Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation 2Understanding Today’s Learners and Meeting Their Needs Through Differentiation
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,