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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Today's Students

I can't recall if I've talked about this issue here before or if it was on the AECT Blog Track blog that I was keeping on virtual schooling, but the issue of the nature of today's students are of great interest to me. Partially as a teacher educator, I want to make sure that my aspiring teachers of tomorrow are equipped to deal with the students that they will encounter. But mostly as someone interested in virtual schooling because if today's students really are different, than we need to take that into account when designing virtual school opportunities.

There has been a lot of talk around this topic in the blogsphere lately. Just a slice of some of the entries include:

I post these here because the basic premise of most, if not all of these entries is that there IS something different about today's youth.

In fact, at the AECT conference that I just returned from the very first keynote speaker that came in to talk to us, this guy from Apple Education, talked all about these digital natives that we now have in our classrooms. The problem that I have with this, and personally my gut does tell me that there are some differences, but that's just it. In everything that I have read and everything that I have heard it is based upon people's gut or simply there observations, and while observations and gut instincts can be correct at times, I need someone to show me the money - I want to see some research.

Which brings me to one of the presentations that I did attend at AECT, an update on the third edition of the AECT handbook. In the materials provided in that session, this abstract by one of my co-chairs and a fellow doctoral student here at UGA caught my attention.

Generation Differences and Educational Technology

Thomas C. Reeves, The University of Georgia
Eun Jung Oh, The University of Georgia


Generational differences are the subject of much popular speculation, but relatively little substantive research. Among the speculations are suggestions that instructional designers should take generational differences into account when developing instruction and that games and simulations will be more effective learning environments with today's younger generation than they have with earlier ones. This review examines the evidence in both research and popular literature that supports (or fails to support) these speculations. Most of the popular literature on the subject of generational differences appear to rest of various limited data, almost always conducted by survey methods characterized by a lack of reliability and validity data. The most recent research based upon rigorous analysis of previous psychological studies do yield some evidence of substantial generational differences, especially between those generations born before and after 1970.

Having Dr. Reeves as a co-chair, I know that these generational differences are largely the difference in the sense of entitlement felt by today's youth compared to youth of other generations. This is well described in Jean Twenge's book, Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled--and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

So, are today's students different - the results of this fairly comprehensive review of the literature seem to indicate that they are. Are these differences based upon their native-ness to digital technology or the fact that their brains are wired differently because of their use of technology - it would appear not.

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