The Teenage Brain – NECC 2007
Anyone with teenagers in their family or who works with teenagers knows it is a slippery slope to try to determine what makes them tick.
Traditional thinking for some has been that through time all kids are the same. That it's the cultural and societal influences that make them different. New research is out that dispels that as something of a myth. See research data at http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/teenbrain/. How often have you had conversations with colleagues and peers trying to determine or defend the value of technology by proving the educational value and it’s measurable impact on learning outcomes? Jukes suggests that the research isn't there because unless the measurements are changed to better align with the wiring of today's kids brains and the way they process information the impact of technology will hever be significant enough to measure. We are using old metrics for these new digital, different thinking kids.
Jukes talks about the importance of understanding and acknowledging that children today are wired differently than we are and were. That "knowing" is an important factor in how we will shape the educational landscape for kids to be successful as they navigate within those new landscapes.
Jukes lists several contrasting attributes between today’s learner and today’s educator that are worthy of some introspection.
1. Digital Learners prefer receiving info quickly from multiple multiplemedia sources. Many educators prefer slow and controlled release of info from limited sources.
2. Digital Learners prefer parallel processing and multi-tasking. Many educators prefer singular processing and single or limited tasking.
3. Digital Learners prefer processing pictures, sounds, color, and video before text. Many educators prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds, color and video.
4. Digital Learners prefer random access to hyper-linked multimedia information. Many teachers prefer to provide info linearly, logically and sequentially.
5. Digital Learners prefer to network simultaneously with many others. Many educators prefer students to work independently before they network and interact.
6. Digital Learns prefer to learn “just-in-time.” Many educators prefer to teach “just-in-case.”
7. Digital Learners prefer instant gratification and immediate rewards. Many educators prefer deferred gratification and delayed rewards.
8. Digital Learners prefer learning that’s relevant, active, instantly useful and fun. Many educators prefer feel compelled to teach to the curriculum guide and tests.
According to Jukes “it isn’t a matter of who’s right or wrong. It’s not a matter of either/or. This isn’t a matter of them or us. It’s not a matter of which way is better. The bottom line is that children ARE different. Through this understanding we can all do a better job of focusing on relevant and measurable outcomes that are aligned specifically to the students needs of today not yesterday’s kids.
He suggests that by changing instructional styles not changing what is important we can make an impact.
1. This requires more making learning fun and more relevant to kids and their world.
2. This means going faster so they can receive information quickly.
3. This means less step-by-step instruction and more random access, hyperlinked, just-in-time learning experiences.
4. This means less text and more pictures, sounds and video wherever possible.
5. This means providing more opportunities for multi-tasking, networking and interactivity.
6. This means applying what we now know from the brain and mind research about learning.
For the classroom teacher it may mean taking a small step. One day try to do something fun and relevant to kids and reflect on the outcome. Perhaps some material can be navigated more quickly with some differentiation strategies. Movies and pictures are readily available to all teachers, perhaps incorporating more of these in lessons will make an impact.
What ever it means to you, start small and build. We cannot wait for someone else to pave the way. The only way instructional change will happen in a way that will impact outcomes is if we each try to do something in our classrooms and build on it – at the kids pace not ours.