Five Education Strategies to Reach the "Touchscreen" Generation

By: Tim Elmore


Just when you thought you understood the "Touch Screen Generation" today, they get even younger on you.

In a recent publication of the Journal, Pediatrics, researchers found "almost universal exposure" to tablets and the use of smart phones (mobile devices) among young children as young as one year old. That's right: one year old. A 2015 survey showed "nearly 97 percent of parents said their children used mobile devices of some sort." It's a new day:

  • At age 4, three-fourths of kids had complete access to a mobile device.
  • About half of kids multi-tasked on more than one screen at a time.
  • 20% of one-year-olds own a tablet computer.
  • 28% of parents use the device to put their kids to bed.
It's a Cross Cultural Relationship

More and more, educators are comparing their relationship with students to a cross-cultural relationship. It's like talking to someone from another country. While we have come to appreciate technology, our students have grown up with it, and put it in the same category as "air and water" according to the Pew Research Center. In the Land of Tomorrow, we are the immigrants and they're the natives.

So, how do we reach them?

I believe we must borrow a page from the playbook of cross-cultural ambassadors. In order to effectively communicate with people in different cultures, they employ their customs and language. Let me offer some simple ideas you can use to engage these digital natives in your school.

1. Engage them with a problem.

Kids currently digest more than 1,000 messages a day. We have the best chance of getting through to them if we start with a real-life problem that needs to be solved. Like a video game, students love focusing on reacting to a dilemma and being the hero.

2. Employ a mobile device.

This is their native language. Find an app (like Poll Everywhere or Plickers) or use a screen where you can employ a YouTube video to enhance your lesson plan. Make their device a tool to employ—not a trap to avoid. They're screenagers.

3. Enable ownership with interaction.

I learned long ago that students support what they help create. If I do most of the talking, I do most of the metacognition. Once I spark conversations with well-crafted questions, I can grab their hearts like a video game. It's messier, but more effective.

4. Enhance learning through an image.

Today's students leverage images more than words. They now use Instagram over Facebook. Emoji's fill their texts. Snapchat is their ever-updating story. Why not anchor your big idea with an image (metaphor) that can become language for your class? Images are the language of the 21st century.

5. Empower them with an experience.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an experience is worth a hundred images. Why not allow the image and conversation to lead to a first-hand experience, to drive home their learning. Be sure to evaluate it during or outside of class.

Gutenberg has given way to Google. Are you ready?


Tim Elmore is the president and founder of Growing Leaders. @GrowingLeaders @TimElmore

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