PAYIN' ATTENTION: Matt Richtel of the NYTimes offers his two cents on a couple studies released this week--a survey from the Pew Internet Project on "How Teens Do Research in the Digital World," and one from Common Sense Media on what teachers think on how entertainment media affects students' academic and social development.
The Pew study looked at nearly 2,500 middle and high-school teachers, many whom teach AP courses or are involved with the National Writing Project. The majority (77%) see "mostly positive" impact from online research, but this view is countered by increasing concerns over "an easily distracted generation with short attention spans" and diminished critical thinking skills. ("...for today's students, 'research' means 'Googling.'")
The Common Sense survey of 685 K-12 teachers in the U.S. appeared to complement these findings, with 71% of teachers responding that entertainment media can be a detriment to academic performance--particularly writing skills. And over 60% identified ideas about sexualization and relationships as the top concerns regarding negative effects on social development.
Throughout his piece, Richtel asks: does children's expectations from the media necessitate a change in teaching styles? The answer to that question seems to be a "yes." Fleet-footed teachers found themselves "tap dancing" and "doing a song and dance" in order to capture attention. But as Richtel noted, the findings suggest that students are just as academically capable as ever (with the exception of writing, perhaps), in spite of the distractions.
Student potential hasn't changed. The media and entertainment industry isn't likely to change either. It's up to teachers to adapt and adjust to the noisy cultural context that kids are growing up in to unlock their learning potential. Sounds daunting? Well, that's why teachers are special.