Welcome to the iGeneration (Part 2): The Simple Revolution

Allowing students to achieve identified learning outcomes in a manner most suitable to them, while providing them with the opportunities to determine when, how and with what they choose to learn, are probably the most fundamental issues in establishing a meaningful and authentic learning experience.  It should come as no surprise that these concepts flow quite naturally from the three components of an authentic learning experience (quoted from the previous post):

  1. engagement (meaningful brain activity, not to be confused with entertainment),
  2. relevant and compelling assignments (requiring calculation, manipulation and
    synthesis; not merely searching and finding basic information), and
  3. a high level of personalisation (allowing for immediate individualised feedback, choice of application and ensuring that learning is at an appropriate level).

This understanding is not new; in fact, most adults will acknowledge that these three components are timeless (as Chickering and Gamson have pointed out, and as will be discussed in a future posting).  Yet, after decades of boring and uninspiring education, there is little evidence that we are actually implementing any of the three components of authentic learning in our classrooms.  Technologically, platform-independent  schools1. are few and far between, and students are still required to use whatever technology the school chooses to permit/favour at any given time.  This is not natural; it is not organic.  It is artificial beyond belief.

A great way to start changing the learning environment in a meaningful way is as simple as welcoming the technology that students wish to bring to their learning.  This will initiate a subtle learning revolution that will be evolutionary in its effect.   Not only will this foster engagement, independence and personalisation; it will certainly go a long way to make learning much more relevant and compelling.  As Sir Ken Robinson so convincingly says: “Bring on the revolution!”

Eddie de Beer
edteach3r

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1. For the purpose of this post, “platform independence” refers to the use of multiple, portable technology devices in schools: PC (laptop and tablet computers), Apple (iPhone, iPad, iPod and Mac computers), Android and Blackberry (tablets, cell and smart phones) devices; as well as software/web-based technologies that can run on these multiple hardware platforms.

Welcome to the iGeneration: Make Learning Real

The current generation of learners is often classified as the “Millennial Generation”, or the “Net Generation” on account of their co-existence with the web and their indispensable online presence. As the current demographic group encompasses so much more than mere www-residency, I prefer the descriptor “iGeneration1..  Apart from describing these compeers’ need for personalisation (which includes their use of individualised technology), this moniker allows us to broaden our actual understanding of what ‘learning through technology’ could mean for our students. Hopefully, such understanding will also allay our (i.e. non-iGenerationists’) fears regarding technology.

So, how does education relate to the iGeneration? While simple presumptions and assumptions are rarely a good thing, there is a strong case for using them to demystify 21st-century learning. To that end, I suggest that an authentic learning experience has the following three identifiable components2.:

a) engagement (meaningful brain activity, not to be confused with ‘entertainment’);
b) relevant and compelling assignments (requiring calculation, manipulation and
synthesis; not merely searching and finding basic information) and;
c) a high level of personalisation (allowing for immediate individualised feedback,
choice of technology/software and ensuring that learning is at an appropriate level).

I would venture another simple suggestion, namely that we move beyond the “what” and “how” of technology; let’s stop focusing on questions such as “What technology do we use?”, “How best do we integrate technology?”, and “What do teachers/students need to know in order to use technology effectively?” We need to make fundamental educational decisions by looking, in basic terms, at the “why”: “Why do we use technology in the first place; personally, economically and socially?” Simpler put: “Which technology do I prefer to use, and why?” I believe that in such openness and willingness to personalise we will find the important ingredients to providing the meaningful education so desperately sought by the iGeneration. In my opinion, personalised technologies, creative application and individualised feedback are the fundamental principles that should characterise 21st-century learning.

The next post on inSync21.com will explore the issues of personalisation and individualisation a little further; so please feel free to let us know your thoughts on these topics for inclusion in that discussion. As always, we look forward to hearing from you.

Eddie de Beer
edteach3r

1. Larry D. Rosen: Teaching the iGeneration, Educational Leadership, February 2011
2. (Marge Scherer: Transforming Education with Technology.– A conversation with Karen
Cator, Educational Leadership, February 2011