Apple Computer’s “Digital Tools for digital students” website includes good info and great video interviews with both teachers and students on the realities facing digital immigrant teachers in classrooms today. Those interviewed on the site contend digital students are:

  • hypercommunicators
  • multitaskers
  • goal oriented

Kids have changed, most schools have not. I love this quotation from Edgar, a student interviewed on the initial page of the site:

Digital media is here to say. Our job is to work with it.

Many adults seem to be in denial when it comes to digital culture and digital information. The following graph showing 12th grader perceptions of school from 1983 through 2000 is also an eye opener:

12th grader views of school 1983 through 2000

I think it begs the question of RELEVANCY for today’s schools, especially our large public high schools where dropout rates often exceed 50%. If you’re interested in the original report, I found it after a bit of googleing (“The Condition of Education”) on the National Center for Education Statistics’ website. The following quotation from the 2006 “highlights” page unfortunately IGNORES AGAIN the issue of poverty in US schools:

“While our younger students are making progress on national assessments and are ahead on some international measures the same can not be said at the high school level,” said Mark Schneider, NCES Commissioner. “U.S. students do relatively well in reading literacy when compared to their international peers, but they are outperformed in mathematics and science and our 15-year-old students trail many of our competitors in math and science literacy.”

Disaggregate the data, or at least listen and read the work of others who have. US middle and upper class students are doing just fine when compared with any other nation on the planet. Mark Schneider, like so many other researchers and politicians, fails to acknowledge in this statement the documented and well-supported contention that students from lower SES backgrounds generally perform lower across the board on standardized tests. We’ve got a poverty problem in the USA, folks– much more than an education problem. We need to reform education, but we need to do it while we STOP beating up teachers, administrators, and schools for failing to solve the problem of poverty which they did not cause and cannot be reasonably expected to singlehandedly overcome alone.

Resources listed on the Apple digital disconnect site (which contained the above graph) are phenomenal for anyone wanting to get more research and perspectives on digital kids. They include:

  1. “Educating the Net Generation” by EDUCAUSE
  2. “Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds” by the Kaiser Family Foundation
  3. “School Engagement Key to Student Success” by Gevirtz Graduate School of Education, University of California, Santa Barbara
  4. “Growing Up Digital Kids” by Don Tapscott
  5. “How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School” – John D. Bransford, Ann L. Brown, and Rodney R. Cocking, editors
  6. “High Score Education: Games, Not School, Are Teaching Kids to Think” by James Paul Gee
  7. “Child Power: Key to New Learning of the Digital Century: The Irrelevancy of School” by Seymour Papert
  8. “Voices and Views from Today’s Tech-Savvy Students” by the NetDay Organization
  9. “Integration Issues for 21st-Century Teachers” by Susan Brooks-Young

Charles Babatu Murphy summarizes our need for educational reform well:

We’re in a digital age. We’ve got a whole new set of requirements to function in a digital age. It’s time to change this model that we function in, because we’re living in the past. We’re living in our past. And they [digital kids] have a whole new future coming.

I agree completely. We need educational reform. Not wholesale, top-down reform, but empowerment to let states and localities pilot different and innovative approaches to education. We’ve got to find a way to make PROJECT BASED LEARNING the commonly accepted pedagogy within schools, rather than the exception to the rule. Many if not most public school teachers today seem to have bought the lie that their job should be primarily imparting a dearth of curriculum content into the minds of students like a firehose pouring water into the Grand Canyon. Look at our statewide dropout rates in Texas! (No, don’t look at the false and unethically modified statistics published by Rod Paige when he was in Houston, before he become US Secretary of Education– look at the REAL dropout statistics. We’ve got to change. We continue to lose teachers right and left in our schools within five years after they start teaching, and we continue to see students dropping out all over the map from public education.

Enough is enough. NCLB is not the solution, it has become part of the problem. We need to look at new ways of organizing schools and governing them so creativity and innovation can thrive. We need administrators with instructional vision for digital literacy, not just traditional literacy and schooling from the 1800s. We need teachers with the courage to embrace messy assessment and education as conversation as moral imperatives, not frivolous options. We need a change, and we need to work together to make it happen.


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  • Thanks for bringing to light the reality of poverty as a problem in our communities. We just completed a youth led mapping research project on youth poverty and homelessness in our Region and the level of denial and ignorance by residents/service provides/government etc. is huge. Here in Ontario, we see the same pattern playing out in our schools in respect to drop out rates, teacher turnover and blaming the schools for failing to address social issues whose roots are poverty based. I’m meeting today with a School Board official to talk about her mandate to implement a school mapping project right across the Region. This direction is encouraging as it would get students into the community, conducting relevent mapping projects that add to their learning and the community’s development. The community working together with schools is a must.

  • Of course, one resource not listed on Apple’s site, but certainly important in highlighting this issue is the study I directed in 2002 entitled “The Digital Disconnect: The widening gap between Internet-savvy students and their schools.” To the best of my knowledge, we were the first to define the meme “digital disconnect.” See: http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/67/report_display.asp for the full report.

  • PS – Here are some other great resources:

    Our Voices, Our Future: Student and Teacher Views on Science, Technology & Education. (Project Tomorrow-NetDay, 2006). In the fall of 2005, 185,000 K-12 students and 15,000 teachers shared their views and ideas about technology, science, and innovation. This was the first ever combined survey of both students and teachers and the results illustrate a nation of innovative students, the trend-setters in technology use and how they see their education. With regard to online learning, the study found that a clear majority of students report positive experiences with online courses, including that they are “a good opportunity to take classes not offered at your school,” “a good option for taking classes outside of school and school hours,” and “a good option for students who want a different experience than regular high school.” http://www.netday.org/downloads/SpeakUpReport_05.pdf

    Tech-Savvy Students Stuck In Text-Dominated Schools (Education Evolving, 2005). As part of a larger effort to integrate student opinions with education policymaking, this report summarizes available literature reporting student attitudes, perceptions, and behaviors when it comes to using digital technology, particularly for learning. It includes students’ ideas for how adult education policy and school designers could better meet their needs. http://www.educationevolving.org/studentvoices/pdf/tech_savy_students.pdf

    Teen Content Creators and Consumers (Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2005). American teenagers today are utilizing the interactive capabilities of the internet as they create and share their own media creations. Fully half of all teens and 57% of teens who use the internet could be considered “content creators”. They have created a blog or webpage, posted original artwork, photography, stories or videos online or remixed online content into their own new creations. http://www.pewinternet.org/PPF/r/166/report_display.asp

  • Camille Booth

    As a principal of a rural middle school, I was researching how to help our staff and students re-create our culture into a “digital culture”. I began with searching for how to implement a 1:1 initiative and then realized that I want much more than that for our students. I want them to have the full experience of working within a culture that supports their creativity, social connectivity, and innate awareness of digital tools. The links on your site have been very helpful as I endeavor to find language and reason that will help promote our efforts. Much appreciated!

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