By Dr. Jennifer Brown King, Florida Southern College:
In his article “Mission Possible: Teachers Can Inspire Today’s Screenagers,” Marc Heller, head of school at Academy at the Lakes in Tampa, Florida, brings to light what is becoming undeniably obvious: Our children are growing up in a world that is very different from the one in which we grew up. Let’s face it. Our playground consisted of monkey bars, swing sets, a squeaky merry-go-round, and the see-saw. Do these relics of the 20th century, which bring to mind nostalgic images of those golden hours of freedom after school, still exist for our children? What is the playground of our children? Anything with a screen (even a teeny tiny one), including portable gaming systems and home gaming consoles, hand-held tablets, and cell phones (seldom used for talking). For this reason, Don Tapscott, author of Paradigm Shift (1993) and Growing Up Digital (2000) calls the children of today “screenagers” or “the first generation that has grown up with a computer mouse and the assumption that images on a screen are to be interacted with.” Hence, the term “screenagers.”
Our children may look like us, chips off the ol’ block, but researchers have proof that they are simply wired differently. The wiring difference, discovered through advances in brain research, is a result of the constant bombardment of visual stimuli. Writer Marc Prensky, who coined the terms “digital immigrants” (you and me) and “digital natives” (our children), believes that Millennials or the generation spanning from about 1982 to 2004 will have played more than 10,000 hours of video games, sent and received 200,000 emails and texts, spent 10,000 hours on cell phones, watched more than 20,000 hours of TV, and seen more than 500,000 commercials by the time they reach 21 years of age! I say this is nuts even as I shamefully confess, as a parent of screenagers, to announcing dinner time via text, then finally on FaceBook when no one comes scurrying downstairs to the table!
Heller references Ian Jukes, who indicates that a screenager’s consistent stimuli, like hours spent gaming, texting, and the like, have created new and high-speed pathways in their brain. Consequently, screenagers have learned to process information differently and faster than their parents — and yes, teachers — and excel in visual memory and processing. In fact, their brains are hard-wired to process visual images infinitely faster than text! For humans, in general, research has shown that the memory recall rates for 10 seconds of visual content are significantly higher (90% accuracy) after several days than when information is presented orally (10% accuracy). However, when pictures are added to a traditional oral presentation, memory recall rates skyrocket to 65%.
What are the implications of this brain research for educational technology? Heller says that with the simple addition of supporting visuals and engaging graphical displays provided by interactive technologies, teachers could increase student retention by as much as 650%. When we consider the natural propensity of screenagers to recall visual content (versus oral content) along with the reality that screenagers and their teachers are wired differently, it’s clear that we are facing what Heller deems a “brave new world.” Simply put, screenagers have different preferences for learning from their parents and teachers.
I agree with Heller. Screenagers are visual, multimedia learners; however, their schools and classrooms are populated by teachers who are wired differently. Here are four examples:
- Screenagers prefer receiving information quickly from multiple multimedia sources. Many teachers prefer a slow and controlled release of information from limited sources.
- Screenagers prefer processing pictures, sounds, color, and video before text. Many teachers prefer to provide text before pictures, sounds, and video.
- Screenagers prefer random access to hyperlinked multimedia information. Many teachers prefer to provide information linearly, logically, and sequentially.
- Screenagers prefer learning that is relevant, active, and instantly useful and fun. Many teachers prefer teaching memorization in preparation for standardized tests.
In the 20th century, teaching with a lot of visuals was very difficult and expensive until the advent of the digital age. As such, teachers created a very auditory, text-based culture that still exists in many 21st century classrooms. Though wired differently, I encourage teachers to embrace this brave new world of visual learning imbued with rich, graphical, multimedia content. It is a world to which screenagers can relate!
If you are an educator interested in learning how to use video-based technology in your classroom, visit AVI-SPL’s Professional Development Resources and Training for Teachers.