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What is different about the 21st Century Learners?

By: Mubarak Abdessalami

            It is true that the 21st learners are different in many ways, but they are not weird. They are simply digital natives; which means that when they were born, information technology was already there before them. So they are not aliens in the digital world of Technology, but we are. Little children can manipulate a remote control, work on the computer, use a mobile phone, and play video games so effectively and as easily as they breathe. In the same age, we, who were born years before google could barely speak.

            The question thus is how we, teachers, can cope with this flagrant difference? I guess we should decisively immigrate to their digital world and try to get acquainted with every single idiosyncrasy they make use of in their learning and discovery of the world round them like:

            Most importantly, we, digital immigrants, must adapt to the new era. We should mind our slow pace and try to broaden our sources of information. We also should try to go beyond our single tasking habits to comprehend how they could do many things at the same time without any apparent difficulty. We need to be more flexible and less complaining. This is not only a teacher-student concern; it is also a parent-child issue. Therefore, we should be aware of the difference and try to accept and handle it in a smooth and wise manner in order to avoid any possible conflicts or crashes.

            The generation gap is getting so wide that it becomes almost improbable to bridge. We need to be tolerant to the way the 21st century learners approach their education and try to understand it so that we could assist them in using their new learning gifts, strategies and particularities positively.

            Another thing worth mentioning here however is that we should stop comparing them to the previous generations. The style is different though the objectives are always the same. Likewise, these digital natives yearn for learning new things and accumulating some experience. Their epoch provides them with devices and unprecedented cognitive abilities that outdo what we are familiar with. Their high levels of quick assimilation and acquisition of complex connections and relationships make them different but not weird.