Five common misconceptions about today’s students

By Meris Stansbury, Associate Editor
December 11th, 2012

“Students are constantly communicating, just not the same way we’re used to,” said one reader.

It seems that every generation has a few gripes about the younger ones. But are there misconceptions specific to today’s students?

In a recent eSchool News “Question of the Week,” we asked our readers what they thought were the “common misconceptions about today’s students,” similar to our “Common misconceptions about teachers” feature. (Read “Ten common myths about teaching.”)

And though many readers agreed that students today are more intuitive when it comes to using technology, readers also noted that using technology more frequently doesn’t always mean you use it well.

Another popular misconception: that students today don’t care about others or about learning.

What do you think of this list? Be sure to add your comments below!

(Responses are edited for brevity.)

1. They’re all tech-savvy.

“Just because they have the technology does not necessarily mean they know how to use it well. Students [think they] can ‘just Google it’ and survive in a rigorous academic setting.” —Peg Becksvoort, library media specialist and National Board Certified Teacher, Falmouth Middle School, Falmouth, Maine

“That they know how to use all technology and are geniuses at working anything electronic. Half of the one-to-one projects that get implemented fail because [school leaders] just plop technology in front of student and teachers and say, ‘Here. Learn.’ Not only do teachers not know how to guide the students, the students might know how to check Gmail but not how to use programs for learning.” –Alex P., Missouri

2. They’re disengaged.

“The primary and most common misconception that should be addressed … is that ‘they don’t care,’ especially at the secondary level. Nearly every child in education, whether in kindergarten or a sophomore in high school, ‘cared’ at least some point in their academic career. They might have had a discerning experience (personally, environmentally, academically) where they lost the faith, but they were committed and did care. I have witnessed the hardness of the high school student who exhibits the ‘I don’t care’ attitude, as well as the desperate attempts of the challenged third grader who is begging for acceptance as his desire to learn slowly dies. It is tragic and must be addressed at all levels before students can truly become successful and embrace learning.” —Jeni Janek, West Texas

“That students don’t know about, or care about, the world around them. Really?! So many times I hear people complain because students don’t read the New York Times or something. All you’d have to do is talk to a student about current events and they’d know more about it than you—simply because they’re connected to the internet in a very social way. They’re the ones tweeting and bringing to light injustices, creating aid organizations, getting funding for groups, spending their spring breaks doing charity work in other countries. They’re one of the most globally-active generations we’ve seen.” –Alice Penson

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3 Responses to “Five common misconceptions about today’s students”

The first misconception is very important to us at Lightspeed Systems–especially when it comes to digital citizenship. A lot comes into play when students use technology in the classroom and digital citizenship should be a critical component when introducing online learning in any way. Here is a good My Big Campus bundle many educators use:

Thanks for debunking these 5 misconceptions succinctly! I agree with crissy, the first misconception has the most important implications for schools. Educators cannot assume that children will fully understand any new technology, and they certainly should not assume that the children will know how it use it correctly. Teachers who basic and progressively complex technologies must be the focus of continued professional development efforts- both on the part of the school and the educational technology supplier. Kids can certainly be assumed to gravitate towards technology (and thus they learn to use it faster), but teachers must hold the reigns and lead the way!

February 20, 2013

I enjoyed reading about these misconceptions and I agree totally with them. In support of the other comments, I feel that often it’s our teachers who don’t know how to use the technology properly and therefore cannot guide students in its educational use.
I have worked with teenagers for 40 years as a guidance counsellor & teacher. During all of this time, I have met all kinds of students. One thing I know for sure is that they all “care” about their education and about others but often learn to close down due to non-supportive adults who put them down when they need help rather than just helping them.

I have always believed and seen in action that anyone can learn if shown how, whether they are rich or poor.

When I was working in Native communities with Aboriginal student in Northern Canada, I often took my students outdoors and we did some traditional lessons in a non-traditional environment. They loved it.

So it’s time for educators, ohter adults and parents to accept these facts and just be supportive in an engaging way.