Those words from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who lived 2500 years ago fit perfectly with our topic this week. As we examined the generational frameworks I was making many connections! My husband and I are both generation X and we have one daughter who is a millennial and the other daughter is generation Z. While we can poke fun with the memes that make light of each group, I believe there is no denying there are differences.
I am not talking about the characteristics often used to stereotype each group such as millennials being described as entitled and gen Z being described as self-centered (both my daughters would argue against those descriptors). Rather the differences in the experiences and changes in society they both encountered. In order to fit into the world they were growing up in, we as parents had to make changes. Whether one generation to the next agrees if those changes are good or bad, we should be able to agree that our world changes, things are different. As parents and educators we need to be able to change as well in order to help guide and prepare our children and students for the future.
Examining the differences and similarities in the generations led our discussion to the terms Marc Prensky introduced in 2001, digital natives and digital immigrants. I was familiar with these terms and had accepted that based on my age I was considered a digital immigrant. However, the video Do Digital Natives Exist from the PBS Idea Channel helped me question that acceptance. Just because I was “not born into the digital world” should not necessarily automatically define who I am with technology. As stated in the video, “access doesn’t come pre-packaged with understanding”. Regardless of age, we learn “through context and immersion and practice”. A great example that reaffirmed this for me occurred this summer while I was at a family function. I observed my grandma’s brother and sister, both in their 90s, very active with Facebook and all of the features on their iPhones.
Rather than making these generalizations solely based on age, we can look at the differences in attitude around technology. The article Visitors and Residents really helped me consider my online engagement. While I like to think that I have stayed current and use technology it has become clear that I tend to be a visitor. This course is definitely a new way of learning for me and with each week I am becoming more comfortable with moving towards becoming a resident.
After reflecting on who I am I had many thoughts about how change applies to our education system and the future.
Do schools really need to change?
Change is hard, change is uncomfortable and many people avoid it as much as they can. There are amazing things happening in schools and students are learning. Yet I can’t stop but wonder if we are doing everything possible to prepare them for the future. Jobs that don’t yet exist and future we can only imagine. In order for change to occur in our schools, we need teachers to change. This may come across as a generalization but all too often I hear “I’m not techie, the students know more than I do, I’m not comfortable using technology”. While I can understand these feelings, it does not make them right. Educators should be life long learners. Yet this mindset of not changing is often accepted because parents feel that way too – this is how I learned and it worked for me! I find it interesting that we would not go to a medical doctor who is not up to date with medical discoveries and technology yet in education we are accepting of those who have not changed. I understand that we are comfortable with what we know and often teach the way we were taught but is that good enough for our students and the future? In order to change this mindset, professional development is required.
That, in my opinion is the other obstacle we face. Finding time within a school year to provide the needed training and professional development for teachers has become almost impossible. It is not just about training teachers how to use technology but also the understanding and attitude about technology. Many teachers have taken their learning into their own hands and developed online PLCs and take part in online learning. I see those teachers sharing their interests and learning with other willing teachers. We also need to somehow reach the teachers who don’t have the access to that type of learning. Yes, I believe change in schools is needed. I just wonder if it will happen fast enough to keep up with our changing world?
What sort of education or education system will be needed to adequately prepare students for the world ahead?
I believe that we require an education system that believes in developing students who are knowledge-able. Michael Wesch explains the difference between knowledgeable and knowledge-able in this clip. He explains that we need to inspire curiosity and wonder in our students so that they can find, sort, analyze, criticize and then create and share new information and knowledge. We need an education system that develops students that do not just receive knowledge but actively go after it. By developing these skills in students, I believe we will be preparing them for the world ahead. Now more than ever critical thinking skills are a necessity and cannot be developed if we just give all the answers. As Wesch explains, there needs to be a balance between being knowledgeable and knowledge-able. I feel that is our goal as an education system.