In the day and age of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest, class can seem so…boring. Looking around lecture halls, it’s safe to say the majority of with laptops are not so diligently taking notes. Rather, those students are browsing social networking sites to their heart’s content.
The college generation of today, our generation, can be defined as digital natives. The term digital native (http://www.amazon.com/Deconstructing-Digital-Natives-Technology-Literacies/dp/0415889960/) refers specifically to those born after 1980, where digital technologies and the internet are a normal—if not substantial—part of everyday life. We are therefore, native, to this lifestyle.
The constant access to technology has made our generation different than those preceding us. The most notable website shaping our generation is Mark Zuckerburg’s very own, Facebook.
But as the digital native generation starts to enter college, graduate school and the job force, does the world need to change in order to best accommodate us? Some would argue that in order to prepare America’s future, for the future, professors should learn to adapt to the digital natives, abandoning standard teaching methods and morphing to be more like the all-engrossing internet.
So, should your professors be more like Facebook?
Should you pick what you want your professors to teach?
Facebook allows users to pick and choose what others see about themselves and the technology reflects this. (http://www.thefilterbubble.com/)
Should professors follow this same trend? If classes were catered to students’ ideas to pick what they want to learn via an interactive syllabus, would learning increase? I believe not. If students got to pick and chose what they think classes should consist of and what they wanted to learn, they would most likely pick things they were already interested in, resulting in the professors merely parroting back the students’ preexisting ideas and knowledge. This strategy is hardly informational and reinforces predetermined ideas rather than challenging students to expand their knowledge.
Verdict: professors should be professors
Should classes be more interactive?
With the digital generation, everything seems to be better formatted as a game. Facebook constantly produces games and activities for its users. We’ve been the ones to grow up on video games and Gameboys, but does that necessarily help us learn? Some, like James Paul Gee have said that video games can help increase problem solving abilities more than books can. Unlike books, where information has to be memorized, games give the users knowledge while they get to enjoy themselves. For the digital native generation, this gaming strategy seems a perfect fit.
So could education, specifically college classes, benefit from being formatted as a more interactive game? It seems as though an interactive game-like class could be useful: the class starts at the basic level, using problem solving abilities to proceed to the next level — whoever collects the most dangling modifiers wins! Not only are you appealing to the human nature of competition, you’re including a digital aspect that digital natives thrive on.
Verdict: professors should be more like Facebook.
Should students be encouraged to multitask?
Some digital natives are accused of having minor forms of ADD. This normally comes from our ability to multitask…rather the ability to think we can multitask. While writing a paper or studying, it is common to have Facebook open in the background, music on and the ever-present phone by your side. Facebook is full of constant distractions — pictures to look at, websites to be discovered and conversations from four years ago to reminisce about.
Some, like Sherry Turkle, point out that grades reflect that multitasking brought about by short attention spans, accompanied by a plethora of photos to examine, does not save time as we had hoped, but actually degrades the quality of work. If professors were to assign multitasking activities to try and appeal to their students, the results would hardly be positive.
Verdict: professors should be professors
Should you be friends with your professors?
Absolutely — they’re people, befriend them. Your recommendation letters will reap the benefits.
Verdict: professors should still be professors
These examples illustrate that — although students may wish professors were sometimes more entertaining or could be muted and x-ed out whenever they please — should still be professors. By catering to the digital natives, classes would not only lose their personality, but also the ability of discovery.
So, digital natives, buckle down, close out of your internet browsers and start paying attention to the person in the front of the room you’ve tuned out all semester — they might surprise you with something you didn’t know.
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