My family purchased our first computer when I was around 10 years old. The black and white screen was probably about 6” wide and the computer hard drive held only a few megabytes of data. I remember using the computer for only two things: drawing in a paint program and playing a silly balloon game.

Let’s compare that computer with the systems available today. Computers have exponentially more memory and storage capacity and much larger screens – just imagine the impact computers have on today’s youth! Two year old children are using computers to play fun, interactive learning games that teach the alphabet and numbers. First graders learn how to read and complete math problems with engaging software programs. Fifth graders are firing up their web browsers and search engines, completing their research online using resources available on the Internet. Children are growing up on computers and learning on computers from day one, as a normal part of their education. This is something that neither I nor any other adult has had the opportunity to experience. Our parents taught us the numbers and alphabet with magnetic letters on the fridge, or with fun, colorful picture books. We grew up learning how to read with Mom or Dad sitting next to us, helping us sound out words in a book.

So I wonder…as we look into the future, how will the learning style of today’s youth differ from our own?

Will these new learners expect a more engaging, interactive learning experience at school?

Studies have shown that youngsters are spending more time on the computer and gaming than watching TV. Software games and the Internet are interactive experiences for kids, capturing their attention for hours. How will this affect their learning style?

Will they experience better learning results using computers, as opposed to traditional teaching materials (e.g., books, printed worksheets)?

Studies have proven that most people read text 25% slower on a computer when compared to the speed of reading text on paper. This is because as children, we trained our brains to read on paper, where our eyes are oriented to a 45-degree angle. On the computer screen our eyes are oriented at a 90-degree angle, which makes it more difficult to read. If today’s youth are learning to read on a computer, will those statistics change?

Will they enter grade school expecting technology-based learning?

If today’s youth are learning on a computer from an early age, how will they react to lecture-style learning?

Will they expect faster or even instantaneous feedback and results?

I think many will admit, myself included, that because of technology and its capabilities, we often expect instant feedback. Will today’s youth have that expectation as well? When youngsters play a game on a computer, they view the results from the game at the end. If they search for the definition of a word on Google, they get instant results; there is no need for them to pull out a massive dictionary and sift through hundreds of pages to find what they want. How will this affect teachers as they evaluate and score tests, and provide grades and feedback? Also, consider the struggles possible for the future managers of these kids – will these future workers be programmed to NEED frequent performance evaluations to know how they are doing?

April 15, 2009


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