How do students interact with each other in this digital age?
A lot of the students that I’ve taught interact with each other over messaging services such as Kik, Snapchat, or other means setup by parents or teachers, such as blog sites in computer classes.
What motivates them to learn?
Building motivation… we have extrinsic motivations in our classroom, something like where the parents are tellings kids to learn and do well. They have monetary ways of getting kids motivated to learn. Then you have intrisinc learners that manifest some form of that and want to learn for learning’s sake, and reward themselves thus. That’s how they motivate themselves to learn.
What are their concerns?
Generally it’s safety. As responsible teachers we teach them how to be safe. There’s so many good things about it that not too many are concerned with the eroding of real socialization and real relationships, but a big thing is safety and how the kids are [displaying] themselves to the rest of the world. It can be safety for their future jobs such as the ‘digital tattoo,’ something that can last with you forever.
Do they have any needs that you did not have when you were a student?
So from that framework there are specific needs in the digital age like grandly socializing, and a lot of them don’t understand how to socialize or the means to socialize and how to behave around other kids. Obviously there are always behavior concerns but [also] massive differences in genders or age groups based off of who lives in the digital world and who don’t. I’m finding that male maturity in elementary school has dropped away; a lot of female maturity seems to have held and it's simply been the females in my class have continued to socialize despite living in a digitized situation, where the boys rely on internet memes and videos and humor to connect with their peers.
Do they have any specific interests?
A lot of them have more directed interests toward fields that weren’t previously taught or guided toward so a lot of kids are interested in coding and program design and website building and graphic design and we weren't really taught or pushed toward [that]. I had the odd computer class and stuff but very basic; these kids understand where the job market is and are moving toward it much stronger and more ready than any previous generation.
What conditions are affecting them, such as socioeconomic conditions?The school district that I work in has some of the highest reported child poverty in Canada. What that means is that you have social isolation for these kids that are removed from their computers, but in a weird twist because of the lack of digitization they’re socializing with older students and building friendship groups and becoming more balanced individuals. I’m not prejudiced against higher or lower economic status but the high socioeconomic status has led to a reliance on computers and the tech assisting them through everything. Through socializing assignments I have students who can’t complete assignments [without] a computer or a tablet or something. As much as we want to embrace the bright age of the future, therese kids are debilitated if these things are removed, and it isn’t preparing them for the future.