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Five common misconceptions about today’s students

“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

3. They’re not good communicators.

“That they can’t communicate well. You have to be taught how to write an essay. It’s not intrinsic. Students communicate very well—over text, over eMail, over social networks, much better than we adults can! They’re constantly communicating, just not the same way we’re used to. If you want a long-form essay, teach them without pointing your nose at them. They’re fast learners.” –K. Prichard, Florida

4. Students from poor families can’t succeed.

“Many believe that all students coming from low-income families do not succeed in school. This is terrible misconception. Many parents from low-income families are very supportive of their children, and the children do well academically in school. All students must be given the same opportunity to learn.” —D. Cannon

5. They’re never outdoors.

That they hate going outdoors and just want to type on their devices all day. Not true! I try to take my high school students out for a little bit (and I’m an English teacher), just to sit outdoors while we learn. Students don’t bring their devices, and they don’t mind—it’s just for about 30 minutes or so. In my student evaluations, almost every student says they love the outdoor time-they feel rejuvenated and relaxed. Like they’re out in the world and not in a prison.” –J. Krueger, Tennessee

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