The Common Goal of Raising Digital Natives' Engagement

Posted by Zack Blois on Mar 21, 2013 11:00:00 AM
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describe the image“My kids would love this

As a first-time exhibitor at this year’s ASCD Conference and Exhibit Show (March 16th-18th), I began to notice the above phrase used frequently by educators throughout the hall.

At first glance, this little blurb may seem very trivial. However, when I really began to think about it, I realized the statement means so much more than just describing what students will “love.” To me, the phrase also signifies the fact that these educators are truly invested in what their students’ interests are and what will help them learn best. 

Diverse Learning Needs, Same Learning Goal

The more I spoke with the conference attendees; it became clear a vast majority keyed on the same main idea.Whether they sought to help students develop skills for the deeper dive required by the Common Core State Standards (CCSS), provide access to new technology in efforts to prepare students for a digital post-K-12 world, or to learn innovative differentiated instruction methods, the attendees were essentially focused on identifying ways to increase student attachment and engagement.

Unfortunately, it seems many educators do not realize that they have this common need. The many different things educators seek may seem mutually exclusive on the surface, but the basic learning goals are virtually the same. I started to ask myself, “What if we stopped looking for individual learning solutions and started making a collective effort to simply increase engagement 

We're all aware that heightened engagement often leads to greater personal attachment and learning. In my opinion, the only way to achieve this unified goal in today’s educational climate is to take a smart look at how and why we use technology in the classroom.

‘Engaging’ in Technology to Create Engaging Instruction

But, let’s be honest; ‘technology usage’ is still a touchy topic in schools. Over the past two decades, digital technology progressed at a breakneck pace while schools sauntered along with increasingly outdated brick-and-mortar instruction methods.

screen uses 1Many things, including budget constraints, ease-of-use, fear of change, etc., contributed to the slow assimilation of technology in schools. But, the tide is shifting. Educators are beginning to realize that by catching classrooms up with the digital twenty-first century, schools gain back much of the instruction engagement that's been lacking over the past twenty years.

Simply put, if our goal is to meet the engagement needs of every single student, we must be willing and able to provide ideal learning environments. For today’s students, this means creating a classroom where kids enjoy learning via seamlessly integrated fun, innovative, and substantial EdTech tools. Our students’ love to use Nintendo DS games, iPads, etc., and educators can tap into this high interest to truly increase a digital native's want to learn.

Building the Digital Native Classroom One Step at a Time

The conference's focuses indicated that schools are finally beginning to grasp technology’s ability to increase student engagement and school efficiency. My observation was affirmed by the prevalence of EdTech throughout the exhibit hall floor and the fact that seminars focused on blended learning strategies, BYOD programs, and 1:1 initiatives were packed to the brim.

Now, I'm not suggesting we all run out and turn classrooms into digital learning factories by the next school year. Instead, introduce new EdTech elements slowly and acutely to allow educators and students to adjust and learn at the same pace. In essence, educational technology may not solve every problem right away, but it certainly increases the chances of today’s students finding something they love. That's a goal we can all get behind.

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