Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Whole New Breed: Teaching Millennials

In my short (seven year) career as an English teacher, I have already seen a huge shift in students' use of technology. When I first started teaching in 2003, most students did not have cell phones, our school did not have much access to laptops, and social networking was not the everyday word it has become. Certainly, students were engaged in gaming and most had myspace accounts, but they were not as connected on a daily basis as they are now.

Rather than complain about these changes, I am extremely interested in looking at ways to observe how students' learning and attitudes change as a result of increase exposure to technology. I tend to think of this technological revolution as akin to other revolutions in culture in the past. These changes are uncomfortable for some and definitely help to divide the generations. Certainly this same sort of divide occurred during the 1920's and the 1960's. The difference, as I see it, is that technology is not separate from education, like the "flapper" movement or anti-war protests. Technology, in all of its forms, is here to stay and cannot be left at the classroom door.

Over the past few years, I taken a realistic inventory of the technologies I use on a regular basis. I want to know what I use so that I can incorporate technology into my teaching. If I need to know how to use a particular technology in my life, students may need it in theirs for a college or work experience. I use email, word processing, blogging, nings, wii, texting, itouch, youtube, RSS feeds, screenshots, and my camera phone every week. When I'm thinking of a lesson plan, I sometimes think about a technology that could be used in a real way to better the educational experience for students. If students are not taught to use technology, they may be left behind in those skills that they will need in college or in the workplace.

Wondering where you fit in the millennial landscape? Take the quiz: How Millennial Are You?

So, what does it mean to be a member of the Millennial Generation? According to the Pew Research Center, it means that you're going to be far more liberal, less religious, more open to change, and more connected than the preceding generations. Also, the researchers at Pew have found that the Millennial Generation is going to be the most educated generation ever. What are the implications of this for teachers who are not of the this same generation? To me, this says that I don't have the right to sit back on my Generation X laurels and allow all of this learning about and application of technology pass me by. Because, just as the latest and greatest technology will be passé in a few months, so could your lesson plans!

Read the Study: The Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change.

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