I have learned a lot from my daughter. One of the most important things that I learned is that she doesn't think like me.
When she was in high school, I worried about how she would do academically. You see, my older son was a great ‘traditional’ student. A teacher would tell him to learn something and he would – a compliant learner.
Caitlin, on the other hand, would ask, “Why?” If she didn’t know the reason for learning something, she wouldn’t; she would dig in her heels. It drove me crazy.
I knew that by the time she got to high school this behavior would get her into trouble, especially when she started taking more challenging classes.
And then along came AP Chemistry – a class not to be taken lightly. The textbook was heavy, weighing almost three pounds. Each chapter needed to be read slowly multiple times to be understood.
But day after day, I would see her book go unopened. I worried, seeing a train wreck coming. When I asked her how she was preparing for her tests, she would blithely respond that she was just Googling the answers she needed.
Clearly she lacked conventional academic discipline, but it forced me to ask deeper questions. Why was it so difficult for her to study these chapters? Was she destined, as a child of the digital age, to suffer from some type of learning disability?
I began to watch her closely. Could she learn? If so, how did she learn? And was the way she was learning common for her generation of digital natives?
I noticed that while my mind had been trained to go step by step through a sequential collection of knowledge, such as that found in a textbook, her mind would dart from place to place in a seemingly scattered way.
But then I began to notice something quite remarkable. I would ask her a question, and after a typical deadpan look of a 16 year-old, she would go to her phone and start to click away on its screen. Then, after a few minutes, she would turn to me and give me an answer that was surprising for the depth of its understanding.
What just happened there? How could she go from knowing nothing to knowing so much, so quickly?
I began to watch her finger movements on her phone more carefully and then later, asked her to explain her learning path.
After an initial Google search, she would quickly jump through several related sites and then synthesize the information into an understanding, all in a matter of a few minutes.
I could barely keep up with her fingers on the screen.
So while I might have a more disciplined mind for a sequential linear learning path, her's was non-linear – a much faster spatial path of rapid triangulation. Something that might be called Trialectical Synthesis.
Turns out, my daughter is not that unusual. Many teachers complain that their students don’t learn the same way they did, and they are struggling to engage them in the classroom.
These kids are not dumb. But most are not interested in being taught in the same way previous generations were. However, given a Higher Purpose to learn, they are astonishingly fast learners.
They think differently from us. They have Digital Minds.
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