Marc Prensky
Marc Prensky

With a BA from Oberlin College, and Master's Degrees in Arts, Business, and Teaching, from Middlebury, Harvard, and Yale respectively, Marc Prensky has put his educational background to good use in the fields of business and educational pedagogy. A former Wall Street corporate strategist and business developer, Prensky dedicated much of his later focus to schoolwork and teaching. In the 1970s, he worked at a 'Street Academy' in East Harlem, an early version of the charter school. Prensky has since taught at every academic level, from elementary school to college.

With an interest in the digital age, and its effect on students and the classroom, Prensky has been able to expound upon a variety of related subjects through his five books: Digital Game-Based Learning (2001); Don't Bother Me, Mom, I'm Learning (2006); Teaching Digital Natives (2010); From Digital Natives to Digital Wisdom (2012); and Brain Gain: Technology and the Quest for Digital Wisdom (2012). In his writings, Prensky has covered areas he is now considered to be an expert on, including game-based learning, futurist ideologies in the classroom, the integration of technology into the curriculum, and the concept of partnering. His international acclaim and recognition, as well as renown in technological education, came with his article 'Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants' (2001), where he coined the phrases 'digital native' and 'digital immigrant,' contributing significant considerations and viewpoints for pedagogical and social lexicons and discussions alike.

Utilizing his knowledge in this plethora of topics, Prensky has actively promoted technology in education, through his educational game design company Spree Learning Games, and its predecessor Games2Train , as well as through his non-profit organization The Global Future Education Foundation and Institute , dedicated to the creation of a forward-thinking, twenty-first curriculum. In his public speaking and educational talks, Prensky has advocated both technology and changed, and improved, student-instructor dynamics in the classroom, an essential component of his partnering model for education.


Prensky has dedicated much of his time and focus to the learning model of partnering, a format for the classroom which, he believes, is better suited to students in the twenty-first century than more traditional means of teaching. Whereas previously educators would 'teach by telling,' through lecture formats where information is given directly to students, partnering involves a shift in this structure and dynamic; instead of handing students information, followed by questions to be answered, this pattern is inverted, with students receiving questions they must answer themselves through self-directed and self-motivated research. The teacher, then, becomes a guide or coach for his or her students, and has the primary responsibilities of asking the right questions, providing context to material for students, and guiding students through issues they may have faced both as a group and in one-on-one discussions.

Through his research in the digital era, Prensky has identified students and youth of this generation as active learners, primarily through the lens of technology, being unmotivated by, and feeling disconnected from, their traditional classroom setting. Understandably, the roles of the students in the partnering model place them as more engaged, involved and active participants in the educational process:
  • Student as Researcher: Research is essential to partnering, with students actively seeking out answers to the questions provided to them by their teacher, both in class and at home, online via the internet or through less digital means such as the library. Prensky notes that many students may be unaware that 'researcher' is a professional job, and thus not realize the significance in committing oneself to a directed focus or line of educational inquiry. This does, however, change the students' role in the classroom from a receptacle of knowledge to a more 'professional' designation and level of responsibility.
  • Student as Technology User and Expert: With his knowledge and understanding of digital natives in the twenty-first century, Prensky has identified technology as an essential component in the lives of students, including audio-visual, social networking, and other online tools and platforms for engagement and entertainment. These tools and others can also be used for research in the classroom, and when given the opportunity, students will utilize these digital outlets to answer the guiding questions provided by their teacher. The role of the expert is also important; Prensky states that even if students do not know about specific technologies, they should be encouraged to learn themselves, and act as models for their classmates, teaching what they already know or what they have learned.
  • Student as Thinker and Sense Maker: While many teachers would already regard their students as thinkers, Prensky notes that this is not always recognizable in the traditional classroom. Instead, students should be encouraged to think more critically and logically, and have the important to share what they have learned and discovered through both written and oral peer-to-peer dialogues and discussions. Students may also be encouraged to become more involved thinkers by placing what they have learned on a public format, such as blogs, providing the incentive of others' observations of their work.
  • Student as World Changer: Learning must be both real and relevant for students, and providing students with questions which they may answer to change the world, or their perception of the world, is key in the partnering classroom. Students must recognize that they are able to effect change in the world, and use what they have learned in school to make a difference, either on the small-scale, such as in their community, or on the larger-scale, such as reflecting on social issues including world hungry and poverty. Prensky suggests contacting members of the community, such as non-profit organizations and members of other positive social initiatives, to see who may act as both presenters and mentors for the students, helping to guide their learning and research on these issues.
  • Student as Self-Teacher: The role which is most important to partnering, and defines the model itself, is that of self-teacher, as students learn research and inquiry skills through self-reliance and motivation. By becoming self-teachers, students will be able to pursue future areas and outlets of research and questioning later on in both the partnering classroom and as future learners.

Prensky provides a set of learning styles and theories which are all forms, or variations, of the partnering model, including Problem-Based Learning (PBL), Case-Based Learning (CBL), Student-Centered Learning, Collaborative Learning, and Active Learning. His website provides a list of helpful tips teachers may consider when implementing the partnering model into their classroom, including how to best utilize technology, understand students' interests, and provide scaffolded lines of questioning to further students' research.


Curricular Considerations

The partnering model presents a radical change in classroom structure, procedure, and instructional design, as the roles of the students and teacher are changed, adjusting to an inquiry-based, student-centered setting and context for learning. Lesson plans and the curriculum must change accordingly, as students will no longer be provided with the answers to questions, instead being assessed on how they have acted as researchers, explorers, and collaborators in their educational pursuits. Traditional forms of assessment, then, specifically quizzes and tests, are no longer viable within this model. Alternative forms of larger tasks to evaluate students on may be achieved through problem-based learning, observing students' skills individually, as well as noting their contributions to the larger group. Through technology, teachers may require students to present their work in a digital and public format to be shared and reviewed by others, allowing for open feedback and dialogues to be created, between student and teacher as well as between students. These changes to the curriculum, basing assessment on contributive and skill-based efforts, as well as the open sharing of projects, places more responsibility on students to be engaged and active learners.

With access to technology and online resources in the classroom, educators can commit to one of the numerous forms of teaching under the blanket term of partnering, such as problem-based learning and case-based learning, where students are presented with a broad question and situation and must dedicate themselves to fulfilling their roles as researchers, world-changers, and thinkers in solving it. Technology will allow students to instantly access a wealth of information, as well as connect with one another to collaborate and problem solve through online and digital platforms; this extends beyond the classroom, ensuring students are able to continue their research and work outside of the typical and traditional learning space.

Extending Questions

  1. Though Prensky states the partnering model is multidisciplinary, viable for all subjects in the classroom, are there any subjects where this model may be difficult to incorporate into the curriculum and lesson plans? Is lecture-based teaching required for particular subjects and topics?
  2. Is the partnering model less structured than traditional forms of teaching, such as 'teaching by telling,' with the dramatic shift in the student-teacher dynamic? Or does the 'student as self-teacher' role provide structure for the classroom?
  3. What other roles for students may emerge as they continue on in their research, peer-to-peer discussions, and guided learning?

Researcher's External Links

Public Speaking and Interview Videos


Games2Train (n.d.). Marc Prensky. Retrieved from
Prensky, M. (2014). Marc Prensky - Marc's Bio. Retrieved from
Prensky, M. (2005). Partnering: A Pedagogy for the New Educational Landscape. In Teaching Digital Natives: Partnering for Real Learning. Retrieved from
Prensky, M. (2014). Partnering Tips. Retrieved from

"While they typically say they enjoy using technology, the single thing most valued by students is being respected by their teachers as individuals and not treated as kids who don't know much, and thus have to learn. 'We're not stupid' is a universal lament." - Marc Prensky