21st Century “Generation Wired” Students

21st Century 'Generation Wired' StudentsImage via Parade.

The text: Three online articles about computer science education
The media: blog, magazine article, news article
The thought: Computer science education faces challenges, viz. short student attention span, teaching online safety, and the importance of early CS curriculum necessary for future engineers
The lesson: Strangely enough, I am in a position to research and implement these things to a degree.

Allow me to get very meta for a moment while I praise this article at the Computer Science Teachers Association (CSTA) blog: Inspiration. I feel meta in responding to it because the post itself is a response to Generation Wired in Parade. As encouragement for you to read both articles, I offer the comment I made on Myra Deister’s CSTA post.

Thank you for this post! You’ve addressed exactly the issues that concern me about today’s learners – particularly attention span! And the resulting lower levels of concept retention and perseverance that you mentioned. When you think about it, if we want our students to have the focus required for *any* college-level work – not just programming – we should demand that they train themselves to focus. It’s true that this is difficult to do when the rest of the world allows their minds to wander.

I’ve recently started a new job as, essentially, a CS teacher and network admin support, in a K-8 California school, and I feel a bit overwhelmed. Although I am interested in both of those fields, I don’t have formal training in them. I’m part of a hybrid learning pilot, so the standards for my position aren’t quite set. I definitely want to instruct students in online safety and security, but it may initially take a backseat to fundamentals like the parts of a computer and proper typing!

I have thought about using social media as a learning tool; if only it were easily regulated or designed for educational audiences. Sharing is certainly a huge asset for learning, but I hesitate on Facebook, and the Twitter character limit bothers me. There must be social tools out there tailored for classroom use.

My above comment is a bit scatterbrained, because I wanted to respond immediately. (I think critical thought can come second, as long as we are responding to stimuli and getting our brains warmed up first!)

I’ve supplemented these two articles with another, which was also cited elsewhere in the CSTA blog. It concerns a British pilot for introducing more advanced programming concepts to students already solid in their computer literacy: Schoolkids learn coding at GCSE level in curriculum trial. Here is what I’m taking away from my readings:

  • Today’s students are immersed in technology, and are beyond sufficiently literate in normal usage. Yet their habits are evolving to the instant gratification of this technology.
  • Students may be adapting to new tech trends by learning differently. Educators need to be aware of this change.
  • The engineering and science of technology will be one of the most important fields in the years to come, but students may lack the traditional study skills to pursue this kind of knowledge.
  • Action plan for me: research students’ attention (informally and formally!), gradually introduce computer science topics to my computer literate students. The latter requires research of computer science education… and probably computer science itself. Oh boy.

If nothing else, I will be training myself to focus on my learning the way I want my students to focus!

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