Teaching Generation Z – Embracing Digital Learning

Recently I have been working on courses to help teachers connect more effectively with today’s teenagers. In the process I have gone down numerous tangents, with varying degrees of relevance.

One of the most relevant tangents is how technology is shaping the way teenagers think and relate.  This is not a new field of enquiry but one that seems to be constantly developing with new insights emerging on a near daily basis. One particular insight that has really got me thinking is how technology can facilitate self-organising learning experiences for young people.

Below is a fascinating video from Professor Sugata Mitra (Newcaslte Univeristy, UK) and some of his findings from his hole-in-the-wall experiments.

I find this type of stuff fascinating. In many ways it is confronting, and because it confronts me I am forced to examine my pre-conceptions and existing categories of thinking. This is risky because I might end up learning something new.

I wonder what your thoughts are? I would be very interested to hear from teachers especially about their reaction to this video.

Some of the statements from the video that have me thinking are:

“I said ‘I don’t know actually’ and I left.”

A teacher who doesn’t need to be the source the of information or knowledge with the courage to leave a student to their own devices. What a confronting idea.  How often do pre-prescribed ways of approaching a problem actually limit learning rather than promote genuine, creative, problem solving? I suspect one of the conditions for such a method to work is that the medium or the topic is of interest to the learner. With that in mind could we think of mediums of learning that teenagers find engaging. I think I hear my smart phone ringing!

“If children have interest then education happens.”

Engaging students is about placing learning in the sphere of the relevant. Situated learning that has students solving real world problems and constructing knowledge that is meaningful shouldn’t be a new thing. However the willingness to embrace the technologies that would facilitate more opportunities for such learning seem to be somewhat lacking in many classrooms.

“A teacher that can be replaced by a machine should be.”

Confronting quote – especially for teachers.  I do not think that machines can or should replace teachers. But such a statement does encapsulate that the educational paradigm existing in schools since the industrial revolution is due for a good rethink. Maybe technology  is forcing us down the path we need to go.  Are teachers there to provide information, solve problems, and decide what should be learnt when? Or is there another way?

“Students will learn what they want to learn.”

Engaging Gen Z with subjects of interest will mean re-thinking how we teach a lot of subjects.  Moving toward teaching and equipping students to be life-long learners who can apply skills to whatever interest or need that comes across their path will be crucial.  Most young people have interests and the desire to learn.  Wouldn’t it be great if institutional education spent more time nurturing learners and less time dictating subjects to be taught.

Please let me know your thoughts.

Image by escapedtowisconsin

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