Education. In orders for instructors to be effectively acculturated into the digital mainstream, they must revise both their methodology and content to communicate efficiently and effectively with Generation M (Prensky, 2001).
Revising pedagogy:
Teachers should not consider technology an intruder in their classrooms. Technology happens to be a central reality in the lives of our students. Much like schools must strive to include all social, cultural and economic experiences in the curriculum to make it more relevant for its learners, technology must also be acknowledged and accepted to make the educational process more meaningful for students. The question is not whether technology should be used, but how it can be employed effective (Prensky, 2001). Humans have always had the capacity to multi-process and multitask (Wallis, 2006), the task at hand now is to create an interpersonal connection between the curriculum and the technology-savvy learner. As Prensky (2001) notes: “(t)here is no reason that a generation that can memorize over 100 Pokémon characters with all their characteristics, history and evolution can’t learn the names, populations, capitals and relationships of all the 101 nations in the world. It depends on how it is presented” (p.5).

Implications of digital juggling for the student and instructor:
As parents have long wondered and scientists have researched, Gen M’s digital juggling has implications for their social and psychological growth as well. The constant need to be stimulated and/or connected is being connected to student performance and attention to tasks such as homework or a face-to-face conversation. “Habitual multitasking may condition their (students) brain to an overexcited state, making it difficult to focus even when they want to” (Wallis, 2006). Consequently it becomes the responsibility of educators and parents to moderate the type of technological interactions they have in classrooms and actively design situations where they are using technology to stay interested and stimulated for their learning.

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Media Links:

--An interesting look at the role of technology in Education today

--A brief look into the 'classroom of the future'

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Developing a school technology plan:
  • School technology plans should be part of the overall school improvement plan in order to ensure that they are actually applied
  • Technology should be presented as a valuable introduction in the curriculum that supports instruction, instead of an additional, irrelevant intrusion
  • Realistic considerations of school finances, capacity and teacher/administrator schedule/time flexibility should be evaluated before committing to a technology plan
  • All members with vested interests in student learning (e.g. teachers, parents, community members) should have a voice in the technology plan development of the school. Having a shared vision eliminates some of the need for creating buy-in and makes all parties responsible for meeting the goals they have collectively agreed on.
  • Create a knowledge base of both internal and external experts. Those that are closest to the application (teachers) and those that have mastery and expertise in the area should collaborate to generate a collective vision.

Here is a good example of a school techology plan from the Norton Public School system in Norton, Mass.

Supporting a school technology plan:

  • Technology plans should be carefully assessed and evaluated consistently to gauge whether they are meeting their goals of improving student learning and success.
  • Professional development and support for teachers should be actively developed and supported once the technology plan i in the implementation phase. Teachers should be encouraged to use technology creatively and comfortably. They should also be able to rely on on-site technical support personnel.

Technology Plan Comments from our Group Discussion
Ok, well I tried to find a tech plan in my school. Well, I emailed the one tech liasion for my school and she said we follow the county guidelines. To be honest with you she did not know them and I do not know them. To describe my school we are trying to become more digital. We are a title one school so we have funding for the digital era. We do not have a committee, but we need one. We have one tech person who runs around whenever their is a problem which takes up most of her time. The funny part is she doubles as the gifted and talented teacher. Wow, alot on her shoulders huh. In our school i know there are five other teachers that have their masters in ISTC. They shoulb be on the committe help the one teacher. Whne I go bak to school I am going to recomend this committee and i will be on it because I love technology.

Creating a realistic technology plan: Developing a technology plan with input from both internal and external experts and approval from all vested parties (administrators, teachers, parents, board members) might be a lengthy process but it will ensure buy-in and stay-in for the plan. Furthermore, a diverse group of participants will make for a plan that most people can support and implement. This will also help reduce potentially unrealistic goals for schools and keep budgetary concerns on the forefront.

Technology at my school is severely lacking. As I mentioned in a previous discussion, our school is equipped with Dell GX 110’s. They are the white computers that have no memory to support programs that we are supposed to use, like Safari Montage and BrainPop. We are not a Title 1 school, and therefore do not have a huge budget to support technological purchases. My principal has used leftover money each year to purchase 4 LCD projectors in order for teachers to implement Safari and BrainPop into instruction, which is wonderful! However the computers attached to these projectors are so slow that it is almost impossible to use. I probably have 2 teachers a week sign out a LCD projector – that’s it! They want to use it to integrate Safari and BrainPop into lessons. It is extremely frustrating, I wish more teachers would use it, but I understand why they don’t due to the low functioning computers we have.

My school does not have an individual technology plan, but we use the county plan as a guideline. We are also including the teacher technology standards in our SIP (School Improvement Plan) this year. We, however, have a tech liaison and technology committee that meets once a month to discuss different tech needs in our school. A few years ago, we received a grant to put 3 Interwrite boards with tablets in our classrooms, 3 teachers were trained using the technology by the company and the used it in their classrooms for a year. Our school adopted the train-the-trainer technique and those individuals were responsible for training other teachers with how to use the technology in their classrooms. I was required to complete 6 hours of training with the master technology teacher for my grade level.

I am not familiar with Towson University's technology plan, however the university does offer a few of its masters and certificate level programs completely online. My experience with these online options has been varied. I have been working on my MS in HRD exclusively online up until this semester. I have noticed some inconsistencies in the technological abilities in the professors instructing the courses. Some of the professors have required not only a complete understanding of the capabilities of blackboard, but have required an understanding of outside technologies as well. For example, last semester a professor required work in a virtual group, requiring the use of some type of virtual communication between group members outside of blackboard. While he did make some suggestions about how to proceed, he left it up to the groups to run themselves. Other professors use blackboard in a very limited way, which makes being an online learner quite difficult.
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Adult Education Technology Plan
Adult Education Technology Plan

Click to find out what our students are actually saying to us....the dictionary to their language...

Technology and Higher Education

This site discusses the various technologies that students are using to research colleges and universities. Schools are changing how they market themselves, participating online in blogging, facebook, virtual tours, chats, etc. As colleges begin to utilize these changing technologies, parents are seemingly being left out of the process.

Here are some examples of the ways colleges are utilizing technology to better reach prospective students:

NetLingo the Internet Dictionary

July 02, 2008

Helpful Links:

Center for Digital Education - A resourse for technology education in K-12 and Higher Education
Educational Technology Blogs and Information - An informative site on emerging technologies and educational technology blogs
The Educator's Reference Desk - Resource guides related to educational technology