A lot of thought has gone into how today’s students are different from the kind of students we were “back in the day.” Marc Prensky calls them “Digital Natives” and describes how today’s students think and process differently. Other’s use the less than complimentary name “Screenagers” to describe today’s students. Unless one explores deeply, the name screenager seems to imply that adolescents spend too much time glued to the screens of their computers or iPhones and that their time is being wasted.
I would argue that we need to focus more on how the world that we live in has changed and less on how kids today are so different. We used to live in a world where we had to ask permission to share our ideas and learning with a wider audience. Sure, students always had the opportunity to join the school paper – but you still needed permission and someone still had to review your work to see if you could share it. Students have passionate ideas all the time but are often forced to wait until “the future” before they could put their ideas into practice. Our schools need to change because the world for all of us has changed. We live in an era that celebrates the entrepreneur. The economic crisis had forced many to reinvent themselves. Career counselors are telling college graduates not to search for a career but to make a career. Fortunately things are beginning to change for students in our schools. Today I learned about how the Thompson School District in Loveland, CO created an Innovation Lab where students can follow their passions right now, while they are in high school. I encourage you to watch their presentation which is part of the free K12online conference going on right now and is full of great ideas from inspirational students and teachers.