Today’s college students are known as “digital natives” and are also known as members of the “Y Generation,” millennials, or boomlets. In general, they are born after 1980 and are racially and ethically diverse. The digital natives are experienced multitaskers, accustomed to using text messaging, PDAs, cell phones, and email while search the Web and watching television. They are highly connected, increasing mobile, and technological savvy; and they see technology as an essential part of their lives. Digital native students are also more comfortable expressing themselves digitally and have become creators as well as consumers of digital content. Digital native students are more active learners who want to create their own content. They tend toward independence and autonomy in their learning styles. They learn in a different way than their predecessors did, but they values education and they want to learn. Digital native want challenging, meaningful, and interactive instructional/learning activities. Unfortunately, increasing number of students in the college become less satisfied with their instructors’ use of technology because most of their instructors are digital immigrants who do not use the tools they are most familiar with.
Below is a short YouTube video summarizing some of the most important characteristics of students today – how they learn, what they need to learn, their goals, hopes, dreams, what their lives will be like, and what kinds of changes they will experience in their lifetime. Created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University.
Teaching digital native students presents a challenge, both for their instructors and their institutions. Digital native students are fundamentally different in their use of technology than the “digital immigrants” who teach them. New technologies require that instructors rethink much of what they do, from their role in the classroom to the way they deliver instructional content and assess their students. I think we should consider technology tools that digital natives use and integrate these tools in teaching and learning. Thus, learning will become more interactive for their students. In addition, curriculum should provide more flexibility and engagement by integrating Web 2.0 tools, rich digital media, online collaborations, and virtual learning communities. These could result in a more open-ended authentic type of learning.