Posts tagged: Millenials

What are the new literacies that schools need to teach?

By , May 10, 2010 8:57 am

This came up this weekend talking to my wife. It seems that in her school, there is a cadre of teachers who think that kids need to learn “keyboarding” to be literate in the new reality that will be where they find themselves in the future. This remark was quickly retorted by another teacher who in her best mime-type impression of a crackberry addict gestured that the kids are not going to need to learn how to keyboard, they are going to be adept thumb typers. I don’t know where the conversation went from there, but after some more discussion, my wife and I were dumbfounded as to how some teachers are still so bound to the tools of communication rather than the process or the media.

Years ago, keyboarding was relevant because that was the only way that students could leverage these tools called computers, but what about accessing today’s devices with gesture, stylus or voice inputs? What about those devices with configurable keyboards? This is just the tip of the iceberg…

For my money, kids in K-12 today need to be literate in the ways and means to establish, maintain and explore connections (building their PLE/Ns as it were). They need to be able to create an identity online and understand what it means to have a valid identity and how to tell what parts of another individual’s identity might not be true. The tools that they will use to do this? I would not even want to guess, today they are Twitter and Facebook. Tomorrow… all bets are off… years down the road… same thing.

Creating and maintaining these relationships will require different skills, some will require adept long form writing, others will require micro form skills. Some people will need to have a full range of multimedia aptitudes, others will be able to specialize.

So if it were me giving a presentation to a school as to what the kids need to learn? I would say that they need to learn that there are different types of tools with different abilities. Some that sit on desks, others that sit in your pocket, others that sit far away. Each of these has a time and place to be used… now let’s start exploring those tools starting with…

If we want kids to grow up digital, it might mean

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By , June 17, 2009 8:28 am

… that, like the Millennials in this report (RWW) who are often successfully dictating to their IT departments what type of technology they want to make use of to communicate for business (often in ways that are similar to those used for pleasure). This new generation of employee seems to have little regard to privacy (as we’ve seen and read many times before) and are often ignorant of IT policies (likely leading to much of this “end running”). So with this generation entering the prime of their career at the front end and somewhere within their first post-secondary degree/diploma, it seems that there is only 5-6 years max before we see another massive disruptive force starting to come through our schools – the children of the Millennials are going to be entering kindergarten and those children as likely as not will have many of the same attitudes toward technology as their parents, and will certainly be raised with them. So while the education system may buy itself a few years with the comfort that kids in k-3 are more interested in playing in the sand as opposed to silicon, this won’t last. As soon as we ask them to start to gather information on their own, it will be game over for the old guard of school IT as well.

With any luck, many of the techno-phobic practices of the more senior teachers will have faded by the time these students are moving through and ideally, there will be some revisioning of curriculum to include the technologies that are, if not current, basic to the age group. The problem with this is that by the time these technologies and media sources are identified and sent to the government in charge of “blessing” it to be a valid curricular resource, the technology will have changed. But assuming that the government changes to allow the teachers on the ground to choose based on their professional opinion what technologies are sound, what could those technologies be? Certainly there will be some element of social networking, there will be some manner of instant communication and some element of sharing. But just as the parents of these kids are/will be working around their corporate IT, will these kids? I think so. @courosa pointed out in a tweet last night:

w/ citizens creating proxies for Iranian citizens, & many tutorials provided, I bet students using their own proxies in schools will rise.

and why not? We want our children to grow up to be responsible and good citizens right? Part of that means that they should have the strength be able to help those in need, how they can and to make sure that they alert others of injustice. Right? So if we want them to be able to do like so many are doing for those in Iran right now, we would be foolish to think that this would not happen in schools.

Clay Shirky (from an interview with Chris Anderson related to the post from yesterday) mentions:

What do you make of what’s going on in Iran right now.
I’m always a little reticent to draw lessons from things still unfolding, but it seems pretty clear that … this is it. The big one. This is the first revolution that has been catapulted onto a global stage and transformed by social media. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Chicago demonstrations of 1968 where they chanted “the whole world is watching.” Really, that wasn’t true then. But this time it’s true … and people throughout the world are not only listening but responding. They’re engaging with individual participants, they’re passing on their messages to their friends, and they’re even providing detailed instructions to enable web proxies allowing Internet access that the authorities can’t immediately censor. That kind of participation is reallly extraordinary.

Which services have caused the greatest impact? Blogs? Facebook? Twitter?
It’s Twitter. One thing that Evan (Williams) and Biz (Stone) did absolutely right is that they made Twitter so simple and so open that it’s easier to integrate and harder to control than any other tool. At the time, I’m sure it wasn’t conceived as anything other than a smart engineering choice. But it’s had global consequences. Twitter is shareable and open and participatory in a way that Facebook’s model prevents. So far, despite a massive effort, the authorities have found no way to shut it down, and now there are literally thousands of people aorund the world who’ve made it their business to help keep it open.

Kids growing up digital now seem to be doing so in an environment that is open, and engaged. To think that traditional IT practices and methods will contain them is just asking for trouble, kids are already getting around school IT and it would seem that it is only going to continue.

Don Tapscott on millenials as information streamers

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By , November 28, 2008 11:26 am

The lecture is becoming defunct… it’s a bad model of pedagogy – [the empty vessel idea] is a bad way of learning, we need a more sophiticated model… a hyperlinked stream of information is where we are going.

Donald’s book, Growing Up Digital has certainly ruffled a few feathers and a couple weeks ago he was on Spark with a really interesting interview that you can listen to.

There are quite a few ideas there that hopefully I’ll be able to get to one day. But the comment on the lecture is something that I think is really important – a lecture as a single stream of information is going to become increasingly hard to sell to students who crave more than one voice.

BTW, he’s another one who believes that personal use is a precondition to understanding and that is how change will come.

Extending my ISSOTL thoughts

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By , October 20, 2008 2:51 pm

Am I ever glad I copied this before I posted:

Emerging from ISSOTL, I had some time on the train, so I took advantage of one of the apps that I just downloaded – Viigo – to read some of my feeds while I was waiting/riding. A few articles caught my attention and so this morning while I was going through Reader (hmm… it seems that all my brain dumps start this way) when I saw them again, I was sure to take action – a little bit of scaffolding in action there – seeing headlines twice seems to be useful in being able to identify the signal from the noise as opposed to a careful once through reading.

Anyway, so the first article was the new PEW survey on networked families, the second was an article that looked at how mobile phone users use their phones, the third was from EduTopia about collaboration and the last was from Science Daily on the idea of “TheirSpace” that came out earlier this year article that looked at a study on social networks. So how are all of these linked in my mind?

The PEW article suggests that even though the ubiquitous connectivity that is affored by broadband and ubergadgets would keep family members (I’m assuming that these are in middle/upper middle SES homes) locked into their own worlds, be that pleasure or work, families are still able to be “together while apart in the same room”.

Despite fears that many Americans are isolated from family members, because of  separate agendas and immersive personal internet and cell phones, most families are together at night.  Their heavy home internet use suggests that many households are hubs of personal communication networks, as people log on individually to email, IM, post on social networking sites and chat. They are both together with their families and connecting outward to friends and relatives elsewhere. They are neither isolated individuals nor Dick and Jane’s traditional family. Rather, their households are active sites of the interplay of individual activity and family togetherness.

The second article looks at activities users partake in when on the phone (in the US) and the top three uses are messaging, mobile internet and email. This seems to suggest that it is indeed possible for families to remain “together while apart” as PEW suggests. So if we extend the idea of the family into the classroom, it would go to suggest that people or students/instructors are willing and able to use network connected devices to maintain their connections outside of the home and perhaps the classroom – assuming that the individual enjoys either or both.

Edutopia looks at collaboration and how collaboration/social learning comtinues to show results:

  • Students learn more deeply when they can apply classroom-gathered knowledge to real-world problems, and when they take part in projects that require sustained engagement and collaboration.
  • Active-learning practices have a more significant impact on student performance than any other variable, including student background and prior achievement.
  • Students are most successful when they are taught how to learn as well as what to learn.

In my head, this connects not only to the first two articles about connectivity, but also to the ideas that I took away from ISSOTL that students need to be encouraged to look inside themselves to find truth and knowledge. By extending the classroom beyond its usual walls, students are able to interact with content, or observe concepts in the “world” while away from the expert, encouraging them to ask their own questions and form their own knowledge. If we are able to take first article that people do indeed use networked devices to connect and collaborate when together in groups of similar disposition (families, classrooms, clubs etc).

But before someone inside the academy spots the thread of social networks through the first few resources, Science Daily brings forward this warning:

But the survey also found that 41 per cent of students were against being contacted directly by tutors via Facebook. A report on the preliminary findings warns that the university will need to tread carefully if it wants to use Facebook to communicate with students for administrative or teaching and learning purposes.

The researchers say: “The survey data illustrate that Facebook is part of the ‘social glue’ that helps students settle into university life, that keeps the student body together as a community and which aids in communication (especially about social events) between the student body. However, care must be taken not to over privilege Facebook: it is clearly only one aspect of student’s social networking practices and clearly face-to-face relationships and interactions remain significant.

So how does this all stitch together as an extention of ISSOTL? Well, it seems to suggest that as different as we seem to think the millenials are, for some things, they really are not all that different. Face to face time is important, collaboration is important, being involved in their learning is important.  This is all great for creating some manner of rationalization as why not to “go heavy” into technology integration, but if the family and clubs (interest and otherwise) are any indication, technology is being used already in a near seemless way to extend and enhance face time, collaboration and involvement – so why is that not happening in the classroom? Is it that, as some claim, instructors just don’t want to use technology? That the academy wants to remain “basic and accessible/pure”? Or is it just an inability to assess being able to get the job done in more than one way? What is it that is holding the classroom back?

Thoughts from ISSOTL

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By , October 20, 2008 11:17 am

The ISSOTL conference, not being a technology conference, it was not an opportunity to see what the latest and greatest in technology integration ideas. It was however an interesting opportunity to see (in the technology sessions that I was interested in) how technology was being adopted by the cream of the crop of progressive instructors. These instructors are not always early adopters but they are the champions that many of us in the Ed Tech world would want to recruit. So to paint in a broad stroke, the sessions were interesting to attend to see how the trailing edge of the bleeding edge (the leading edge?) adopts and really brings to fruition many of the ideas that one might see in tech conferences potentially years before.

The opening keynote was for me, the highlight of the event. The ideas that Marcia Baxter Magolda put forward regarding the way that students in higher ed start to construct knowledge and truth as they move through their post secondary experience. Starting with their early years, coming out of high school, students are almost bound to the idea that knowledge and the associated truth is determined by an external agent when it comes to their academic life, likely having never been “allowed” to think that knowledge or truth came from anywhere but a text. This was not true for the personal lives of many of these students as they were able, in their personal lives, able to start to self-author ideas of truth at this early stage. As students progress in their personal and academic lives, they start to be able to self-author truth in both their personal and academic lives, though not always within the time they spend doing their post secondary studies. To help them along, it is the instructor that should help guide the student to understand that knowledge is socially constructed (and that every discipline has its own culture/society, hence touchstones of truth in knowledge). Once a student understands this, teaching and learning can become a partnership as both parties are able to interact with knowledge and truth. This is all fine, but I want to see how fast the mountain that is “text is god” will move over in higher ed when instructors are squeezed for time and resources to even deliver the content that they are required to, especially in the first couple of years while students are working through junior courses in classrooms of hundreds.

Moving to the presentations, one idea stuck out – why are we treating the “millenials” any different than any other group… and how many classes out there are composed only of millenials? Thinking about the second point first, it is likely only in the intro level courses that one could expect a clear majority of millenials, after that, there is increasingly a mix of generations within the classroom, and this is especially true online. So even though this younger generation is defined by their use of technology. They, like generations before them, learn socially, are aided by reflection and appreciate genuine interaction with their instructors. Working from this perspective, the “rising spectre” of the millenials does not seem as intimidating.

txt n frml r-itng 2.0

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By , May 30, 2008 12:05 pm

It looks like this invasion of neologisms based on txt is starting to move across the pond. I wrote about this about a year ago, so it seems that there is something to it. I have a hunch that PEW is going to start to become a “four letter word” for some people.

More on Learners 2.0 via ECAR

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By , April 7, 2008 11:40 am

Anne H. Moore, Shelli B. Fowler, Brent K. Jesiek, John F. Moore, and C. Edward Watson  in Volume 2008, Issue 7 have released an article regarding the ways and means that should be followed when it comes to the next crop of learners, whatever we want to call them. I’m so glad to see that they are not saying that technology is going to be the panacea that will win over the minds of these youngsters. Rather, the key to technology is to use it in as an enhancement – as should be and arguably as technology has always been best implemented – an extension of human ability rather than a replacement (robot car assembly drones not withstanding).

Interweb is Gender Shifting

By , March 10, 2008 1:12 pm

It looks like the ‘net is starting to shift its balance to being more female heavy as opposed to male heavy in terms of users. This according to a PEW study that is also discussed here on the Times Online, giving it a bit of a British bend. The back end of the web continues to be male dominated however. Key to this growth seems to be the Web2.0 tools that include blogging and social networking:

A recent study by the Pew Internet Project in America on teens in social media found that blogging growth among teenagers is almost entirely fuelled by girls, whom it describe as a new breed of “super-communicators”. Some 35% of girls, compared with 20% of boys, have blogs; 32% of girls have their own websites, against 22% of boys.

Please note the comments on this post.

The Millenials (nee Google) Generation may not really be Digital Natives afterall

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By , January 18, 2008 12:25 pm

Ars, not usually a place to look for reviews for things other than technology posted this report out of the UK about the Google Generation. Essentially… they are not the computer gods that the generations before them are fearing them to be.

I’m thinking Ars is chuckling about this in a way, maintaining some level of geek superiority, but that aside, it does offer an interesting look at the generation of students who will be entering post secondary within  the next ten years and who are currently in Jr. High or entering High School. From the article:

  • They like to cut-and-paste. “There is a lot of anecdotal evidence and plagiarism is a serious issue.”
  • They prefer visual information over text. “But text is still important… For library interfaces, there is evidence that multimedia can quickly lose its appeal, providing short-term novelty.”
  • They multitask all the time. “It is likely that being exposed to online media early in life may help to develop good parallel processing skills.”

But libraries, generally headed by members of “the greatest generation” rather than the Google generation, need to be careful about how they try to meet the needs of the next generation. Jumping headfirst into hot new technologies like social networking can easily backfire. The report notes that some librarians are opening MySpace and Facebook pages, trying to make their services hipper to students, but that “there is a considerable danger that younger users will resent the library invading what they regard as their space.”

Taking a look at the last comment first, this is something that I’ve warned people about as well. You can’t go into public places with your academic content and expect not to get some level of push back. This goes hand in hand with the blurring of lines between professional and personal spaces online. Regardless of where content is located, there needs to be a reason, time and place for it to be accessed. Social networking is taking off because it is a completely social space, free from work related emails (official anyway… unless you work for Facebook or whoever) and other non social concerns. People enjoy “me time” there and connect with people, not papers and other stressors. Instructors need to put their course materials in a place that only deals with the course, so things stay contained for the duration of that experience as well. This is the ideal, but not the only way to go by far.

Finally taking a look at the bullet points, the second point is key and essentially points to the impact of novelty. People pay attention to novelty, regardless of it’s media. Sinking money into a novel user experience without providing content isn’t going to get you anywhere. Just take a look at all the mess that is on a typical MySpace page and after the shock wears off, you’ll as likely as not find little or no content. Compare this to a message forum where there is little Flash (;)) and more substance. The key is to find a balance between the two.

So what about the natives that are starting to show and will increase in size? Well it seems to me, that they see “technology” as a tool or an appliance, needing only to understand the basics to get the job done – much like the factory worker who needs to know only enough to complete a task or recover from a malfunction.  These new students will have experience from a different set of sources than their parents and instructors will have had, but this is no different than any generation that has come before. So what are we worried about? I’m not really sure, but I know that the bottom line that many people dealing with instructional technology have to contend with. Students expect content to be delivered in a convenient manner and to be appealing. We have to make sure we can meet those demands, using whatever technology is appropriate.

American (perhaps North American) kids are not even close

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By , November 13, 2007 4:42 pm

According to a report released by SETDA and ISTE (summarized by THE), there are a number of points that should be addressed. I’ll comment on then as how I see Alberta and the U of A (in Science) might be handling this.


Even if all students mastered core academic subjects, they still would be woefully underprepared to succeed in postsecondary institutions and workplaces, which increasingly value people who can use their knowledge to communicate, collaborate, analyze, create, innovate, and solve problems. Used comprehensively, technology helps students develop 21st century skills. (THE Pt. 1)

So what do these mean? In the first case, the paper calls on educators to teach technology and build technological fluency in students not just through direct instruction in a specific hardware or software, but through the integration of technology in other areas of learning. (THE Pt.3)

If this is the case, Alberta’s idea of integrating technology skills across the curriculum is on the right track,


Used comprehensively, technology supports new, research-based approaches and promising practices in teaching and learning. (THE Pt.2)

I don’t want to say that teachers are lazy, but few barely have the time to deal with the existing curriculum that they need to deal with, to say nothing of a paradigm shift. I know that many instructors might want to change, but they don’t have the time to commit to make the changes and many young teachers are being mentored by teachers who are not even interested in research based approaches to say nothing of technology.

If you put those two points alone together, you can start to see the essential issue. There is little motivation to integrate the way that it should be done. Over the weekend, I was watching part of the Mars Rising and the point was made that we need a project like Mars, to get young people exited about science again. Without it, we are going down a scary road as our world becomes increasingly reliant on science, but allows ignorance of the process by the masses who will ultimately vote or make decisions about where science goes. This part of the post gets off the rails a bit, but perhaps technology (via the multiple literacies ideas of the last post) might enlighten the Arts that can then fuel the Science – an idea from the A&S Symposium.

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