Educating the Net Generation: How to Engage Students in the 21st Century

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I learned that it is important to make students think at higher levels and to challenge them. I want to make students work actively and reflectively on every project they undertake. Technology gives me the tools to make this happen! Programs like these not only make learning more fun for students, but more effective as well. Not only does it make it more enjoyable for the teacher, but it makes it more interesting for the students as well. The current generation of digital students is both familiar with and motivated to use multimedia tools. Teacher educators must, therefore, harness their power as teaching and learning opportunities for the next generation of classroom teachers.

By making use of multimedia tools in teacher education instruction, faculty can meet digital natives where they stand, showing them how to make better sense of what initially appear to be random patterns of thinking. Fortunately, and in almost every instance, nonlinear multimedia technologies by necessity involve the use of 21st-century thinking skills that provide students with the flexibility to be active decision makers in their own learning Bajraktarevic et al.

Certainly, critical thinking and information literacy skills are needed to choose pertinent information that has been sufficiently evaluated for accuracy and appropriateness. Using an electronic storyboard or concept map as a precursor to writing or creating multimedia products can help students readily classify individual topics and then organize or synthesize them into a coherent whole. Media literacy is called upon when selecting images, sounds, designs, messages, and layouts for multimedia projects.

Finally, creativity is needed when putting these elements together for presentation to others. The nonlinear thinking called upon by most multimedia products helps students see and form meaningful relationships between concepts— a critical practice if knowledge is to be fully internalized Texas Collaborative for Teaching Excellence, Connecting concepts with prior knowledge increases the likelihood that students will not only internalize but transfer their learning into their future classroom settings.

Equally important in helping students make sense of the barrage of information available to them is providing time and opportunities to reflect on knowledge and experiences during the learning process Kolb, Reflection on their nonlinear thinking provided our candidates avenues for expressing the cognitive dissonance experienced while learning new skills.

It also provided time to consider the benefits of this kind of thinking and learning. Reflective exercises thus increased their understanding of the learning process and increased their likelihood of integrating 21st-century thinking into their own future classrooms.

As students are challenged to reflect and communicate while using familiar technologies, they can creatively explore and convey new concepts and have the time and space to critically analyze and share what they have learned. We cannot assume that learners learn the same way they always have and that the same methods we used years ago will work today. Based on recent research in neurobiology, digital natives are indeed different Prensky, b.

21st Century Education

The ongoing stimulation that is part of their electronically rich lives visibly changes their brain structures and affects the way they think. They crave interactivity and an immediate response for every action. Because of these changes, teacher educators are challenged to invent ways to include reflection and critical thinking into their learning but still maintain digital native language and tools.

Furthermore, as these technologies are integrated into teacher preparation, it will be critical to research the influence of hypertext on teacher candidates to verify if it does, in fact, foster the higher order and complex reasoning skills some have suggested Bajraktarevic et al. While it is still not entirely apparent how the thinking of digital natives is changing, new technologies, when presented to teacher candidates in the context of their intended use, which is to enhance the teaching and learning processes, seem to motivate, engage, and offer more opportunities for self-directed learning and reflection.

Such technologies provide avenues for creativity and foster inclusion of 21st-century skills in teacher education curricula. Bajraktarevic, N. Incorporating learning styles in hypermedia environment: Empirical evaluation. Bloom, B. Taxonomy of educational objectives: Book 1, Cognitive domain. New York: Longman.


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Bransford, J. How people learn: Brain, mind, experience, and school. Capobianco, B. A self-study of the role of technology in promoting reflection and inquiry-based science teaching. Journal of Science Teacher Education , 18 2 , Retrieved July 2, , from Education Research Complete database. Committee on Workforce Needs in Information Technology.

We Need to Rethink Education for Digital Natives

Building a workforce for the information economy. Gunter, G. Building student data literacy: An essential critical thinking skill for the 21st century. Henniger, M. The teaching experience: An introduction to reflective practices. International Society for Technology in Education. National educational technology standards for students. Eugene, OR: Author. Jacobson, M. The design of hypermedia tools for learning: Fostering conceptual change and transfer of complex scientific knowledge.

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Learning for the 21st century: A report and mile guide for 21st century skills. Results that matter: 21st century skills and high school reform.

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Prensky, M. Digital natives, digital immigrants, Part II: Do they really think differently? What matters is how you combine them together to create a comprehensive overview of 21st Century skills. That means using computers, tablets, and even smartphones as the basis for teaching digital concepts.

In fact, using traditional lecture education combined with computer-based education is a great way to help students learn. Combining lecture-style education with technology actually creates a blended learning environment , which is ideal for educating a diverse range of students. These two concepts form the cornerstone of 21st Century skills since they teach students how to understand online materials and behave when using the Internet. Digital literacy emphasizes reading and critical thinking skills to ensure students can tell the difference between fact and fiction online. This is especially important today when social media and low-quality websites make it so easy for fraudsters to disseminate misinformation.

If a student grows up on the Internet without learning how to tell between honest truth and malicious lies, their reality — and maybe even their lives — will change for the worse. This is called digital citizenship , and it essentially reminds students that their words have power online. They can build someone up, but they can also tear someone down. Maintaining a sense of empathy is crucial to a student behaving responsibly and ethically online. But, as we said earlier, digital literacy and digital citizenship require a major component — critical thinking. Critical thinking is important for any person in any generation.

By teaching your students how to think critically, they learn how to read between the lines and solve problems. One way you can inspire critical thinking is to ask students complex questions and have them map out their solutions independently. This prevents students from depending on one another to complete the assignment, so each student has to exercise their brain. Inevitably, higher education institutions are also caught up in this Millennial maelstrom.

Ever since the turn of the 21st century, when the first Millennials arrived on campus colleges, universities have been adjusting to meet their needs and address their concerns. As Millennials washed across American campuses like a year tidal wave, they remade college life with WiFi connectivity and redesigned the curriculum with experiential learning and capstone courses. They also caused a new set of headaches, from online essay mills to smartphone-enabled distraction. Some campuses are still struggling to adjust.

The Millennials who remain on campus largely populate the graduate student lounges, if not the tenure-track ranks.