Prensky’s thoughts for 21st-century teachers

Marc Prensky, who coined the term “digital natives” and a few years ago moved on to write about digital wisdom, called on educators to show the courage to do what “they know is right” and wisely embrace the technology that will increasingly help all of us, including students, solve the world’s complex problems. This was in his 10-min. portion of a collective keynote at this summer’s International Society for Technology in Education conference in San Diego. Prensky said that digital wisdom combines the things brains do better with the things machines do better. On the brain side of the equation, where classrooms are concerned, he pointed to empathy as the No. 1 skill teachers bring to the mix, then more four things he thinks they – and I think parents too – can do to help students find their passions (which, he suggested, creates motivation, learning, eventually jobs, and happiness):

* Listen. You can’t help anyone find their passion if you don’t listen to them, he said. Otherwise, they become what kids call “cellophane kids” – teachers looking through them at curriculum, standardized test scores, etc., their students becoming invisible.
* Respect. “Today we have mutual disrespect,” Prensky said. “In this century, we need a balance of old and new, top-down and bottom-up, technology and pedagogy. Half the world is under 25 and all the educational decisions come from the top-down. I think the next century is about changing that.” Hear, hear!
* Over-expect from our students. Their capabilities are far greater than they’ve ever been and what’s making them better is connecting their brains to technology wisely.
* Dare to do what you know is right. “Teachers know what their students need but somehow someone has convinced them that their job is just to cover the curriculum. The need is “to bring our kids into the future equipped with the skills that will allow them to function and thrive in the 21st century. That’s scary. We all feel the fear, but do it anyway. That’s the definition of ‘courage’.”

Prensky’s new book Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom was released this week. Kirkus Reviews called it “an intriguing, astute counterbalance to the scaremongering that dominates many other books on digital life.”


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