Saturday, April 6, 2013

Making Learning Meaningful

Image courtesy SparkCBC (CC BY-SA 2.0)
I went to a great session at the Iowa 1:1 Conference presented by Leigh Zeitz (professor at University of Northern Iowa) entitled "Making Learning Meaningful for Millennials." Lots of food for thought!

He started out by sharing some information about different generations and some generalities about the individuals in these different generations:
  • Gen X - 1963-1980 (Hey, that's me!)
  • Generation Y - 1981 - 1994 (The "Millennials"--my college students are here.)
  • Generation Z - 1995 - 2009 (Kids in PreK-12 today...)
  • Generation Alpha - Kids that have grown up since 2010 (Whoa...this is already a distinct group?)
He noted that he mis-titled this presentation, since he was really talking about Generation Z, not the true "Millenials." I wondered whether this was just a matter of splitting hairs, but the more we talked about this, the more I think he's right.

I'm thinking a lot about the kids in school today, and the way they use technology. We talked some in the session about whether the idea of "digital natives" is fact or fiction. Not a lot of agreement on this in the crowd at this session...which mirrors my own thinking--I'm torn. I'd like to believe that kids in school today are digital natives, because they are very tech-comfortable...but they don't always actually seem very tech-savvy.

Anyway...Dr. Zeitz noted that we may need to do more research on Generation Z, but we know that kids in this generation...
  • Are positive, confident, and have a can-do attitude
  • Like structure
  • Want frequent feedback
  • Prefer a variety of tasks, not just the same thing over and over
  • Tend to be team players
  • Appreciate diversity
  • Enjoy collaboration
As I think about the kids I taught in my most recent PreK-12 setting--who are part of Generation Z--this generally seems right. (Fellow teachers, do you agree? Disagree? Which ones seem right to you?)

We also talked about how kids today learn, work, and play...all at the same time. Which makes it interesting to think about schooling: doesn't this sound like elementary school in an ideal situation? Students learning by doing their work, and working with a level of playfulness? That just seems right to me. And I wonder if students at all levels would find their task more interesting (if not enjoyable?) if learning, work, and play had more overlapping?

As we discussed the implications of this, Dr. Zeitz made this provocative comment: "Students today don't necessarily want us to 'teach'...they want us to create opportunities for learning to happen." That is a really, really interesting point. I think it generally is true for high schoolers...and maybe for middle schoolers what about elementary school kids? Do my own kids feel this way? And if so, what are the implications for elementary school teachers, not to mention the middle and high school teachers among us? And how about higher education?

We concluded this session with this quote, which I think is a great reminder for all educators:

We must teach our students for their 
tomorrows, not our yesterdays.

No comments:

Post a Comment