After reading iBrain: surviving the technological evolution of the modern mind, I was struck by facts and ideas that made me see my students differently.
These facts challenged me, but they did not discourage me. I do not have a gloomy vision of my Digital Native students’ future. It is not a depressing vision. It is not a dark vision of education gone wrong.
It is just a very different vision.
Brain evolution demands changes in the way we teach. Here’s what teachers should know about their Digital Native students:
1. They’re reading less– “studies show that fewer young adults read books for pleasure now than in any generation before them. Since 1982, literary reading has declined by 28 % in 18-34 year olds.” (Small & Vorgan, p. 3)
2. They must learn to use their brains efficiently– In an earlier post about brain evolution, we looked at how this generation multi-tasks constantly. It’s a negative habit, because “Switching back and forth [between two tasks], like answering email while writing a memo, may decrease brain efficiency by as much as 50%, compared with completing one task before starting another one.” (ibid., p. 68)
3. They really like video games– “Digital Natives constitute the major market for video gaming: more than 90% of all children and adolescents in the United States play these games” (ibid., p. 36)
4. 20% are Internet addicted– “An estimated 20 % of this generation meets the clinical criteria for pathological Internet use– they are online so much it interferes negatively with almost every aspect of their lives.” (ibid., p. 30)
5. There are gender differences in Internet usage– Females tend to use the Internet for social purposes– to stay in touch. Males feel more comfortable in virtual gaming social networks: “80% of online virtual gamers are young men– and not just teenagers; the average age is 28.” (ibid., p. 57)
6. They are raised partly by TV– The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents “limit their child’s television watching, [and recommend] zero television for children less than two years of age.”TV watching at such a young age can lead to permanently impaired attention abilities. (ibid., p. 67)
The problem is that 20% of children under the age of 5 have a TV in their bedrooms, and 30% of kids ages 3-6 have TVs in theirs. (ibid., p. 67)
7. They need family– “In a 2006 survey of nearly 100,000 teenagers across 25 states, a higher frequency of dinners was associated with more positive values and a greater commitment to learning. Adolescents from homes having fewer family dinners were more likely to eixhibit high-risk behaviors, including substance abuse, sexual activity, suicide attempts, violence, and academic problems.” (ibid., p. 93)
8. They’re bored in traditional classrooms– “Many students acknowledge that classroom learning and the customary lecture/note-taking system seems boring to them.” (ibid., p. 26)
9. They may benefit from educational games– “we do know that a limited amount of video gaming may enrich some forms of cognitive performance.” Scientists and video game designers are at work to create games that attract Digital Natives and strengthen their minds. (ibid., p. 40)
Did any of these findings surprise you?
This is Part III of a series of posts based on the research of Gary Small, MD & Gigi Vorgan published in their book, iBrain: Surviving the Technological Alteration of the Modern Mind.
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