Digital Natives Have Their Say

Do kids ever get invited to conferences on the future of education? This is quite strange when you think about it, as Mark Prensky points out, all stakeholders are involved in corporate decisions, yet kids are rarely asked their viewpoints. In his article, Young Minds, Fast Times: The Twenty-First Digital Learner Mark points out:

Today’s kids hate being talked at. Students universally tell us they prefer dealing with questions rather than answers, sharing their opinions, participating in group projects, working with real-world issues and people, and having teachers who talk to them as equals rather than as inferiors.

Nearly two-thirds of secondary school students want to use laptops, cell phones, or other mobile devices at school.

A student in Albany, New York, pleaded the case for using technology in the classroom: “If it’s the way we want to learn, and the way we can learn, you should let us do it.”

One teacher queried, “Do computers cut you off from the world?” Not at all, said an excited student: “We share with others and get help. Technology helps — it strengthens interactions so we can always stay in touch and play with other people. I’ve never gone a day without talking to my friends online.”

One California high school served up a dose of common sense: “Kids grew up around computers. They love them. Their computers are their second teachers at home.” A student in West Virginia offered this nugget: “If I were using simulation in school, that would be the sweetest thing ever!”

Mark states that the best part of the student panels is always hearing the kids’ answers to his final question. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” Great responses:

I ask about their experience that day and whether their soapbox proved useful. “How do you like being able to talk to your teachers and supervisors about your learning?” I ask. I truly love their answers:
“I like the fact that we become equals. Students do not get the opportunity that often to share their ideas. If students and teachers could collaborate, a lot more would get done.” (Anaheim, California)

“A lot of students care — you just don’t realize it.” (Poway, California)

“Most of the time, the teachers are talking and I want to go to sleep. But now my brain is exploding.” (Poway, California)

“Don’t let this be a onetime thing.” (Poway, California)

“I think it’s important that you take time to see what we feel.” (West Virginia)

“Now you know what we think and how we feel. Hopefully, that will go to the heart.” (Texas)

“I waited twelve years for this.” (Texas)

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it!” (Texas)

“As a general rule, you don’t hear from kids unless they’ve gotten into trouble.” (Anaheim, California)

“Both groups [teachers and students] can learn from each other.” (Anaheim, California)

“If you don’t talk to us, you have no idea what we’re thinking.” (Hawaii)

Clearly, the kids find it valuable to share with their educators their opinions on how they want to learn. Although skeptical, they hope those teachers and administrators who are trying to improve their education think so, too, and listen carefully to what the students have to say.