Instructor’s Prompt

Examining Generational Differences

What did you take away from these generational differences readings?

As an AP Statistics teacher, albeit one with one year of experience, my first concern is regarding the references for all three articles. The article by Marc Prensky, Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, (Prensky 2001) is completing lacking in references. In 2001 or 1961, shouldn’t you cite your source of information? Likewise, this was a great concern of Jamie McKenzie as he stated in his article Digital Nativism. (McKenzie, 2007) However, McKenzie only cited 4 sources, one of which is Prensky’s. Does anyone else have an issue with this? Since both articles discuss what the gentlemen are feeling at the time they wrote their articles, I am feeling quite uneasy about either article. Both touch upon things I “feel” that I agree with but there are times in which I “feel” I disagree. The third article by Thomas Reeves, Do Generational Differences Matter in Instructional Design?, cites 99 sources (Reeves, 2008). Did I count that correctly, not 100, but 99 sources? Reeves has also listed Prensky as a source on 4 separate occasions, but did not cite McKenzie. There are several sources in Reeves’ listing that I have cited myself in the past which validates these sources for me. Additionally, several sources discussing the same or similar topics provides me with more confidence in the article. Nonetheless, I “feel” as though I need to now focus on the content of the articles and less on the number of references; always the math teacher!!

While reading the article by Thomas Reeves, my statistical sensors were now on high alert and pleasantly satisfied with the multitude of statistical references and plainly stated facts to describe the data discussed. However, there were too many generalizations made about the different generations. For example on page 7, (Reeves, 2008) there is a chart summarizing each generations view points on twelve topics. So which generation do I belong in if I have one viewpoint from a baby boomer perspective, followed by a generation X perspective and conclude with a millenial’s perspective? McKenzie stated that “Real fifteen year old humans are quite different from each other” (McKenzie, 2007). I would like to add that this applies to any age group, as not all forty-five year old humans are the same either. Different people are simply that, different!

This applies directly to the classroom. Prensky was right, video games will help some people learn the material better, but not everyone. Humans have not changed so much that we have all become identical. Students, adults, baby boomers and millenials will all continue to have different preferences from their job choices to their hobby choices, as well as personalty traits and learning styles. To compensate for this, teachers do need to change too, but not to all video games. Teachers need to change, or continue to offer a variety of learning environments to help draw in all types of personalities, learning abilities, attention spans and learning styles. Students will never be identical.

How would you handle a colleague who bought into the notion of digital natives?

In one respect, the idea of a digital native is accurate as many students today have a faster adaption rate to technology. Younger students entering the classroom already understand the use of many technological tools due to exposure. My daughter has never know life without the World Wide Web or a cellular telephone. Given exposure to new technology, she just grabs onto it, tinkers with all the options until she gets it. She disappears with her cell phone whenever she downloads a new app. Whereas my students from 15 years ago, would be much slower at preparing a PowerPoint presentation than a student today. 15 years ago, I felt I needed to give the option of completing a project on PowerPoint or poster paper. However, this does not mean that someone older cannot develop technology skills. I think that as new technology is introduced to adults, an adult has many other responsibilities consuming his/her time, therefore, he/she may be slower to develop a technology skill due to lack of practice time. It is very similar when learning a new sport or educational topic, it all just takes time. The more time you put into learning something, the better you will become at “it”. Time will tell if this is true about digital natives versus immigrants, as generation M has their own children who will also have the opportunity and exposure to computer technologies since the day they were born. Honestly, more data is needed to truly identify any generalizations about digital natives. What will the next generation be like with technology in comparison to the millenials?

As teachers we need to continue to offer a variety of learning environments to help draw in all types of personalities, learning abilities, attention spans and learning styles. Students will never be identical. However, we should integrate technology into the classroom when it offers a distinct advantage in the learning environment. As stated on Russell Street School in New Zealand, “The school uses technologies to focus on skills and competency development, enhance students enjoyment, participation and creativity. We still use books, paper, paint, construction materials etc regularly, where technologies provide no additional benefits they will not be used”. (Russell Street School, 2014) I couldn’t have said it better myself…there should be a balance of computer technological tools.


McKenzie, J. (2007). Digital nativism: Digital delusions and digital deprivation. From Now On, 17(2). Retrieved from

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

Author Unknown, Russell Street School Website (2014). eLearning. Retrieved July 15, 2014 from




Filed under AECT Standard 2.4

4 responses to “Instructor’s Prompt

  1. I love the way you approached these articles and the way you organized your post! I too was incredibly frustrated by the lack of references in the first two articles and, what I deemed to be, unprofessional tone both articles took. In particular, McKenzie’s article turned me off because it just felt like a rant against Prensky, so from a professional opinion standpoint, I mentally dismissed it if I’m honest.

    Anyway, I completely agree with you about generational differences and those differences existing within and between age groups. I understand that we, as humans and academics, like to study groups and label them, putting things and people in boxes to better understand them. However, as educators, I think we understand how unrealistic that is when we have a classroom of students, all the same age, from the same area, sometimes the same race, and sometimes a relatively similar economic level, and they are still all SO different. So again, just like you said, differences exist regardless of generation. I think it’s wonderful how everyone I’ve read says the same thing – we all know that our students need differentiation based on their needs and interests, not based on their generation and stereotypes from generalizations.

    • Hi Rachel:

      Thank you for your feedback. I had such a problem getting started on this because these thoughts were in my mind and would not allow me to think about writing anything else. So after a while, I gave up answering the prompt and went with my initial reactions.


      • Well it was a great strategy! I loved it, and I think your personal response really drew me into your writing. Personally, as a literature person (English teacher), I’m definitely drawn to stories, so I loved your approach for sure. It worked!

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