Thoughts On Engage Me Or Enrage Me….

It was interesting to read Engage Me or Enrage Me by Marc Prensky because it actually did force me to consider a few things about my own practice and also do a little research into Digital Natives.

Upon reading the article, my initial reaction was to be a little annoyed. While I’m very much in support of the idea that educators should understand and incorporate their students’ interests into unit plans, it did goad me that we were supposed to let students have everything on their own terms and always be 100% exciting. Is this really life? Can this seriously be sustained? A star footballer is only has to front up for two games a week and has the rest of the time to prepare whereas a teacher has to knock one in the back of a net at least 20 times a week? A little unfair…..I also think that new experiences or methods of engaging materials are very important to the development of a student: they sometimes don’t know whether they like things until they have actually been exposed to them and I see it as my job to make sure that there are elements of lessons that aren’t simply framed in a way that they already know.

However, I then reread the article and realized Prensky was simply discussing the ways in which units could be ‘packaged’ to look interesting. Taken in this spirit, the article’s thesis is easy to support. However, my initial reaction did get me thinking – how have things changed since its publication in 2003? Now that social networking and mobile devices have become a staple in most students’ lives is it still a teacher’s responsibility to wrap education in the technological packaging that students want? Should there be complete choice in the technologies used by students to submit work? Are there any negative and/ or positive trends emerging from this ability to have things more on their own terms with regards to technology?

Valerie Strauss in a recent article for the Washington Post examined The 21st Century Skills Students Most Lack and  identified perseverance as something that wasn’t being nurtured by a reliance on technology.  Researchers at Concordia University have also identified Five Research Skill Deficits That Digital Natives Bring to Classrooms . Reading through the list, there is a clear link with the idea of perseverance being a problem for today’s students. When we consider that Dr. Angela Lee Duckworth‘s research into the need for grit (of which perseverance is a key factor) is being celebrated a lot in educational circles it beg the question- does always making things easier or more palatable benefit a student?

Exploring further, I then came to the article by the Futurist Glen Hiemstra who was writing for the Future Of Work category on the Cornerstone blog . The research of Heimstra and Cornerstone regarding the future of the digital workplace provides some fascinating insights that have many implications for how we are preparing our students for the future. For example, the article People of the Screen and the Future of Work looks at the issue of work, technology and information overload in the workplace and found that tech savvy youngster typically felt the most overload. The writer suggested that a possible reason for this was that “they are jugglers” and their reliance in both professional and personal spheres on technology leads to being overwhelmed. If this is the case, then turning completely to technology for teaching may be counter intuitive. Maybe as teachers we need to teach students how to manage their technology use and promotes ways to avoid feeling overwhelmed.  

When considering all these ideas it becomes clear that using different technologies is important in engaging students. In 2013 there is far more technology in the class than one teacher is able to fully grasp. As personal choice of presentation technologies becomes the norm, the more important role for teachers seems to be educating students on how to balance their digital lives, both social and educational, so that they are able to navigate their way through the technological jungle without losing the point of the lesson at hand. 

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