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Teaching Digital Natives

Jennifer Hooks



• They want entertainment in their education and social experiences. Windsor states that 82 percent of children ages 2 to 17 have regular access to video games, with industry sales exploding from $8.4 billion in 2005 to a projected $46.5 billion in 2010. Play is part of life for kids--whether it's for education or fun.

• They desire and expect collaboration and relationship. Kids everywhere are in constant collaboration--through social media, multiuser video games, file sharing, texting, and more. They seek out others' influence, advice, and experiences--almost on a minute-to-minute basis.

• They expect and "need" speed. Perhaps one of the greatest distinguishers of digital natives is their need, or demand, for instant information and rapid communication. Slow won't cut it; they know by experience that instantaneity is possible and they expect nothing less.

• They actively pursue innovation. Kids will replace a tech toy such as a phone before it's worn out--they want new gadgets because they have new features. They're in constant pursuit of innovation because it's entertaining, helps them collaborate, and lets them learn in new ways.

Studying these characteristics can help inform how you approach the kids in your ministry to more effectively connect with them.


Bridge the Divide

Notably, a constant message from experts--those who subscribe to the notion of digital natives and those who don't--is that today's kids are wired to learn differently than the adults before them. They urge that adults who work with kids must embrace this as fact and be willing to learn from those they seek to teach.

Use these pointers to create an environment where kids won't "power down" when they walk in your door--even if you don't have access to the latest or greatest technology.

• Allow kids to teach you. Admitting that you're not savvy on the latest technology will only encourage kids to show you the ropes, demo their cool tech toys, and discover ways to bring new technology and the Word of God together. You may have rules about phone use during your time together (and you should, as long as the rules are mutually agreed upon), but it behooves you to find ways to allow kids to use their tech tools during class in a way that benefits everyone.

• Let kids learn by doing. "The most technology can offer to a lecturer is pictures and video, which is no improvement at all," laments Prensky. Instead, he advocates letting kids learn on their own. This requires releasing control and becoming a guide, not an expert. Ask questions, pose challenges, give case studies. Then release kids to collaborate to solve the challenges.

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