The Kids Are Allright (in the Digital World)

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If there's any doubt left that the New York Times story "Growing Up Digital" was alarmist and misleading, Don Tapscott's piece in The Huffington Post puts it to rest. The author of the actual book Growing Up Digital (who incidentally was not asked for his input for the Times article) weighs in with valuable insight and hard science to back him up.

To wit:

This generation of students is smart, wired, motivated, and expects to be engaged in class:

Kids who have grown up digital expect to be able to respond, to have a conversation. They want a choice in their education, in terms of what they learn, when they learn it, where, and how. They want their education to be relevant to the real world, the one they live in. They want it to be interesting, even fun. Teachers may still think the old-fashioned lecture is important, but the kids don't.

"Their attention spans are not short for games, for example, or for music, or rollerblading, or for spending time on the Internet, or anything else that actually interests them," [writes researcher Marc Prensky]. "It isn't that they can't pay attention, they just choose not to."

Regarding the effects of playing online video games on the brain, Tapscott sites a study contradicting the original article with the following conclusion:

To excel at a video game you have to learn skills that are crucial for any learning experience, such as understanding design principles, making choices, practicing, and discovering.

And as for multi-tasking, the author maintains that the next generations' skills will indeed lead to their success.

They may think and process information in a different way than most boomers do, but that doesn't stop them from coming up with brilliant insights, new models of doing business, new ways of collaborating; or, for that matter, creating a carefully edited film as a teenager.

For those of us with kids growing up digital, Tapscott's counterpoint is a welcome relief. And for educators, I imagine it's heartening to know that this generation of students is not a lost cause. They're just as willing and able to learn and excel as any of us ever were.