No, Today’s Students Don’t Learn Differently

If you're working in instructional support (#edtech, instructional tech, learning support...whatever you want to call it) you've probably heard, "Today's students just learn differently."

No they don't.

Writers will write. Storytellers will tell stories. Musicians will make music. Athletes will compete.

People have drives to be creative, curious, playful, impactful, relevant...

What's different is the fact that school rams them through a system which actively works to standardize as much of the process as possible. We've built a system which prevents students from using the outlets available to show off their learning. By default, the system eliminates creative, playful, impactful work.

Today's students don't learn differently.


Standardized Test flickr photo by biologycorner shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

What I'm finding is that teachers, when shown methods and tools that give students opportunities to be creative, are surprised at how learning changes. As they struggle to characterize what's happening, the easiest explanation is that today's students are just "different."

We fail to recognize that it doesn't take a computer to allow students to engage. My job is to help teachers figure out how to get out of the way. The challenge is to make sure that teachers see instructional benefit in shifting practice with - or without - the technology in the classroom.


Featured image is Creative Playground flickr photo by Radoslav Minchev shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

3 thoughts on “No, Today’s Students Don’t Learn Differently

  1. I agree that the process of effective learning remains a similarly basic mix or relevance, intrigue, and experience that generations have experienced but do you think students believe how they learn is different from previous generations based on the messages they receive from well meaning educators, youth culture promoters, and the apple store?

    • Brian Bennett says:

      That’s a really good question. I’m not sure about general trends, but I think anecdotally, yes. They’ve also been taught that they have one, “best learning style,” which is usually a defense mechanism. It forces me to constantly be thinking through how I build assignments and activities which allow for multiple modes of expression while still pushing students to work just outside their comfort zones.

  2. That is something surprising that I found as I’ve attempted to broaden out my assessment and to broaden out the various Styles in my classroom in order to give students freedom. I find some students, particularly the highest achieving students, have the most trouble and react the most vigorously to the change because it’s not exactly what they are used to and what they have been successful with. Their concern for their classmates does not factor in to there desire for their style to be the style represented exclusively. The subject of your original blog is also one of the key challenges we are facing right now as we are trying to move teachers to a place where multiple styles are represented even if it’s not the preferred style of the educator.

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