Guest Post: Digital Natives, Digital Classrooms

Today, we’re delighted to publish a guest post from Eleesha Tucker, National Volunteer Coordinator for the Constitutional Sources Project. –Diana Kimball, DN intern

On October 15 I attended the Born Digital discussion at the Google offices in DC where I was interested to hear Professor Palfrey’s perspective, but found myself even more engaged when he would defer to Sarah and Diana as the resident Digital Natives.

I hope to contribute to the discussion as a Digital Native myself with experience as a teacher in a digital classroom. For the school year following college, I taught high school history to juniors and seniors at The Walden School of Liberal Arts, which is a public charter school with an expeditionary learning philosophy. Walden provides each student with access to a personal laptop while in the classroom and on an individual checkout basis for homework. I would call it a digital school. Most lessons in each subject used the laptops, once a week students met in mentor teacher groups to check their grades online from the school’s website and an overwhelming majority of students had Internet access at home, though it was not a particularly affluent area. One hundred percent of my lessons connected somehow to the Internet, either by my personal preparation or by how I designed assignments. Because of the student performance in their assignments by their research or through their presentations projected from their laptops, I realized there is a possibility that the increased digital engagement could be changing student learning styles.

At Walden, one science teacher often joked about hosting the Walden Olympics, where one event would include the student browsing on a laptop, listening to his lecture and then taking a test on the delivered material. This stemmed from his allowance of laptops during his instruction as long as they performed well in assessments. I wouldn’t let students browse their laptops when I was lecturing. It made me too jealous for their attention, but perhaps my colleague understood something I didn’t regarding a changing trend in learning style. At home, these students would listen to their iPods, write a paper, browse the Internet and text a friend almost simultaneously; then, we would expect them to be one track during their schooling hours.

Born Digital has debunked the myth that Digital Natives are dumber than preceding populations, but I’d be interested to know how the digital world is affecting learning styles. Instead of identifying students as visual, auditory or kinesthetic learners, perhaps we should identify students as a hybrid of them all: digital. If students thrive at home in an environment of high stimulus, perhaps the methodology of sitting at attention with eyes on the teacher is contrary to the evolving needs of the population that teachers are trying to reach. It should at least be a possibility brought to teachers’ attention so they can consider it when designing assignments and managing the classroom.

Eleesha currently is the National Volunteer Coordinator for the Constitutional Sources Project, which created and continues to add to the most comprehensive online library of constitutional sources, found for free at Within the next six months, Web 2.0 technology will be added to surround the certified library and she is in the process of designing this new technology to meet the needs of the Educational Community. After ConSource is well established for the education community, she plans to return to the classroom.