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Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation

Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation

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Published by ecmm
In this paper, I argue for a “new” type of classroom that is differentiated so that it taps into the needs of this “new” type of learner; traditional methods used in schools’ today often fail to engage many learners and can easily miss some learners completely.
In this paper, I argue for a “new” type of classroom that is differentiated so that it taps into the needs of this “new” type of learner; traditional methods used in schools’ today often fail to engage many learners and can easily miss some learners completely.

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Published by: ecmm on Feb 03, 2009
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05/10/2014

 
Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation 1Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through DifferentiationR. NystuenEdcmm 802.6Dr. R. Schwier February 28, 2009
 
Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation 2Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation
 Introduction
Last spring, I attended the TLt “Learning in a Digital World" conference inSaskatoon, and one of the keynote speakers, George Siemens, talked about a new breedof learner called the "twitch learner". This, accompanied with the recent talk in the newsabout "generation o"— also called “generation y”, “the Net generation” or the “Web 2.0Generation”—started me to think about how best to engage and motivate and ultimatelyreach these learners in the classroom. In this paper, I will argue for a “new” type of classroom that is differentiated so that it taps into the needs of this “new” type of learner;traditional methods used in schools’ today often fail to engage many learners and caneasily miss some learners completely.
Characteristics of the “New” Type of Learner 
Learners today differ from the past. Engaged, motivated, self-directed, anddiverse learning styles characterize contemporary learners. Today’s learners are wealthyin terms of access to media and communication, and they demand engagement ineverything they do (Prensky, 2005). Prensky claims that the students of today all “havesomething in their lives that’s really engaging—something that they do and that they aregood at, something that has an engaging, creative component to it” (Prensky, 2005, p.62). Further to this, Junco and Mastrodicasa (2007) state that this “net generation”shares seven main personality characteristics that include the following. First, thisgeneration believes they are special, because their baby boomer parents took an activerole in their childhood development. They have always been sheltered from any type of harmful situations. This generation is confident in that they expect to hear good news,
 
Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation 3are skillful negotiators and expect beneficial results. Another personality trait of this typeof learner is that, unlike their rebellious parents, these learners are very conventional.These learners are more connected to each other and are very team-oriented, and believein achieving. Finally, because they are so achievement oriented, these learners also feel pressured (Junco & Mastrodicasa, 2007). As such, the new type of learner has severalunique characteristics that differentiate him or her from the traditional classroom learner.In the traditional classroom, the teacher decides the scope and direction of learning, aswell as evaluation which usually occurs at the end of a unit of study and which is thesame for all students. In terms of motivation, today’s learners do not respond well to thistype of instruction and evaluation. Today’s learners respond better to evaluation that ison going and meaningful. Prensky (2008) says that better results occur when students areallowed to “take the lead on technology products”, students share the evaluation with theteacher, so that “the teacher takes on the valuable role of explainer, context provider,meaning maker, and evaluator/coach” (p.45). Thus, rather than waiting until the end of aunit of study to evaluate, the evaluation happens en-route, and the students share theevaluative role. Furthermore, schools, according to Prensky (2008), are most often aboutthe past and what has happened up until now, but this is no longer relevant for learnerswho are most concerned about the future. Today’s learners want to be able to connecttheir learning to the here and now. They want to know how the learning they are engagedin will help them later on in their lives. As Prensky so aptly says, “covering the materialand preparing kids for the test is not preparing them for the future” (p. 45). Another characteristic of this learner is that role models are no longer parents or teachers, but peers. Students of today are far ahead of their parents in the technology level, and more

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