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It's Not What Natives Do, It's Why They Do It

During last night's opening keynote here at ISTE 2012 in San Diego, education creativity merchant Ken Robinson suggested that emphasizing the line between digital natives and digital immigrants may actually do more to discourage the modernization of education than encourage it.

But in a lecture this morning, David Warlick of The Landmark Project said understanding the difference between the two populations can be beneficial if educators come to comprehend not only the media preferred by digital natives, but why they prefer it.

For example, instead of simply trying to implement video games into a class because kids enjoy video games, teachers should instead try to discern the elements of video games students enjoy, be it the responsiveness, social connection, or agency, and weave those into pedagogy any number of ways.

"If we could identify some of those elements and integrate those ... if we could crack the code ... and then use that to hack the activities we're doing in our classrooms, then maybe we could create more learning activities that are relevant to today's children," Warlick said.

The former teacher and current education consultant also suggested concrete ways in which the 21st-century culture has shifted and to which education must adapt.

Citing the wild popularity of YouTube, which functions entirely off user-loaded videos, and Google, which has become a pop-culture synonym for looking up the answer to a question, Warlick said humanity is becoming playful and inquisitive, "even though it is not going to make us any money." And if that leads to an educational system that becomes more about trial-and-error, and less about finding the right answer, then that's a good thing.

"Can our learning experience be safe for mistakes?" he asked. "Can we design mistakes into our activities?"

Sooner or later, we'll find out.

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