For many people, the term ‘digital native’ might sound a little strange. It’s not literally someone who lives on the internet, as that might be a little bit impossible. What it does offer, though, is a term which has become increasingly popular in the last decade and a half. Coined by the excellent Marc Prensky in 2001, this term – the digital native – describes the inability to help the next generation, namely the digital natives who were born in the millenia learn in and through technology. Teachers and educators are increasingly finding it more difficult to relate and understand the needs of the generations that preceded them.
Today, as the infographic below shows, people like digital natives tend to get their information through the web and have a different means of learning and then processing information. Therefore, academics are often confronted with the challenges that traditional methods of education that they once employed with such success no longer hold the same ideals.
So, what are some other ways can ‘digital natives’ be taught?
1. Multiliteracies and Multimodal Learning
Supporting meaningful teaching and learning for the 21st century requires to adhere to an expanded view of literacy, which reflects the multimodal meaning making of digital natives and not alone. It has been proposed to promote a pedagogy of multiliteracies involving learning using not only spoken and written words, but also images and symbols of all kinds, sounds and music, bodily gestures and movement, and physical and virtual objects. Educators therefore have a new charge in the new era, to teach these competencies and multimodal literacy practices that students need to acquire and utilize in various contexts in order to succeed in the postmodern world.
2. Collaborative Learning
Probably the most striking way in which we can help the next generation learn to change and grow academically is through collaborative learning. Instead of expecting everyone to dig their noses into academic books and read from the same select sources, we should prepare for digital natives to have more diverse sources and opinions on certain subjects.
It’s important that it is realized how collaborative learning is probably the major secret to making the digital natives out there more comfortable to learn. There are lots to consider about the value of learning as a member of a group and by actually taking part in the learning process through up taking different roles. No longer do people get the same enjoyment from just reading from a book and taking cues from there. To add another bow to the way that the next generation will be learning, we have to appreciate that their means of education differs.
3. Avoid Pretension
One of the major flaws in digital native learning is when a ‘digital immigrant’ (those of an older generation without the same comfort and thought process in digital learning) tries to pretend they are from a more modernized background. It comes across as false and cannot be a valid source of helping to stimulate and improve the level of learning that students can do in general.
This is a major issue and one that has to be addressed. A teacher must find a way of working as the core organizer of the subject, and the person who helps the students to learn. What they no longer have to be, though, is the font of all knowledge and fact. Teaching has moved beyond the head of the classroom being the holder of all the facts. Digital natives find it easy to topple the academics and the experts, so it’s important that schools take this into account as it will majorly determine the next steps in the industry.
A teacher must find a way of using the knowledge they do have to offer the information in a way that can be used a supplement, not as the only fact available.
4. Keep Teaching Human
However, whilst it’s important that teachers avoid going down the route of trying to become false in their educational style, they also need to find a way of making sure that they can keep the human interaction side of things burning as bright as it possibly can.
The human element of learning from a teacher is never going to be going away anytime soon. Teachers have to accept that now students can learn from them even if they are not face-to-face. The rapid growth of distance education means that the education process has to be respected as having changed so dramatically.
Keeping the human element – acting as the person to throw logic into arguments and debates – is a key of being good at teaching the digital natives. They need to know they can learn from multiple sources, but also that their teacher does hold information that they can learn from.
5. Provide a Purpose
Nobody wants to learn from you, no matter how humanized you can be and how far away from the authoritarian image of a teacher you can be, if you do not have a purpose to the learning. Students struggle to just listen to you talking on for an hour and a half – if they want to read a massive wall of text or listen to an interview they do not participate in; they will find it.
The days of memorization (thankfully) are gone in the classroom – it’s now madness to expect that students will just put up and let you make your point these days. Students now read into topics that engage them and interest them, rather than always constantly looking to the power of the teacher to help them learn in the first place.
Give a native control, though, in other words encouraging self-directed learning and they will make the most of that. Let them dictate the learning path in the room and they can find their own way there. Students want to know what they are doing, and why they want to know that in the first place. Act as a facilitator, make your ideas interesting, and students are more likely to want to listen and make that a lesson worth hearing.
Try and just narrate from a book and expect them to learn though? You’ll be shocked.
6. Square Pegs, Square Holes
Many teachers fear that learning through hybrid – typical teaching and eLearning – is the wrong way to go. However, this comes from experience personally as they never had this extra side to their education. As such it’s probably something worth avoiding. That’s the train of thought that many teachers go with – and it’s also why many teachers fail to excite or adapt.
Provide a research-based approach to your learning together. In class, use supplementary content from the web that backs up your point but is put in a more “interesting” tone. Digital natives care not for just your take on things, but back it up with some cool content online they can review themselves? They’ll be far more likely to actually listen. In this sense, different approaches have been employed, for instance, using WebQuests to excite and motivate students through extensive use of online resources.
With so many of the digital native generation in need of technology to feel stimulated now, it’s important that teaching does not fall behind long-term. Sticking with the old ideas and refusing to adapt the way that students are asked to learn, though, will create a chasm that cannot be bridged.
BE SURE TO READ ALSO: Three Ways to Protect Your Students From the Dangers of Technology
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