Generational Differences Examined……Again. :)

Okay, so not to sound like “that old guy in the corner talking about those darn kids” but I am so starting to sound like “that old guy in the corner talking about those darn kids”. Generational differences have always been a heated topic. But this semester, my beliefs have been pushed to the limits with the generational differences between two groups that were discussed in prior readings: Digital Natives and Digital Immigrants. The more time that I have had to think about this, the more that I know that I am unsure of what my real opinion is.

First, I’ll preface this entire thing by saying that I truly believe that there is such a group as Digital Immigrants. It is apparent just from my own relative experience with older family members and working with the elderly during the summers. It is uncharted territory for them. As far as teaching goes, this rings true. In each building that I worked in, there were always the old guys/ girls that never checked email, still used old overhead projectors and lectured straight from the text. These individuals are indeed, digital immigrants. Some of them trying to learn the new language of technology while others simply could care less. It is infuriating and frustrating on all accounts.

Then there is the idea of a Digital Native, or the new generation of learners. Prensky (2001) stated that Digital Natives have been “networked most or all of their lives”. This is why they expect things to be given to them. They hook up to a source and the information flows freely. There may not be a lot of information that links Digital Natives’ learning patterns quite yet or the way in which their brains function, but I would like to think that these studies are being done and the results will astound us all. I think that the idea of the Digital Native is sound but only based on the idea that “they’re used to receiving information very fast” (Prensky 2001). I think it would be better to say that they are extreme multi-taskers. They have learned to do three things at once. Does that mean that they can do all three things with expertise and precision? Absolutely not.

I mean, let’s call this what it is: Multiple Intelligences. It’s the same thing that our professors preached to us in our educational training. You have to plan lessons so that you are reaching all different types of students (i.e kinesthetic, spatial, etc.). Kids have more technology, this is true. They are better at using it because they have had prolonged exposure. But there needs to be a happy medium. Dictating that every teacher uses as much technology as possible for the sheer sake of speaking the same language as the children, takes us back to other issues of just using technology to use it, without any purpose. Technology should have purpose. I don’t deny that technology can connect teachers and students, but I think that technology without a goal is like a foreigner in a strange new city without a translator.

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf



5 thoughts on “Generational Differences Examined……Again. :)

  1. Alyssa, it is interesting that my mention multiple intelligences and learning styles in general, as those are another thing that isn’t based on research. It is actually often described as a convenient untruth (i.e., something that is not truth, but makes sense to it becomes a convenient opinion to hold).

  2. In my undergraduate teaching courses, they went on and on about differentiating instruction to meet every type of student. The idea of Multiple Intelligences came up a lot. I’m a novice in the educational world, but it always made sense to me, as I saw examples of all types of learning styles exhibited in my classrooms. It wasn’t like I was looking for it, the students would tell me how they learned best and I tried to accommodate those needs.

  3. I love your analogy about being in a foreign country without a translator (or at least a book of helpful phrases)! Speaking the language of technology can be intimidating! But, knowing a little something can go a long way–it can make someone feel comfortable, accepted, and knowledgeable.

  4. I love how you said, “The more time that I have had to think about this, the more that I know that I am unsure of what my real opinion is.” I felt exactly the same way with this topic – I kept switching my thoughts or adding a BUT or caveat to everything I wrote!

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