Thursday, November 4, 2010

Post 3 - Engage and Extend

While it is all very good to speak (or indeed type) of Quality Teaching, Project Based Learning and Authentic Tasks, it is student engagement which is vital to the success of any of these strategies. So, it would now be pertinent to investigate the research into the ways in which students from the 'digital native' generation are engaged, challenged and extended, and in so doing assess the ways in which the task seeks to engage digital natives.

OK, so who are these 'digital natives?' Prensky (2001) claims that exponential increase in the use of digital technologies in our daily lives has had a fundamental influence on our cognitive processes (p. 02-4). While all those exposed to this increasing digitalisation, it is those who have grown up with the internet, mobile phones and computer games that he refers to as digital natives. The ingraining of digital technology on the psyche of this generation means that their cognitive processes are fundamentally altered from the non-digital native generations. This has, ad you would imagine, had a huge impact on the way digital natives need to be taught. Indeed, as Moore (in Prensky, 2001, p.02-8) states, linear education, which may have worked for the older generations, is not only ineffective but may actually retard learning in students who learn by gaming and surfing the web. Prensky suggests that these students benefit from an educational approach which allows a high level of self-direction, opportunities for creative outlet and varied activities. However, while these are the activities digital native prefer, it is important to also supply them with activities they need, namely lots of F2F interaction, and a continued emphasis on critical thinking. Granted, the theory of cognitive rewiring by video game is an emergent one and the hard psychological research required is still some way off, but the plasticity of the brain is now commonly accepted knowledge. In any case, it is of paramount importance for educators to be aware of these developments, as they deal with the most fundamental issue to teachers - how do their students learn?

The use of PBL and Authentic Activities can go some way to engage digital natives while also giving them the F2F contact that they require. The filmmaking task engages digital natives by requiring creativity, by providing a variety of tasks, by utilising digital technologies across all three assessments, and by having them work on a task which has real-world significance. It also challenges them by using a group structure, teaching them to interact F2F with peers, and also to think critically about the task through the writing of a critical blog, just like this 'un. Importantly, it caters for all levels of learner, and the challenges are achievable - i.e. hard but possible - this places the assessment firmly within the Vygostkian Zone of Proximal Development.

So, next up some key learning moments from my experiences of the task. Stay tuned.

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