Understanding the Digital Generation

I had a mix of reactions when reading this book. I was particularly interested in the subject of neuroplasticity. It’s an interesting concept and it is very exciting. It is also a very challenging idea as well. The thought that we are on the cusp of a revolutionary change in the cognitive capacity of the human brain holds a great deal of promise. See this.

As the authors stated in the beginning of the book, however, there are also pitfalls. The biological change that is occurring as a result of the constant media environment that the Digital Generation is exposed to is indeed changing the way that people learn. I agree with this wholeheartedly, in fact, I think that even those “immigrants” to the digital generation are affected by the tidal changes to information technology over the past decade plus, as well. We seem to remember less and less, and our lives move at a frenetic pace that is often overwhelming. So we get addicted; to technology, to prescription pain pills (or antidepressants), etc. etc. etc. No one listens anymore, we just wait for our turns to talk at, or over, one another. That behavior is pervasive in the Digital Generation as well. They are completely comfortable and used to people squabbling and arguing with one another about trivial matters. Look at the ubiquity of reality TV. I saw a “news” segment yesterday whcih was nothing more than two hacks arguing over, not anything substantive, but rather sniping at one another  for even daring to talk about…whatever-it-was that they were claiming to have anything useful to say about in the first place. (Sorry for the digression…)

It seemed to me that Jukes, McCain, and Crockett celebrate this change in thinking and make a strong case for learning how to get through to the digital generation on those terms: short attention-span theater. They offer up a student-centered method (which is a good thing) where the students are encouraged to speak in the language that they are fluid in and where total immersion and an emphasis on “just in time learning” is the order of the day.

I have to wonder, though, if the authors are perhaps a little too excited and perhaps a little unrealistic about the implications of these changes in cognition. I was uncomfortable with the celebration of the change in the way students read. Page 27-28 discusses the change from the z-curve to the f-pattern. This translates to a more cursory examination of the information under scrutiny due a combination of images and links and text all crowding for attention.

Is it possible to use those skills interchangeably (meaning toggling between the F-pattern and Z-curve)? Does nueroplasticity allow for two ways of reading, or do the physiological changes take on a less malleable trait (it was alluded to that changes in brain wave activity and the building of neural pathways is an ongoing process and that would certainly support the claim that even those not part of the digital generation were being affected by over stimulation)? Below is my powerpoint presentation.

What You Need To Know About Digital Learning

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