Tag Archives: Instructional Design

Examining Generational Differences

The following post is based on a writing prompt for BSU’s EDTECH597: As educational technologists, what did you take away from these generational differences readings?  How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?

Jumping into the readings in week two of EDTECH 597 brought me to a comfortable and familiar place with the statement, “It is amazing to me how in all the hoopla and debate these days about the decline of education in the US we ignore the most fundamental of its causes. Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach” (Prensky, 2001).   After reading this statement and the rest of the article by Prensky I thought to myself, oh that was a nice review of information I already knew. Ready, set, go!  Time to continue designing lessons and professional development  based on the premise of students being Digital Natives and teachers being Digital Immigrants.

SCREEeeeeeccchh..sound of tires skidding to a stop.  Much to my surprise research does not support the notion of generational differences in learners.  I have heard so much of the inherent differences in learners through professional development seminars, at conferences, and in the media that I assumed it was true.  Reeves states (2008), “Generational differences are evident in the workplace, they are not salient enough to warrant the specification of different instructional designs or the use of different learning technologies.

So what are educators to do?  Reeves recommends (2008), “instructional designers and educational technology researchers working closely with practitioners and subject matter experts should begin by identifying the needs of any given set of learners, design the best possible prototype learning environments in situ, and then conduct iterative cycles of formative evaluation and refinement to optimize the solution and reveal robust design principles.

What this means for teachers that believe in the notion of generational differences is that they need to re-examine their students.  Best-case scenario would be working with an instructional designer to create a needs assessment to understand their learning community.  Keeping in mind that a multitude of variables go into how our students learn and that technology is a tool.  Technology is not and will never be a magic bullet that raises student achievement by itself.  Teachers are responsible for creating the best learning experiences for the students regardless of the use of technology.

I would also suggest that educators do more research after participating in professional development opportunities verifying the information presented.  Is there credible data that supports what was taught and might possibly be implemented in your school?  If not, question decision makers on what they based their decision on.  The culture of K-12 education needs to change and become more focused on sound research rather than cultural trends.

Stepping down from soap box…

Ultimately the reading makes me worry about an educational system that seems to be dominated by loose research and private corporations looking to sell their latest and greatest gadgets to schools.  The articles  caused me to come away with more questions than answers.

  • How did we get to this point?
  • How do myths such as these gain so much traction in a field that should be guided by reliable data?
  • How do we undo what has already been done with educators and society believing in generational differences?
  • How do we learn from this, and change the current and future climate of K-12 education?

If anyone reading the post has thoughts or answers to these questions I would love to hear from you!

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital natives, digital immigrants – Part II: Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(6). Retrieved from,%20Digital%20Immigrants%20-%20Part1.pdf

Reeves, T.C. (2008). Do generational differences matter in instructional design? Online discussion presentation to Instructional Technology Forum from January 22-25, 2008 at


Posted by on July 12, 2011 in EdTech


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