I am at the SITE conference in San Diego, and after 1.5 days of presentations I have heard one theme emerge above all others. This theme can be reduced to one question, "Why do students, who use technology in almost every aspect of their lives, seem so clueless when it comes to using it in their teaching and learning?" You may have seen versions of this conversation framed in other ways: digital natives vs. digital immigrants, 21st Century learning, Content-creators, Millennial Students, etc. The assumption on the part of teacher educators is that students who love technology in certain areas of their lives should love it in their learning and teaching. I would like to suggest a radical idea: teens and college students don't love technology. They love what they can do with technology, which is to address their priorities and motivations. Take technology out of the picture, and this is what I know about college students:

  • They like to have fun
  • They are more likely to listen to their friends than their parents or professors
  • They like to be entertained
  • They are confronted with a lot of information that has challenged their worldview, and they are trying to make sense of it all
  • They view their classes as something they have to do to a) stay in college and be with their friends and b) graduate and move on to the next phase of their lives

So, why do students know so much about certain technologies yet know so little about other types of technology (e.g., educational/learning technology)? The technologies they know and use help them address their priorities, and as sad as it may seem, being a life-long learner is not a priority for them at this stage in their lives.

I spend a lot of time talking to teacher candidates about knowing their students and meeting where they are in their skills, abilities and prior knowledge. As a teacher educator, I must do the same with my students. I need to understand their priorities and motivations, and meet them where they are.