Boredom with the teacher-centered learning process. The kids I’ve interviewed all say that they wish their classes were more entertaining, interesting and fun. They are living in the most stimulating period in the history of the earth — besieged with information that they multi-process through a wide variety of technologies. But most schools require them to put that all away and ask them to focus on one, often-not-that-engaging speaker. Then they penalize them for getting distracted. An average of 12% of all children in the U.S. between 3 and 17 each year are taken to ambulatory care visits (to physician offices, hospital outpatient and emergency departments) with attention deficit disorder as primary diagnosis.
Shifting sources of authority. Kids have figured out that the adults in their world — whether teachers or parents — are not necessarily the most reliable source of knowledge. Adults can be wrong — or at least warrant double checking. Parents have told me that even very young children will ask a question, listen to the answer, then suggest that they Google it “just to be sure.” Technology leads to a new role for teachers (and parents): that of a learning facilitator and coach, rather than of an authoritative source of information.
Growing interest in pragmatic, job-oriented skills. Re-Gens are grounded and focused. The economy is one of their greatest concerns. Most that I’ve interviewed express an interest in learning more that has to do with “real life” — business, entrepreneurship, how to get a job, computer science, mechanics, robotics, electronics. Many are skeptical of the promise that a good job awaits if you just work hard and do well. They want to make sure they’re learning the right stuff now.
Unease regarding global standing. Even the youngest students in my research are aware they will face competition from individuals educated in other countries. It’s a legitimate concern for those in the U.S. where 15-year-olds are outperformed by their peers in many other nations. U.S. students rank 23rd in math (just above the international average score), 17th in reading, and 32nd in science (well below the international average score).