Is It Just Us, Or Are Kids Getting Really Stupid?

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A friend posted the following article to Twitter earlier today http://www.phillymag.com/articles/feature_is_it_just_us_or_are_kids_getting_really_stupid/page1. I was feeling burned out on what I was working on and needed a break, so I decided to give it a read. I don't think that there's anything necessarily ground breaking in the article, but the author did a great job of pulling a lot of ideas together that learning designers have come to understand at least in anecdotal ways for many years. In general, the article points out that today's kids are just different than kids of days gone by. Say what you will about the brain's physical structure and the synapses not changing (as some do), but something is different. Some broad ideas that I gleaned from the article about " today's kids" are:

  • They are wired differently.
  • They expect more faster.
  • They get bored easily.
  • They get distracted easily.
  • Not every kid fits the same mold.   
As I read the article an example from my work came to mind. I believe I wrote about on my blog before. I piloted a new learning module on Basic Nutrition earlier this year. The feedback I received from some random students (18-24 years old) was that there were too many words to read, they wanted bullet points and they wanted more video and other animated visuals. Based on the ideas presented in this article, it makes sense why this is the feedback that I got. The information provided in the article and feedback like this will help inform my decisions on developing new learning modules in the future.

The following are a few things I changed based on that feedback. Some I am currently doing, others I am looking into how to do them.

  • Keep the modules a succinct as possible (add links to additional info for the curious)
  • Use short video segments for certain ideas
  • Use more visuals to convey ideas instead of words (most likely will require audio)  
  • Segment the modules into much smaller chunks
  • Add module bookmarking
  • Reinforce ideas with activities more frequently versus Q&A at the end
  • Provide a text only option for the outliers 
As 2010 ends, I must say that I learned a lot about learning design this year from my peers at Penn State and abroad through many different channels. Thank you everyone. I also learned from working with some great students on various project this year. From that experience, I'd have to say that our kids are not "getting really stupid." They just interact with the world and learn in much different ways than anyone before them and probably anyone after them too.

See you in the New Year!
April



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