This article was originally published in Innovate (http://www.innovateonline.info/) as: Sontag, M. 2009. A learning theory for 21st-century students. Innovate 5 (4). http://www.innovateonline.info/index.php?view=article&id=524 (accessed March 31, 2009). The article is reprinted here with permission of the publisher, The Fischler School of Education and Human Services at Nova Southeastern University.
The following are my notes from the article cited above:
- According to a 2008 Pew report, 97% of American teens aged 12-17 play computer, console, or cell phone games, and three-fourths of these teens play them with others at least some of the time (Lenhart et al. 2008).
- 93% use the Internet, 61% go online daily, and 51% create content that others can view online (Lenhart et al. 2007).
- Eleven million students under the age of 18 use MySpace (Owyang 2008).
- The site myYearbook, a social networking site created specifically for 12- to 17-year-olds, boasts 7 million members (Loten 2008). In short, many, perhaps even most, of the current generation of learners are enmeshed in connective technologies.
- the environment and culture in which people grow up affect their thought processes and that cognitive processes are far more malleable than previously assumed. Evidence provided by magnetoencephalographic (MEG) imaging suggests that structural rewiring of the brain "can and does occur via experience" (O'Boyle and Gill 1998, 406). Interactive and interpersonal applications of digital technology shape the social and cognitive development of those who use them (Shumar and Renninger 2002). Oblinger (2004) claims that "constant exposure to the Internet and other digital media has shaped how [students] receive information and how they learn" ("Abstract," ¶1). Some of these changes include “the development of a new type of multimedia or information literacy" which "parallels other shifts in how we approach learning such as of moving from an environment of being told or authority-based learning to one based on discovery or experiential learning” (“4. How People Learn,” ¶7).
- Students “tend toward teamwork, experiential activities . . . and the use of technology. Their strengths include multitasking, goal orientation, . . . and a collaborative style” (“2. Changes in Students,” ¶1).
- New societal patterns produce new educational paradigms that too frequently completely discard the old.
- Students engage their social-connectedness schema in a set of behaviors that I describe as “link, lurk, and lunge”: Students link up with others who have the knowledge they need; they lurk, watching others who know how do to what they want to do; and they lunge, jumping in to try new things often without seeking guidance beforehand (Brown 2000).
- Students' social-connectedness schema underlies their ability to create and sustain physical, virtual, and hybrid social networks (Oblinger and Oblinger 2005).
- Today’s students “do not just think about different things, they actually think differently” (Prensky 2001, 42).
- And, as Reigeluth (1999) argues, “when a human-activity system (or societal system) changes in significant ways, its subsystems must change in equally significant ways” (16).
- Education theory must change to accommodate new developments in the way students learn and access information.
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