Friday, May 22, 2009

The Net Generation

Since finishing up Tony Wagner's The Global Achievement Gap, I have been intrigued by some similar insight in two other books - one is Richard Nesbitt's Intelligence and How to Get it, and the other is Bob Pletka's Educating the Net Generation.  I want to discuss Nesbitt's extensive research at some point, but, in terms of Wagner's insight about transitioning schools to a curriculum and training more relevant to their lives, I am intrigued and seeking ways to improve my approach based on his research.  Pletka's point is a high-tech analysis of the concept that we must teach students where they are, not where we'd like them to be.  This is relevant as I seek to incorporate applicable technologies into the classroom without feeling like I'm losing the important content and rigor of the classical education of our school and community.  One example would be a desire to utilize blogging and other cyberspace formats.  While there won't soon be a Facebook page for "Mazenko's English," (though I would love it), I will try to simulate that as much as possible with applications on Blackboard.

One insightful aspect of Pletka's work is the importance of connecting to students in ways that are not only relevant to the way they currently think and communicate, but also to the ways they will do so in the workplace soon enough.  Pleska states:

46% of the variation in the students sense of involvement and belonging is the result of instruction.  Whereas instruction dominated by lectures and note taking is associated with increased rates of disengaged students, lessons that encourage student discussion contribute to their sense of acceptance and membership in school.

While this could be perceived by some critics as "foo foo education" and a pathetic offshoot of self-esteem movements, it doesn't have to be, and I believe it can be integrally linked to rigor and development of core competencies as well as innovation.  It reminds of the "flow experience" that I've written about concerning adolescent male literacy which was so well explained in Michael Smith's Going with the Flow: How to Engage Boys (and Girls) in Their Literacy Learning.  The whole concept reminds me of the descriptions I used to read of Dean Smith's basketball practices at UNC where everything worked like a well-oiled machine.

Total engagement is my (albeit unrealistic) goal. 

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