by Cheryl Jackson Tuesday July 5, 2011

Do you ever wonder how your kids' brains are different from yours? I don't mean just in age, but in how they process information, make decisions, learn? I do, because my kids live in such a different world than the one I grew up in.

When I was young, I learned things from other people - a teacher, parent, or other kids - in person or on the phone. I watched TV. Or I read a book. If I had a pressing question, I looked it up in the set of encyclopedias we had at home, or waited until I could get to the library. If my friend didn't answer the phone, I waited and called back. No voice mail. No texting.

Today, we share information in similar ways - in person, in books. But it all happens so quickly. We never have to wait. If we have a question, we don't even have to wait until we get to our computer...we can use our phone and get it anytime. And we expect to be able to do that, at least I do. I get very frustrated when I can't get answers right away. 

We also do many things at once now. I'm writing this blog, but I just answered a text message from my husband, I'm checking my email every few minutes, and will soon find links to videos and articles that I'll insert into this piece of writing. I expect to be able to do all of this at once, and those trying to reach me expect me to do it all at once too. (Excuse me while I answer another text.) 

So what does this mean for brains that have gone digital, especially young brains who have been learning this way from the day they were born?  Our producer, Sarah Michaelis, was lucky enough to attend the Learning and the Brain conference in San Fransisco earlier this year and she asked the experts three questions: How does technology change the way kids think and learn? How should schools be using technology? How will technology change the next generation of learners?

I worry about what one expert called "continuous partial attention". On the other hand, I like the idea that some kids who've done poorly in traditional classrooms may thrive in the digital learning environment.  Lots to think about. What do you think?