Friday, January 27, 2012

Generation Gap

     Ever since I can recall, I have been a soccer fanatic. Player, coach, fan--I love the sport and every role/connection I've ever had to it. I've also studied a great deal about the history of the sport.
     My twelve-year-old son Stephen also has the fever. He can, for instance, give you all sorts of World Cup trivia. What to know who scored in opening match for Italy in 1934? He may know. Every weekend we watch matches, and we love the Premier League Review Show on Sunday evenings. Sharing this love of soccer is one of the great pleasures of parenthood for me.
     Yesterday, the soccer page at had a fascinating package of articles. Their ten soccer writers conducted a fantasy draft of players from any era, based on their prime. Each pick told about the writer's reasoning and also gave some info about the player. Computer projections the determined how the season would go. I loved it, and I was very excited to show it to Stephen.
     His reaction? Meh. He loved the concept; that wasn't the problem. He immediately asked, "Where do I make my choices?" I explained it was just the writers. He asked, "Why shouldn't I be able to take part?"
     It was just the latst, powerful and personal reminder that students today are different, mainly because of digital technology. It’s about more than agile thumbs, shorter attention spans, and an LOL lexicon. Young people today learn differently and are motivated differently. No longer a TV-watching generation, they grow bored by one-way communication channels. Instead, they revel in participation and collaboration. They love to work with content, not just absorb it; they believe in collective rather than individual knowledge. Indeed, young people today learn actively all the time.
     Growing up in the early 21st century facilitates and demands such an outlook. Ubiquitous information, media, and resources are easily available. Easy-to-use tools keep becoming increasingly inexpensive and powerful. All this is happening against a world backdrop that is increasingly multi-cultural and inter-connected. Thus, collaboration has grown more essential. Innovation and creativity are key qualities. The rapidity of change shows no signs of slowing. Instead, all the factors continue to accelerate steadily.
     These changes pose a literal and symbolic challenge for schools. Since the onset of the Industrial Age, schools have operated per the factory model. Now, as we have jetted into Information and Creative Eras, schools must reconsider how to meet students’ needs. Key questions include: What should future learning environments look like? How should we organize time to learn? What types of relationships and communities will nurture our students? What tools do they need? How will we assess student progress?
     I'd love to know how you answer these questions.

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