It has been said that there is a generational divide between digital natives and digital immigrants. Digital natives, usually classified as those born after 1980, grew up using technology on a regular basis. Digital immigrants, those born before Millennials and Generation Z, grew up using much less technology at an early age. The irony is digital immigrants are the ones who invented the technology that digital natives grew up with. While digital immigrants created the technology for digital natives, they were unable to predict how that technology would be used and eventually advanced by digital natives.
There is usually some opposition between generations no matter the era. For example, some argue that digital natives’ differences to digital immigrants isn’t entirely about technology. Digital natives have more of an egalitarian worldview, using equality to erase boundaries. Digital immigrants are said to better with long-term goals. For example, a certain problem may upset digital natives more than digital immigrants, but on a consistent micro level, digital immigrants can be better at getting big changes made over time. Whether you agree or disagree with these theories, it is fascinating to think about how people change over generations and the role technology plays in all of these changes.
It is now believed there is an even finer distinction between older digital natives (born between 1980 and 1993) and younger digital natives (those born after 1993). Younger digital natives have more positive views about the internet than older digital natives. Older digital natives have more anxiety about the internet including social media. Wherever an educator falls on the digital timeline, there are ways to increase tech acumen. The University of Louisiana Monroe’s M.Ed., Educational Technology Leadership online program will allow you to try new instructional methods with technology.
Experts argue that having a successful classroom in terms of technology goes beyond the tech itself. The arrangement of a classroom can enhance the use of technology. Ideally, a teacher should not spend a large amount of time sitting at their desk, and the same goes for students. Large tables or “huddle spaces” where students can gather around displays make students more active. A much larger table than students are used to encourages productivity. Some of these tables for “huddle spaces” come with movable storage units. Even if a class uses desks, instructors should try to use them in new ways like moving the desks out of rows into a large group circle facing inwards. Students may also be successful using desks with whiteboard tops. These whiteboard desks encourage students to remain engaged with the material.
Finding the right amount of movement in a classroom is something that educators now have to consider. A natural flow helps keep students’ energy up, and an instructor moving around the class can provide more support than a teacher behind a desk. A teacher moving around the room encourages more one-on-one and small group discussions, which may help individual students who are falling behind with class material. In a more traditional setting, like rows of desks, it may be more difficult to see if any students are struggling with a particular lesson.
Technology in the classroom may help students better retain the material they have learned. Studies on digital natives’ brains show that students’ brains are more actively engaged while scrolling a webpage than reading printed text. Teachers who modernize their classrooms may not only close the gap between digital immigrants and digital natives, but they may also help equalize learning for students with various backgrounds and workstyles. Collaboration is important, as students prepare themselves for the ever-developing technology of the workplace. Some school systems might hire tech specialists to help teachers, but this is far from universal. The study of technology in education is more relevant than ever. A Master of Education in Educational Technology Leadership degree can help prepare teachers to bridge generation gaps.
Learn more about ULM’s M.Ed., Educational Technology Leadership online program.