Review #1: NEA HIGHER EDUCATION ADVOCATE article by Ron Berk.

My review covers an article in the NEA Higher Education Advocate. (Vol 25, No.4, April 2008) by Ron Berk, Ph.D. The article covers the gap between the”Net Geners” (younger people raised with computers and skills) and those not. Ron Berk questions whether the digital age has left most professors trying to scramble to stay in touch with their technologically advanced students. Students that are so sophisticated that they have been branded as “Digital Natives” that he describes as having wires attached to them, while it is the faculty that do not have these wires. They are known as “Digital Immigrants” with one foot in the past, and “digital” being their second language. For example, someone who goes to the library for books on information, or prints out emails.
Berk is trying to inform educators stuck in this gap how to reach these Net Geners with techniques. He says that they learn differently from previous generations and that they function at “twitch” speed (from video game experience), master complex tasks and make decisions rapidly. Yet in classes, they are bored. this is because the world they live in is a world of media over-stimulation. Berk says that these students don’t think much of traditional teaching methods with books, lectures and talking heads, but would rather have interactivity, teamwork, visualization, collaboration, fast moving and spontaneous , emotionally freeing experiences. Anything less is boring to them. Berk says that this world is not better than the instructor’s, it is just different. And when students encounter that difference, there is a culture shock of under-stimulation. Berk also says that there is no competing with their world. The trick is to leverage “their worldly elements in the classroom”.
Ron Berk’s Criteria for Picking Teacher Strategies for Net Geners:

Berk says that the four criteria that must be addressed include:
1) Their World: Teachers should draw from the students’ multimedia world and get into their heads and think like them and find out what makes them tick, how they see you, what their interests are, their passions gifts and abilities. Once you know what is in their world, you can connect with them and extend their knowledge base. Also, use media sources that they recognize because it connects their world to the material you want covered. Berk suggests small surveys that yield top 10 lists of accurate inventory of potential instructional material from the students’ world.

2) Their Characteristics: Become sensitive to them and understand how this relates to important socio-demographic characteristics including age, gender, ethnicity, language dominance, and occupation. It is important to really know your students because it helps in choosing the appropriate humor, music, videos, games, and other teaching resources.

3) Their Multiple Intelligences and Learning Styles: Tap into them, each one of students’ 8.5 different forms of intelligences . Tradition has instructors teaching either verbally or quantitatively. This is easy for instructors, but not so much for students. Because everyone has strengths and weaknesses, students either excel or suffer with only those two ways. By also drawing on visual/spatial, bodily/kinesthetic, musical/rhythmic, interpersonal and intra-personal (this is equivalent to emotional intelligences) naturalistic, and environmental intelligences, teachers can builds on students strengths first and then develops their weaknesses. Their strengths are their learning styles.

4)The Teacher’s Standards for Quality: Non-Offensive Teaching Strategies and Resources.
A portion of the humor that students are exposed to in their multimedia world contain offensive language, content or violence. Teachers need to set criteria for what is appropriate in a teaching-learning context. Any form of obscenity, sexism, racism, homophobia, and put downs of racial, ethnic, profession, political, or celebrity should be areas of concern. Humor should be used to facilitate learning, not impede it. What is offensive is based on each students beliefs, values and principles. Teachers should make sure to reject material that is potentially offensive.

Humor and Multimedia Teaching Strategies for Net Geners.
Berk has five major categories of teaching techniques that promote state-of-the-art teaching strategies for Net Geners:
1) Humor: This helps the teacher and student connect and brings life to dead or boring content.
2) Music: lyrics and/or instruments create excitement when introducing topics, demonstrations, and parodies.
3) Videos: Clips from TV, movies, and YouTube can illustrate concepts, theories and applications.
4) Games: help engage students in learning concepts and/or reviewing content for exams.
5) Improvisation: can be used as a collaborative learning exercise to develop risk-taking, add libbing, role playing, team building, and critical thinking skills.

Berk’s techniques and methods for teachers to connect to Net Geners go beyond this article and he lists the many other articles, books, and CD’s in his references and resources. His article clearly demonstrates that meeting students halfway with multimedia resources can generate motivation, interest, and attention in the classroom. Tapping into their multiple intelligences also helps the students connect to the teachers and to the materials. The article is timely and informative and useful for bridging the gap between what he calls “digital natives” and “digital immigrants”.


Ron Berk’s article appealed to me especially because as a “digital immigrant” it covers particular fears and anxieties of mine.
Although the gist of the article tell those of us who are digital immigrants to lighten up, I am still not completely convinced.
I certainly do not need convincing that technology has the ability to maximize efficiency in the classroom, and in many forms of education, but in some ways, and in some contexts, it is difficult to let go of a way that you are confident and good at, and embrace a new way that you can hardly function in. also, in some ways, its just plain frightening. Berk says that these students don’t think much of traditional teaching methods with books, lectures and talking heads, but would rather have interactivity, teamwork, visual, collaborative, fast moving and spontaneous , emotionally freeing experiences. Perhaps, but some things, for example a literature class, poetry or an art appreciation class taught in any other way than traditionally would not be a good thing. These things contain subtle meanings, sub-texts, and are probably not meant to be taught rapidly, or in a “black and white”, or technical way. Also, I do not believe that all of the 8.5 intelligences are best suited to involve technology. Certainly not “naturalistic”. While the new ways may be “state of the art” we need to remember that all of learning usually (should?)involves large amounts of discipline, stress, hard work, and exercising of the brain. Certainly learning with multimedia resources involve this, (I can attest to this) but thankfully some “old fashioned” ways are still valid and time tested. Language learning for instance, while maximized for efficiency, and much more effective with new software programs, is still almost all just about simple plain old memorizing..


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: