Liveblogging: EdEvangelist Ian Jukes

Talking way too fast for me to accurately transcribe, self-described education evangelist Ian Jukes lectures to the final session of the NSBA T+L conference this morning in Nashville.

His message is simple, yet almost indescribably complex: today’s students — everyone 25 and younger — are simply, physically and intellectually different.

It’s rather widely known that various experiences alter the development of neural pathways in the developing brains in children. The digital bombardment of interactive experience with games and computers. The new field of neuroinformatics studies the ways that specific mental processes occur.

In short, they’re finding that today’s students, whom he calls "digital natives," are using measurably different neural pathways to process the same tasks as those who are older. I rather wish that Joel was here to give me some hints about the validity of this research. One of my questions would be, will these same digital natives process information the same when they’re 40 as they do at 16 (when they’re less hormonally handicapped).

One of the findings is that today’s students’ attention is much more strongly drawn to the upper left half of a page, with attention to the lower right half — think about that, and think about the context of a typical web page: where are the menus? Should the producers of educational materials take that into account?

Digital kids think differently, process information differently, than we do.

Our teaching and assessment methods, he says, is completely out of sync with they way they learn. Unlike us, they can process multiple forms of information simultaneously.

Six major changes he proposes are as follows:

  1. It is time for education and educators to catch up, to learn the new digital world.
  2. In the information age, students need to be both producers and consumers of content. We have to move beyond 20th century literacy to 21st century fluency — being able to use technological tools without thinking about it. "Focus on headware, not hardware."
  3. Educators need to shift their instructional approach from director to facilitator, encouraging higher-order thinking skills. After two weeks, students remember 10% of what is read, but 50% of what is seen and heard (simultaneously), and 90% of what they both say and do. He thoerizes that rather than experiencing an epidemic of ADD and ADHD, we’re simply not teaching effectively to the way students learn today. If we want understanding and comprehension, we must teach in a new way.
  4. We need to let students access information natively. Just as calculators were scoffed in the 1960s, social networking is similarly cast aside in schools today — where it needs to be an integral part of learning.
  5. Let kids collaborate
  6. Prepare them for their future, not our past.

3 Responses to “Liveblogging: EdEvangelist Ian Jukes”

  1. on 19 Oct 2007 at 7:18 pm shane


    Great post! I completely agree about different learning methods of today’s kids. They are much more adept at juggling multiple inputs of various forms of media (text, voice, IM) and quickly making profound social choices based on that input. They may not have the attention span to pore over a problem for days on end, but that kind of problem-solving may not be as important in a hyperconnected, collaborative society. And your 6th point is profound!!

    I’d like to refer you to my good friend Mark Safranski’s blog: ZenPundit. Mark is a teacher in Chicagoland, and an educational theorist as well. I’ll also send him a link to this post. An appropriate post for you and your readers is one Mark did a couple weeks ago on “Creating an Innovative-Intersectional Idea Society”:

    vr/ shane

  2. on 19 Oct 2007 at 10:00 pm Jennifer Lubke

    First of all, I am *so* envious. I wanted to be at the T&L Conference but did not have the money, the credentials, or the connections to attend. I had to be satisfied with a live chat session with Will Richardson on Wednesday morning, shortly after he gave the breakfast keynote speech. Did you hear him speak? The chat was about educational value of social networking. The transcript is posted at the NSBA site.

    If Ian Jukes’ message resonates with you and your readers, you might also check out the K-12 Online Conference going on right now through Oct. 27. It’s free and open to anyone interested in tech in education. No registration necessary! All “sessions” are posted at the blog in audio and video formats. I highly recommend you listen to David Warlick’s preconference keynote, Inventing the New Boundaries. Other than one very annoying segment filmed in a Starbucks while he sips coffee, the video is exception, especially the last 5 to 10 minutes.

    And if you really want to get your geek on, watch the keynote video titled More than Cool Tools.

    I love this stuff!

  3. on 20 Oct 2007 at 8:45 am Joel

    ” . . . hints about the validity of this research.”

    I would need some links to primary sources. It’s not a field I follow.

    However, I’ve been teaching medical student for 20 years and it is my anecdotal observation that, as a group, they are different today than 20 years ago. The students of 20 years ago were more comfortable with the written word and more willing to tackle abstract concepts. Medical students today (the MTV generation) are turned off by text and impatient with abstract concepts. Accordingly, my lectures have changed: I use more color, more animations. I use cartoons to lend concreteness to abstract concepts. We have not recommended a textbook for my Molecular Biology and Genetics unit for the past three years–students can find supplementary information using web-based resources (OMIM, Medline, etc). Also, my course is the only one that uses small group case-based learning in addition to lectures. Faculty in these small groups are facilitators, not delivering content.

    Many of my colleagues resent the fact that students expect them to adapt to their different learning styles. The operative faculty epithet is “spoon-feeding.” Well, call it what you want, but in the real world, it is the job of the communicator (writer, advertiser, politician, lawyer, businessperson, film/television/theater director, museum curator) to size up their intended audience and package their message in a way that will be effective for that audience. Why should education be different?

    I do think that today’s generation of kids is missing something rewarding by eschewing books, but it is a mistake to fetishize the written word. Humans evolved without movable type. Don’t get me wrong–I love reading (and I’m writing now), but we evolved to learn by other mechanisms. It is not surprising to me that, when given choices, people prefer visual, auditory and tactile concreteness over the abstract written word. I do believe that quantitative thinking and critical thinking skills are deficient in the MTV generation, although I don’t have the quantitative data to back up this perception.

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