Marc Prensky shared this presentation with educators at TCEA 2006. I recorded this for a later podcast, but Marc wants to review it before I share it online. These are my notes from his session.

Marc’s company: Games 2 Train
– works in K-12, higher ed, business, military

I’ll be going at twitch speed
Our games
– spot the ums
– count the slides
– find written mistake (for a prize)

5 years ago wrote: “Digital Game-based Learning”
– the engagement that kids were putting into their games were matched by high level skills
– counted about 50 games then
– now there are about 500
– soon there will be 5000
– New book: “Don’t
– how computer and video games are preparing your kids for 21st century success and how you can help

My theme: preparing students for 21st century success
– hopefully giving kids what they need before the end of the 21st century

Worked with kids all his live, but now has a 9 month old name Sky
– have a true 21st century kid

What if we don’t do this
– picture of misspelled road sign for school

but that is not a 21st century problem!
– that is a mechanical problem
– a 21st century problem is change
– learning to deal with exponential change

What is exponential change?
– IT power doubling every year
– going to molecular, quantum computers
– every reason to think this will continue

By 2036 (when Sky is 30), how many more times more powerful will IT be than it is today?
– answer: a billion more times (2 to the 30th power is approx 1 billing

Graph of our lives and change
– x axis: time
– y axis: change
– until fairly recently, our lives were pretty much the same as those of our parents
– discontinuity at the end of the 21st century: digital technology

Now we are in the elbow of exponential growth changes
– that is the graph of how it looks for us, but look at this graph just for kids

When Sky is working on his doctorate, he will be
– every book every written will be on this fingernail, all movies will be on this fingernail
– and it will be easy to find them
– we will be living in this future of change

One of the important implications: up till now, education has been solving problems with the tools we have
– mathematical tools (most pretty old: Geometry, algebra, calculus, etc)
– the future will be about inventing new tools to solve problems
– it will be about creating and inventing new tools
– most of that will happen from the kids

Tool switching is almost close to instantaneous
– Yahoo to Google
– CD to mp3
– Walkman to iPod
– Email to IM

[My thought: interesting to define how people should recognize when these shifts are happening and when we should individually switch?]

Story of parent who still emails their child, doesn’t IM with them

Question: When will it end?
– answer: it won’t!
– there’s no destination: only a fast train
– not like we’re going to a 4th wave: we are just going faster and faster in the 3rd wave

NOBODY gets this
– some people think they know what exponential change is, but they really don’t
– the implications of a billion-fold increase is really incomprehensible
– if anyone gets this, it is the kids

The kids that we are educating today will be here in 35 years, and it is our duty to prepare them for that world
– we need some keys to help them start
– images of keys
– piano keyboard

– on same interface you can go from chopsticks to Mozart, you don’t need a new interface
– we need interfaces as good as the piano
– other keys: florida keys satellite picture, ‘any’ key on computer keyboard

Real keys to 21st century learning
1- understanding and dealing with change (email, search, IM, blogs, wikis, wikipedia, podcasting, polling devices, P2P, etc….)
– mostly we have dealt with these by excluding these from schools

Speed enhancers
– blitz for reading
– in Microsoft’s media player you can listen to audio or video faster

friend calls people “vidiots” who are

almost every student already has a powerful computer in his or her pocket
Our imagination has said, let’s leave mobile phones out

If we keep leaving all the technologies out, then we are going to lose everyone
– but we CAN use technologies to teach all the things we want to

We tend to think of these technologies as cheaters
– ethical question: if your student called you and asked a question, and sus
– we need more open book, open phone, open internet assessment
– you can’t test people without their tools
– can’t test a plumber without their tools! same applies for students
– these tools will come fast and go fast
– can do everything with “clickers” with a cell phone

As a teacher
– don’t waste time to learn to USE new tools (the kids can do that)
– what teachers need to do is LEARN ABOUT THEM, what the tools do, so you can teach about them
– when they are good

How many people have advised students against using wikiPedia
– it is great for language teaching and language classes
– Wikipedia has disambiguation page (so you can disambiguate information)
– also have EDIT THIS PAGE, you can put this in yourself
– there is no entry for Coretta Scott King
– wouldn’t it be a great class project to build a page for Coretta Scott King?
– and even better to collaborate on that!

Problems come in when you don’t know how to use it correctly
– many librarians say they don’t let their students
– rather than banning the wikipedia, those people need to teach the difference between SEARCH and RESEARCH! (see Marc’s article on this)
– the RE in RESEARCH means you use more than one source!
– you don’t ban the technologies, you understand them and help the kids understand them

KEY #2: understanding that learning can’t be PUSH, it has to be PULL
– if it is going to be real
[this is like my idea of rejecting a transmission based educational paradigm]
– we can no longer just TELL students stuff
– we need to generate ENGAGEMENT (I equate to motivation and passion)

“Without motivation there is no learning”
– James Paul Gee

“If a learner is motivated, there’s no stopping him [or her
– Will Wright

Learning comes from passion, it is not something you can discipline into some

50% of the world’s population is under 25! (not in US and developed world, but in the

What percentage of our teachers are under 25?
– what percentage of people in this room is under 25?
– that is a real problem I see all the time

We are leaving out half the world!
– what if we just had men in this room, or just women in the world?
– when no kids are in sight, we are leaving them out

We can’t educate FOR them, we have to eduate WITH them
– reason we’re having problems is that the world is changing, students are changing, and engagement is changing

Today’s kids are different
– lot to do with tech
– average 21 year old has spent 5-10K hours with video games, 250K emails and IMs
– less than 5K hours reading (for most people it is more like 2-3K hours)

This generation downloads 2 billion ring tones per year, 2 billion songs per month, 6 billion text messages per day: these are our digital natives

Andy Clark” Brains like ours alter profoundly to fit the technologies and practices that surround them”
– the brain is very plastic

We can look at things that change
– conventional speed to twitch speed
– step by step to random access
– etc

net day speak up summary statement
– everything in yellow are things we all do: now the kids do these things differently
– they are the natives, we are the immigrants
– we have a foot in the past, and we have an accent
– our instinct is not to go to the internet first, thinking that real life is offline

Learning takes work
– learning takes EFFORT but that can either feel like work or play

Learning feels like play when you have ENGAGEMENT (when you are motivated and passionate)
– kids understanding this

Kids say things like: I can always find something to do online
– they know what engagement feels like, they want to be engaged all the time, they want to be engaged when they are learning
– so much of our education is so baring ot them: it feels to them like we are putting depressants in their food!

High school kids describe what they have to do is “power down”

Pew study: 30% of 1000 college students admitted playing games in class

For today’s students to learn, engagement is more important than content

Whatever content we teach won’t last their lifetime, content won’t help them all their lives: what will help them is knowing they can learn new stuff, and that can be a fun thing

ids want to put their own mark on the world
– Tim Berner’s Lee: what people put into the internet is more important than what they take out of it

Digital technology is programmable: you can make it to what you want it to do
“What’s different about the new technology is that it is programmable.”
– Alan Kay

Kids love complexity, they won’t simultaneous data streams, they don’t want filtering or blocking

They are creating most of the content (like the Sims)

SIMS: today’s students are not ADE, they are EOE: Engage me or Enrage me

Tshirt: It’s not attention deficient: I’m just not listening!”

Key is engaging students as individuals: we have to get them to know me

quote on computer’s cookies knowing more about our children than the teacher does

We have to help students define problems and solve them
– real challenge: tools that we can’t fully master

Another talk this afternoon: Games… (this afternoon)

Teachers are used to compared to students
– presentation : gameplay
– linear stories : random access/branching

Game designer criticizes instructional designers for “sucking the fun out”

Real difference between mini and complex games (lasting less than an hour or

What can I do?
– at least six things you can do
1- help the instructors adopt new attitudes and behaviors
– biggest: don’t master the tech, educate with it!

2- find and implement the biggest bangs for the buck
– grading automatic
– cameras in the classroom to capture what works

3- sharing our successes
– teachers are doing great things!
– other people need to know about this
– if we could just capture it we’d be so much
– most teachers keep their successes to themselves

use the most powerful tool we have: GOOGLE!

4- use emerging tools in courses and be prepared to change
– always learning, always changing to improve

5- get students to create tools


7- make sure everyone asks each other the hard questions
– metrics: would learners spend their money for it, do it in their leisure time, would they make their friends do it?, are they engaged, would students be here if they didn’t have to?

we should allow students to engage themselves

[this reminds me of the idea I heard yesterday,

Large scale gaming events could be organized in education
– no one said it is easier
– we’ll be happier too
– we

Were 188 slides

email: marc at

Technorati Tags:

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..

Share →

6 Responses to Engage Me or Enrage Me: Educating Today’s “Digital Native” Learners

  1. Conn McQuinn says:

    Whew! Your fingers must be blistered!

    What is alternately intriguing and frustrating is how much of this isn’t new. One of my educational ephiphanies (long before I knew I was going to be an educator myself) took place in my second chemistry class in college. On the first day of the quarter, the professor gave an overview of the course and his expectations. When he came to describing the tests, he said (in his marvelous Swiss accent) “Oh, and by the vay, my tests are all open book tests. That’s because someday ven you grow up and become a real chemist, your boss von’t walk into your office, giff you an assignment, and then grab all your books off your desk and walk out of the room.” It blew me away because it was so obvious and so radical at the same time. How much more so now in the world of Google on cell phones, much less thirty years from now!

  2. Wesley Fryer says:

    I agree, Conn. I concur with much of what Marc says, but I do think we should keep things in perspective and realize that we’ve needed major educational reforms for years– long before the digital natives showed up, we have had people like John Dewey, Paulo Freire, and many others writing about how a transmission-based curriculum is not good for authentic learning. We don’t really need technology to make this shift, but I think in some ways the changes wrought by technology make the need for change even more pressing. Glad your chemistry teacher wanted to prepare you for the real world, which is “open book!” I wonder how much that simple format change would do to transforming our educational system: if all assessments were open note / open book?!

  3. C. A. Morrow says:

    As an educator I felt the information went hand in hand with a book I just finish called The World Is Flat. The book talked about the changes in technology and how it affects the World. Mr. Prensky sessions seemed to be more focused on the effects of technology on the children and how education is affected. Both are talking about what we, The United States, need to do to remain major contenders in the world.

    As a mother of a child that people say has ADHD, I found relief in hearing Mr. Prensky says “Today’s students are not ADE, they are EOE: Engage me or Enrage me.” My first thought was that I wish his teachers were here! I wish their class size were smaller so that my GT son was being engaged rather then bored and turned off by education. I have felt there is something wrong with education for a long time. I have seen my child focus on items with such intensity that he has totally tunes out the rest of the world. While at school he is very active and into everything the teachers do not want to do.

    My next thought was “I wonder how I can get the teachers at my campus to buy into it.” How can I help make education a great learning experience for our faculty and students? That I am still working on.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    We all need to be working toward that end. In my workshop today with teachers in Miami, Texas, I encouraged them to view their goal in the classroom as primarily trying to help ENGAGE students in the learning process, rather than transmitting the curriculum to them as teachers have traditionally. This is a hard sell. Ultimately I think our state, national, and organizational standards are going to need to change if this focus is to become widespread. Our present accountability systems seem to discourage the type of project-based, in-depth learning that our students love and desperately need to be authentically engaged in schools. If schools don’t change, many students will (and are) seeking alternatives in home schooling and private schooling. But those are not options for all students. So public schools must change. The current educational status quo is not acceptable in terms of results/outcomes or predominant practices.

  5. […] Off to see Marc Prensky on Friday here in Adelaide. I’ve been keen to hear him speak since becoming aware of his work via David Warlick, who blogged about him as an A list speaker. I’m going to the event (at the Ramada Grand no less) with a fellow middle school teacher who asked for a few links to get “up to speed” on Prensky’s work. I’ve found his “digital natives / digital immigrant” analogy really useful as it has been the methaphor that has really clicked with some of colleagues wondering what all the edech fuss is about. So the links I assembled quickly are worth reproducing here as they cover a fair bit of his message. Marc Prensky’s Official Website (includes his blog!) Alan Levine blogs Marc Prensky keynote Edutopia article – Adopt and Adapt Educational Leadership magazine – Listen to the Natives David Warlick blogs Marc Prensky @ BlueRidge Bernie Dodge’s opinion Wesley Fryer blogs Marc Prensky@TCEA 2006 […]

  6. Wes, did Marc ever allow you to share the audio?

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Sharing from Matthews, North Carolina! Connect with Wes on Mastodon.