Generational Differences

Earlier in the semester I wrote about digital natives versus digital immigrants.  I really like the thought of how that would all work, but in fact, it doesn’t exist.  It wouldn’t even really make much sense because the natives of today will be the immigrants of tomorrow.  The whole idea that the students born in this generation learn differently is actually preposterous.  What about those that live in poverty?  The families nor the schools can afford such digital tools.

Of course, there is a difference between my generation, Generation X and their generation, Generation Me.  My parents allowed me to fail.  They often tried to encourage me and always held me to high standards but never did they hover in my classrooms or insist that I was the best at something.  They accepted me for who I was.  This generation, teachers have to deal with helicopter parents who will accept nothing but the comment that their child is absolutely perfect in every way and A’s all around.  The child today is not allowed to fail.  Everyone is given awards and trophies at sporting events and some don’t even keep score so that no one feels bad.  Really?  I would like to remind parents that there is such thing as a healthy competition.  With that said, I have two children of this generation myself.  Are they spoiled?  Yes, most definitely.  My oldest has all of the digital tools that a middle school student could ever ask for, BUT we raise her as my parents raised me, with encouragement and not entitlement.

Now, what is a teacher to do when approached with an administration or colleague that believes in digital native nonsense?  First, let them read McKenzie.  After all, that is what really moved me to change my position.  I was a digital native believer!  His quick dismissal of Prensky’s ideas was off-putting to me at first but then after some deliberation I realized that he was very correct.  How is it possible that the way a student learns today is only through technology?   Their brains aren’t wired differently.  We are talking about the same species.  In the end, people are going to believe what they want.  You can debate and give them articles to read but if that doesn’t change their mind, you have to run your classroom the way that you know how to run it.


14 thoughts on “Generational Differences

  1. I don’t have kids of my own yet, so I am asking a more “experience question.” Do you find it hard not to hover? Does your child go to you school and is it difficult to find a balance between parent role and teacher/colleague role? My biggest pet peeve at school is when teachers (from different schools) come to me for favors with their students/children because they too teach, so I am being ridiculous in my grade/homework policy/etc.

  2. The term “helicopter” parent must be universal. We joke about it at my school. Some parents do more than just hover. I agree that children, and humans in general, are stilled wired the same way. It is unfortunate that children are thought of as being “wired”. They aren’t robots or computers. They need to be kids.

  3. Haha! The nature of my job IS to hover. I am Vice-Principal at their school. In order to balance that out, they are both in extracurricular activities that I do not volunteer at on purpose. I simply drop them off and pick them up. I think it is important for a child to have their own space and develop their own personality and have their own opinions. My children have definite boundaries at school. They know that I am a vice-principal at school and not necessarily “their mom”. I have even taught one of them in the classroom. For me, I am harder on my own child than others. It is difficult to keep a balance. It takes practice to effectively be able to work in a school where your children attend. I can tell you that I have NEVER asked one of their teachers for special favors nor have I ever expected that they get one. I WANT my children to be treated like any other student at school. 🙂 Never compromise who you are as a teacher because someone asks you to.

  4. What you said: “The child today is not allowed to fail” is so true and makes me very sad. I have seen many students become very angry when they don’t ‘get’ a concept right away, and it is because they are not used to not feeling that they are not the brightest, quickest, smartest, etc. So I would add that the child today is also not allowed to struggle and persevere.

    • Great addition and good point! I have many students that do not have the patience to learn, especially in math!

  5. I wish my parents would have hovered. LOL!!! I can’t actually remember a single instance that my parents went to my school for anything positive about me, it was always becouse I got in trouble. In my household the adult was always right and the kids were always wrong, hence my teachers always won. Now that I look back on it, I think maybe they were right in some respect, teachers have lost some of the respect that they deserve from parents. In regards to digital natives and digital immigrants, I am still on the fence with this. My parents still don’t know how to turn a computer on, let alone surf the internet. I don’t have kids but, my nephews and nieces can flat out run circles around me on a computer. I haven’t nesscecarily bought into the theory but, I believe there might be something to it.

    • My parents were the same! I sort of wish it would go back to that. I once called a parent who screamed obscenities at me and who told me that everything her child did wrong was my fault. Sometimes. I think are more problems in the home than we, as teachers, realize.

  6. Your statement at the end of the first paragraph stood out to me. “What about those that live in poverty? The families nor the schools can afford such digital tools.” One of the dangers of making generalizations with the terms “digital natives” and “digital immigrants” contributes to a mindset that can do more harm than good. If this concept of generational divide is perpetuated then it is easy for teachers to throw up their hands and say they can never catch up, as well as have younger students feel they have an edge over their instructors and miss the important content, instruction, and bigger ideas.

    • I think Prensky created a stereotype that unfortunately will have to be overcome by the dedication of teachers.

  7. Tanya, there is a cartoon that I have always enjoyed. It is a two framed cartoon of a parent-teacher conference. In the first frame, the parents are turned to the child and are chewing the child out for poor academic performance. In the second frame, the parents are turned to the teacher and chewing the teacher out for the poor academic performance of their child. Pretty much sums up the educational perspective of the generation me problem to me… 🙂

  8. I agree. I think it’s interesting that you brought up the idea of students being perfect at everything and be entitled to everything. It’s just like that video that was posted about the commencement speech “if all of us is special, than no one is special”. 🙂 And yes I think it is a hard mindset to get parents and students out of.

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