Monday, July 5, 2010

What's the Big Deal? - Part 2

When a former president of Columbia Teachers College starts repeating the net gen myths, I start to get worried. That's what Arthur Levine has done in a post to Inside Higher EducationDigital Students, Industrial-Era Universities. In it, Levine repeats all the same old claims about "digital natives": they "live in an anytime/anyplace world, operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, unbounded by physical location; they are "more concerned with the outcomes of education — learning and the mastery of content, achieved in the manner of games"; they are "active learners, preferring interactive, hands-on methods of learning such as case studies, field study and simulations"; they "are gatherers, who wade through a sea of data available to them online to find the answers to their questions"; they "are are oriented more toward group learning, multiple “teachers” or learning resources, and social networking, characterized by collaboration and sharing of content."

Based on these unfounded claims, he then argues that higher education should be making significant changes to the curriculum, pedagogy, and delivery methodologies: "What must the means by which we educate the digital natives who are and will be sitting in our classrooms — employing calendars, locations, pedagogies, and learning materials consistent with ways our students learn most effectively. "

I don't have a particular issue with any of the proposed changes that Levine puts forward. Most address issues of flexibility and responsiveness and moving from a teaching to a learning paradigm and away from common processes to common outcomes. As Levine says, "with this shift will come the possibility of offering students a variety of ways to achieve those outcomes rooted in the ways they learn best." Yes, but grounding those changes in unfounded and stereotypical views of a generation is dangerous because, as I have said before, all the credible research (ours included) suggests this isn't a generational issue and that viewing it in those terms hides more important differences.

Another example of why debunking the Net Gen myth is a big deal.


Joe said...

What shocks me is when people who have as much education (and influence) as Arthur Levine actually start saying these things. The whole general acceptance of the digital native argument as truth by people speaks equally to people's willingness to; need to explain the changes that are taking place around them rather desperately and the mental laziness of just accepting things that seem rational rather than challenging assumptions.

Mark Bullen said...

Hi Joe:

Yes, I agree, educators who blindly accept these unfounded claims and spread them are as much to blame as the people who make them.