Engage Me or Enrage Me: What Today’s Learners Demand

by Marc Prensky


The text of this lively article is similar to an address given by Marc Prensky at the ICTPD Learning@School conference in Rotorua, February, 2006. He argues provocatively that the current, wired, technology-savvy generation of students are engaged everywhere in their lives except at school. “And here it is so boring that the kids, used to this other life, just can’t stand it”.

Prensky argues that there is nothing wrong with twenty-first century students’ attention spans, motivation, or intellects, except that school makes them so. Today’s kids can concentrate for hours online, playing and sharing games in a creative and intellectually challenging fashion. If they are not focused and not achieving in school, it is the school not the students that we need to blame and look for ‘better results’ from.

As New Zealand schools consider a newly developed curriculum document, Prensky’s challenges could be important. To what extent does the new document address the advances being made in technology, where students download their music, participate in creative and challenging games, use new software downloads as if they were born with them, and constantly surf the net and text their communications worldwide?

When reading this article, consider possible critiques of, and gaps in, Prensky’s arguments. For example, what quality controls might a school need to have in place regarding the use of games and other Internet downloads in the classroom? Is it possible to use other pedagogical approaches to students’ learning that are equally engaging, such as creative, stimulating group activities that involve complex judgments and decision making related to relevant community issues?

Prensky is providing some challenging ideas for schools to consider. Reading this article alongside his other one, Listen to the Natives (also on Educational Leaders), will provide material for lively discussion within schools.

Reflective questions

These reflective questions might guide you in your reading of this article:

  • In what ways is your school prioritising the needs of the groups of ‘enraged’ students by introducing more choice, challenge, creativity and decision-making opportunities within the curriculum?
  • To what extent does your school community think that the curriculum has to be interactive and ICT-based in order to be engaging and worthwhile?
  • What are the key competencies needed by students as future citizens of the world? What curriculum and pedagogical changes does your school need to consider in order to develop those competencies?

Further reading

Brown, M. (2005). The next generation: Looking to the future. Computers in New Zealand Schools, 17(2), 3–7.


Prensky, M. (2005, September–October). Engage me or enrage me: What today’s learners demand. Educause Review, 40(5), 60–65.

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