Dumbing Down the Next Generation
Those in higher education today have to wear a variety of hats, from advisor, career specialist, to recruiter; and students want their education online, on-demand, and on their terms. Anyone who has ever advised students can tell you that just getting students to understand the elementary concepts of what and why you need general education courses - can be exhausting. Everyone is in a transition, students and teachers.
The digital natives (a digital native is defined as a person born between 1980 and 1994) are being inundated with academic curriculum designed to be done on the computer – but let’s face it, it's still just another teaching method. I tend to agree that these new digital natives (millennials) students are able to adapt to just about any technology you place in front of them, including gamification, social media, learning management systems, and other integrated technologies. The caveat however to motivation for these new learners is "Now". They want it “Now”.
They want it “Now”
My Own Journey
I started my technological journey in the early 70’s. I grew up around technology, and I rode the wave. My first typewriter was a manual one (yes, I'm that old). By junior high I had the idea I had to be the fastest typist in school - an electric typewriter was my weapon of choice. I passed my ninth grade typing instructor at a cool 125 words a minute. I couldn't even imagine that speed today. But at the time I felt I wasn't good at anything else, so a love affair of sorts with the keyboard was born.
I became digitally hooked in the 80’s when I received my first Commodore computer. Back then 4 mb’s was a monster file. I learned publishing by memorizing and manipulating Word Star key codes, and I was training myself in computer science. I remember my first college level computer science class where we had to take apart all the components of an old Apple computer and put them all back together again. These weren't the Apples of today – they were the Apple’s with the screen the size of an IPad, but the body the size of a full size desktop.
I went into computer science with no formal educational background at all. Just a sassy brat right off the street. My grades weren't the best, but to this day I still use what I learned way back in the day. I still use the basic GOTO commands, and DOS for IT support.
The internet was always my oyster, I liked learning things on my own. I taught myself HTML first, and then dabbled with java, php, and SQL. I failed my first college web design class, yet I build websites and monitor dozens of them today. I know why I failed – I hadn't taught myself FTP. I had to teach myself, and I did. This was old school, but it was the way of technology back then.
I had to teach myself, and I did.
There is no empirical data to suggest that today's learners are superior to the generations before them. While I can agree that student can learn from a computer, that doesn't necessarily make them more superior. The whole design of teaching with a computer is to utilize it as a scaffolding tool to help students become better self lead learners and keep them motivated.
I have worked with a number of students and found that their ability to sit and read while on a computer does prove beneficial to their learning strategies. I can give the same group of students a book to read and a number of them will sit there like I’ve hit them with something hard. Each student is different – each is unique.
Students have adapted to technology as a form of receiving instruction. This is both good and bad as far as I can see. There still needs to be lesson plans built away from the use of technology so students can learn to incorporate many different learning styles. Life isn't all about computers – there needs to be a balance.
Different from the digital native, nowdays I've been given the label of digital immigrant (a person born or brought up before the widespread use of digital technology). But is that who and what I am? That assumption is doubtful, and most assuredly false. I think the younger generation is spoiled, and they don'treally understand the roots of technology. They haven’t sat in an office with huge goliath main frame kicking out rems of paper for hours, or watched a programmer edit volumes of code to find a minor coding error. History counts.
What do today's students really know about technology? They know speed, visual stimulation, social media, and some of them can type really fast. Maybe not 125 words a minute, but they are fast. Most of them have a cell phone and are developing thumb problems. I am not impressed with their technology skills as it relates to research and retaining information. It is rare that I can sit down with a student and actually have a conversation about new technological trends. Kids want the latest fad, but they aren’t interested in the history behind the making of that fad.
The statistics surrounding this issue show that most “digital natives” didn’t actually show a sustainable higher intelligence in the use of technology. The sad part is that E-mail, Social Media, and word processing were in the top of the statistical range.
Modern technology if used right can play a very positive role in academics. But as many have suggested, social media, cell phones, and music players are not universal. Not everyone in every country or of a certain social status will have access to the same technology. As far as there being a moral panic and the assumption that digital natives are in some way superior in intellect, and we must develop new methods for keeping up with them – that’s not realistic. Studies have found that only 21 % of the majority of students were able to develop and create their own content. Studies also suggest that a larger portion of students tested at a range much lower than had been expected for the digital natives.
Social media, cell phones, and music players are not universal
While technology is a useful tool, not all usages of technology are good and in fact may be harmful. You have to worry about dumbing down students with over stimulation. There is a point where students become too reliant on a system and/or the internet. We can’t lump together all students into one basket.
You have to worry about dumbing down students with over stimulation
My granddaughter who is three years old can move things around on a desktop very nicely. However, I have asked my daughter to hold off on moving her too rapidly into kindergarten -technology. I want her to be a child outside playing in the flowers and rolling around with the puppies. The hype or sensation of technology is no sensation at all. Students need to feel and understand many styles of learning. They need reality! Technology is in the upper chambers of education. It is there that the new systems and pedagogies will be created. But life on the outside of the educational institutions needs to be put to better use. At 3 years old – a computer can be left outside in the rain. There is no moral panic in that.