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Multitasking ‘Digital Native’ Youths Profiled in CTA Magazine
They would rather text someone than call or meet up. Raised on video games, e-mail, instant messaging, Google and Facebook, they are the smart young students known as Generation Z, the “digital natives” who offer unique challenges and rewards for teachers, the cover story in the new CTA California Educator magazine reveals.
The children of Generation X parents, they are kids and youths up to high school seniors in age who are the most technologically advanced generation yet, and are headed for careers that don’t even exist today, say experts in the California Teachers Association’s magazine stories (view the stories at www.cta.org). Older, less-wired teachers must find effective strategies to engage Generation Z, says Larry Rosen, a professor at California State University-Dominguez Hills and author of “Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation” and the forthcoming book, “Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.”
“We are, as teachers, Digital Immigrants who are trying to teach Digital Natives,” he says. “For assignments, have them text each other, text the teacher, blog, form groups and do Wikis, write together online in collaboration, and create a social network. It will engage them in what they are doing. Tap into their creativity and let them do video, audio, video gaming, and post their writings online. I know a teacher who let her students create MySpace pages for characters in Hamlet.”
Rosen sees the Internet as a learning boon and argues that texting and Facebook writing habits have not ruined these hyper-social youths as writers, and has in fact made their essays more expressive because they’re used to sharing feelings online. Other California public school teachers interviewed disagree, saying Generation Z students suffer from short attention spans, cyber-bullying, a lack of listening skills and an overdependence on technology to do things for them, such as research, or making real friends.
On average, U.S. teens ages 13-17 write 2,900 texts a month, one study says. Duane Mendoza, a teacher at E.O. Green Junior High in Oxnard, is seeing students spell the words “you” and “people” as “u” and “ppl” in assignments, as they would while texting. But on the positive side, John Jabagchourian, an assistant professor at San Jose State University, recalled how inventive eighth-graders were during a Santa Barbara summer program. They used Facebook to do an assignment on getting volunteers for a community service project by creating clever profiles of a steelhead trout and mountain lion. “The trout and mountain lion then developed a network of friends and volunteers. It was very creative, and the students did it all on their own.”