Teaching Digital Natives
Dr Kathie Nunley, 2016
there were the baby boomers at the dawn of the television
era, then came the X generation and the net generation
as media became an ever bigger part of our lives. And now we have
the digital natives, also known as the I-generation.
This new i-generation spends more time consuming media than any
prior generation - by a wide margin. Current studies show that today's
young people spend as much as 20.5 hours every day on media consumption!
amazing as that may seem, it also correlates with changes we see
in the attention region of the brain - the Reticular Activating
System (RAS). Located at the base of the brain, The RAS's job is
to sort through all incoming information and decide what to attend
to, what to ignore, and how to set attention priorities. It bases
that decision on physical need, novelty and self-choice, in that
a result of this increased exposure and use of electronic media,
the RAS has changed over the past several decades. Attention spans
are shorter, and the need for novelty has gotten greater. (Nunley,
2006). Students reports of boredom in school have risen. And that
boredom has had negative effects on academic performance. (Pekrun,
ability of young people today to switch attention between tasks
in phenomenal. It comes at a cost however. Most young people now
lose attentional focus every 3 minutes. And they are highly addicted
to their personal electronic devices. In fact, 38% of children cannot
go 10 minutes without checking their phones, tablets and other social
media channels without a significant degree of anxiety (Rosen, 2011).
Students identified with Attention Deficit Disorder are even more
challenged with attention focus.
changes are not new news for today's classroom teachers. Teachers
of all grades have noticed with increasing frustration, how students
have become more and more dependent on personal electronic devices.
And teachers feel that they are losing (or have lost) the competitive
battle for control of student attention.
removing the boredom isn't the answer. Research tells us that it
takes more than positive emotions for student success. Those emotions
are mediated by self-regulated learning and motivation. (Mega, 2013).
For real academic achievement, students need to feel in control
of their learning, and be actively involved in their learning.
time to embrace these technological wonders as valuable teaching
aids, and not threats to teacher security or ability to deliver
of the easiest ways to do this is with learning systems which let
you use these devices as part of the instructional process. Lessons
which include the power of the smartphone, allow a safe and teacher-designed
way to channel these devices into real learning opportunities. The
novelty of being able to use these in a unique way plays right into
the priorities of the brain and thus become a priority for student
attention. Novelty in particular is attractive to the RAS. Both
novelty and surprise engage students' attention, reduce boredom
and strengthen learning. (Willis, 2008; Pekrun, 2014)
you design student learning activities, look for ways to include
options for utilizing their personal devices such as tablets and
smartphones - both in the classroom and as homework. Twitter feeds,
texting games, timed google searches, as well as cooperative in-depth
investigations using handheld devices all help blend technology
and engage today’s student.
It's the win-win everyone is looking for, and exactly what the brain
is now waiting for.
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and
author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's
Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High
School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and
educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly
environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing
Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC
her: Kathie (at) brains.org
C. et al. (2013). "What Makes a Good Student? How Emotions, Self-Regulated
Learning, and Motivation Contribute to Academic Achievement." Journal
of Educational Psychology, July 1 preview.
Nunley, K. (2006). A Student's Brain: The parent / teacher manual.
R. et al. (2014). "Boredom and academic achievement: Testing a model
of reciprocal causation."Journal of Educational Psychology, Vol
L. (2011). "Poke Me: how Social Networks can both Help and Harm
out Kids" presented at the American Psychological Association National
J. (2008) How Your Child Learns Best: Brain-friendly strategies
you can use to ignite your child's learning and increase school
success. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks