Top 9 Strategies to Reach & Teach the iGeneration
Kids today are a lot different learners than they were even 5 years ago. These kids have known technology from as young as 6 months to 3 years old. This is the iGeneration, and we teachers have got to recognize this and accept it.
The old days of direct instruction leading to practice sheets just won’t cut it with these kids. They learn differently than their older siblings even. They don’t understand why they would need to visit a library because the whole world is at their fingertips on their smartphone, tablet, laptop or any device connected to the Internet. They are bored with simple PowerPoints because they are not interactive. They are Life-long Learners who believe they can acquire knowledge that they choose, not what some institution tells them they need to know. How do we reconcile this with the standards to be taught and what we teachers are held accountable for? How can students possibly know what all is important to their growth as a learner? How can a teacher with a classroom of 30 students be able to manage student learning, when students are learning at their own pace and making their own choices? Let’s face it, students want to choose what they learn about.
In today’s world, schools have not caught up with iGeneration learners’ needs. Money is one of the top problems because integrating technology and keeping up on all the new software that seems to appear on an almost daily basis is expensive. Public schools simply do not have the funds to compete. The business world is connected; most schools are not. So, what can be done? Here are 9 top strategies for integrating connected learning into your classroom.
- There are still 3 different types of learners.
When making lesson plans for your classes, it’s important to remember that there are still 3 main types of learners, visual, auditory, and hands on. Teachers today must use a variance of all three to reach all students. In any given classroom, there could be an equal share of these, or an unbalanced group. Of course, we’ve always known this, but with these connected students, the way in which we integrate this knowledge changes. It’s imperative that differing devices become a part of each of these styles: visual--videos, teacher mentoring, infographics, photos, interactive maps like Google Earth, and so much more. For auditory learners--videos, background music, podcasts, stories being read to them and many others will help get students moving in the right direction. Then of course, there are the hands-on learners. There are so many strategies here, from gallery walks, to working on projects with others to discovery lessons. All three types of learners can benefit from the integration of technology.
- Ask your students what type of learner they think they are.
Most learners have not really thought about this. They just know what they like. Use some type of software, such as Excel Forms or Survey Monkey and set up some thought provoking questions. This will give you a mental picture so that you are prepared to move forward. Some questions could be, which of these three lessons would you prefer: a) watching a video given to you by the teacher; b) reading a webpage or book to understand a concept; or c) searching for an answer to a question on the Internet and writing about it to show you understand. This is a less direct way than simply asking them. Students probably won’t know whether they are visual or auditory.
- When planning lessons, think first of how to integrate technology.
We are not used to doing this. We think first of what standards need to be integrated, then we start planning our lessons. Turn your thinking around. For instance, today we will use the ipad minis, how can I teach critical thinking using the ipads? Or, how can students use the ipads to learn fractions? What’s the best way to teach sentence types with a laptop?
- Let the students discover how to do something by posing a question.
An example here might be what are the different types of sentence structures, and why is important to understand these different types? You might even give them the vocabulary, i.e. simple, complex, and compound, but it will be their job to find out what each one is and how it can enhance their writing. Students would then go on a search to discover exactly how to write each type. Then, they could make a Keynote or iMovie that describes the different types in their own words. This type of hands on project could be done with partners or individually depending on the grade level and the personality of your class.
- Don’t forget Bloom’s Taxonomy and the SAMR™ model.
Some concepts are just too hard for discovery. Some days you have to teach a difficult concept through direct instruction and notetaking, and some days students will need to practice with pencil and pen. Technology can enhance this by being available for students to answer their own questions when you the teacher are helping individual students. Other days, augmenting the standards through the use of technology will solidify what you showed them the day before. While we’d love to always be at the rigor stage where student’s critical thinking is at an all-time high, it is not practical nor is it appropriate. We were all taught these different types of learning in college. We know this, but sometimes we feel pressured by administrators and our own thinking that we should always be using rigor and redefinition. Worksheets have gotten a bad rap. This is interesting because practice is vital to learning. Technology can be integrated here instead of worksheets through different online practice games and software.
- Instant feedback is critical to the iGeneration.
They play video games and know immediately whether they failed or succeeded. They send a Snapchat or text and get a response immediately. Waiting a couple of days for you to grade papers and return them looses this and makes students uninterested in doing a worksheet. It’s boring to them. One thing you can do if you have to use worksheets is the take time to grade them in class at the end of the period. In this way, they can see immediately how they are doing. Online games and software is a great way to provide that much needed instant feedback. I-Ready, for example and other software like this have gotten popular as a technology learning and instant feedback tool.
- Multi-tasking is the norm.
Students today can be listening to music, texting their friends, and studying all at the same time. Reading a chapter and taking notes on it for homework is happening at the same time they are connected to a social media site. Doing this in the classroom is anarchy, but remember this is what students are doing at home while studying. We teachers have to be aware of this. We have to build in ways for students to be successful. This leads to the next tip.
- Integrate social media into learning.
Set up a Facebook, Edmodo, or Yammer account with your classes. On here, you can post the lessons, students can collaborate and post questions and comments for instant responses from the teacher and classmates. Learning is taking place outside of the classroom, and students enjoy getting the instant feedback they need.
- Don’t fret, but be aware.
You may not agree with watching a 3-year-old at a restaurant playing on a tablet while parents go about eating, but it’s what is happening in today’s society. You may be surprised to learn that these kids are actually learning valuable skills at this time. They are learning critical thinking skills, how to adjust their skills, and how to be comfortable in this world of technology. Your elementary, middle and high school students have never known a world without personal devices. They are connected. I’m old enough to remember a world without VHS videos. I remember the first Apple computer in my classroom. I would use it to figure my grades, students would play games on it when they finished early. It’s been hard for me to come to terms with the scenario I mentioned above, but I have taken the time to study these learners and have discovered that they actually are more connected to each other, their families, and their learning than ever before. This was surprising to me. Timid students are not afraid to voice an opinion on a social media site, something they would never do in class vocally. Questioning students immediately run to their cell phone for answers. Technology is creating life-long learners who care about themselves and society.
I admit that reaching today’s iGeneration seems daunting at times. Veteran teachers have had to re-think how they teach in today’s ever-changing world of technology. The pace is maddening and overwhelming, but with a few tools of our own and openness to trying new things it can be the most rewarding time in history to be a teacher. I have discovered that I myself have become a life-long learner. Kids are teaching me even though it is my job to teach them.
If you need more hands-on help, here are a couple of excellent resources to help you get connected with your iGeneration learners:
Teach Like a Techie -- Teach Like a Techie introduces the novice to 20 gadgets, gizmos, and websites that engage students and raise learning to a higher level.
Computer Projects Gr. 5-7 – Easily modified for different grade levels, twenty teacher-tested lessons are presented with informative pictures and step-by-step instructions for presentation in 45-minute computer lab sessions. No knowledge of software applications is required to teach the lessons in the book.
Using Google Earth Gr 6-8 Bring the World Into Your Classroom -- Learn to use Google Earth and add technological richness across the content areas in grades 6—8 with this highly engaging, easy-to-use resource that offers flexibility for authentic 21st century learning. This teacher-friendly book provides step-by-step instructions, lessons, and activities that integrate this technology into social studies, science, mathematics, and English language arts curriculum.
Social Media Writing Lessons and WordPress Writing Lessons -- Lessons in argumentative essay writing, thesis generation, and quality sources.
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