Net Generation, Google Generation and Digital Native are all terms which conjure up the image of a tech savvy youth whose integration with digital technology has made them a virtually different species than the older digital immigrant, who can barely read an email without printing it off first. These terms have become popular and formed the basis for several assumptions about the behavior and attitudes of young learners, however there are also those that reject the idea of a digital native as they can see that these assumptions are misleading.
” I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.” (James Clay)
I have my own understanding on the Net Generation and what this means for education, which is based on Chris Andersons Long Tail theory. First of all I would like to point out that I am using the term generation quite loosely as I don’t think it refers to age. I am talking about the latest wave of learners, no matter what their age. We have all ‘grown up’ with Google, although not necessarily in our childhood. At what age do you stop ‘growing up’?
Instead of thinking about a generic Net Generation as a generic individual, I see this as a generation of individuals and within this generation there are a wide range of different preferences, interests and characteristics. What the internet has done, has allowed differences to flourish in other parts of their lives. So thanks to Amazon, people can chose to read from a wider collection of books, thanks to iTunes and spotify people can choose from a wider collection of music. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most popular titles will change, it just means a number of smaller niches will flourish. In these markets people no longer expect the one size fits all approach of making do with what they can buy at their local shops.
Within education there will be an increasing number of niches as individuals find increasingly diverse ways to learn whether its learning teamwork via world of warcraft or Learning to play the guitar with youtube or learning a language via twitter. This does not mean that the most popular way of learning has changed from classroom participation; it just means that other niches are flourishing.
What does this mean for practitioners?
As many people have said before, the one size fits all approach no longer works in education, maybe it never did. Practitioners could take advantage of this by providing education in a range of formats, but what they can’t do is decide how the learners will learn, as the individuals within this net generation will find their own niches with or without the help of practitioners.
This is a very short extract from an excellent presentation by Bryan Alexander from the Open Education Conference and produced in full on his blog
It certainly provides many of us working in education with much food for thought.
Another argument in favor of CMSes over Web 2.0 concerns the latter’s open nature. It is too open, goes the thought, constituting a “Wild West” experience of unfettered information flow and unpleasant forms of access. Campuses should run CMSes to create shielded environments, iPhone-style walled gardens that protect the learning process from the Lovecraftian chaos without. Yet does this argument seem familiar, somehow? It was made during the 1990s, once the first Web ballooned, and new forms of information anxiety appeared. Mentioning this historicity is not intended as a point of style, but to remind the audience that, since this is an old problem, we have been steadily evolving solutions. Indeed, ever since the 20th century we can point to practices – out in the open, wild Web! – which help users cope with informational chaos. These include social sifting, information literacy, using the wisdom of crowds, and others. Such strategies are widely discussed, easily accessed, and continually revised and honed. Most of these skills are not well suited to the walled garden environment, but can be discussed there, of course. Without undue risk of exposure.
Put another way, we can sum up the CMS alternative to Web 2.0’s established and evolving pedagogies as a sort of corporate model. This doesn’t refer to the fact that the leading CMS is a business product, produced by a fairly energetic marketplace player. No, the architecture of CMSes recapitulates several aspects of modern business. It enforces copyright compliance. It resembles an intranet, akin to those run by many enterprises. It protects users from external challenges, in true walled garden style. Indeed, at present, radio CMS is the Clear Channel of online learning.
There is a lively discussion at the moment about the relationship between twitter and blogging in a ‘cloud’ of the same name, is twitter killing the blog?, at Cloud Works. I’m not quite sure where the discussion started but it was the topic of a debate between Josie Fraser and Graham Attwell at a F-ALT09 (ALT-C 2009 fringe conference) session at the Contact Theatre, Manchester on Tuesday 8thSeptember. The answer to the question, for me at least, is no. The evidence suggests that regular and frequent tweeting seems to be associated with a reduction in the frequency of blogging. Although this seems to be the case for me, I was already blogging less often before I became involved with Twitter and tweeting. In fact I am not a regular tweeter and tend to do so in little pulses of activity around conferences and other events, for instance the ALT 2009 conference that took place last week. On the other-hand, my lurking in Twitter is rather more constant. Speaking for myself, I feel that my use of Twitter may well revitalise my blogging, perhaps not so much by increasing the frequency of posts but, hopefully, by stimulating rather more considered and reflective posts. Generally in the past I have posted in order to record and clarify ideas and produce notes and resources for my future reference. This has been done largely for my own benefit but with the notion that it might be of interest and use to others and perhaps even solicit some response by way of comment. If so, this was a bonus rather than the prime motivation. Ideas about developing a ‘digital’ identity and a personal research network came later when I began to ‘listen in’ on conversations round these issues in the edublogosphere. However, because my posts are beginning to be inspired by conversations in Twitter, they may become of greater interest and relevance to others than before.
Here is the gist of my argument. Twitter produces ideas, thoughts and topics as part of a fairly loose distributed discussion amongst those I follow and engage with on Twitter. As a matter of interest, I enjoy the social banter and seeming trivia as well as finding useful ideas, references, information and relevant focused discussions. All the ‘useful’ content is coming to me filtered by a network of people who in some sense I know, relate to, empathise with, value and trust as more rounded and real (rather than virtual) friends and colleagues, all to some extent sharing a similar(ish) world view and hopes and aspirations. This comes over far more strongly in Twitter than through the more formally written, structured and focused blog posts. This is a big plus for Twitter. So the general picture emerging is as follows. Discussion, banter, information exchange etc. in Twitter leads to the gradual emergence of an idea for a blog post. Some topic and a set of ideas and thoughts coalesces. In this respect discussion and comment precedes and shapes the blog post. The post summarises and clarifies (in the eyes of the author at least) thinking on the tweeted topic and, hopefully, feeds back into the ongoing discussion in Twitter. If this is the case, the relationship between Twitter and blogging is one of mutual enhancement with the bonus that your co-tweeters and bloggers are already contributors to the blog post and are more rounded and human to you as a result of the broader social contact made within Twitter. Blog posts become sites for summary and reflection within the stream of tweets and as such, and to some some extent, may contribute to, create eddies, even divert, the stream itself.
Another quick thought. Some one at ALTC2009 said (was it Alan Cann?) that their use of RSS has diminished somewhat since using Twitter. I think this is true for me. My feed reader only tells me what has been posted. My twitter network tells me what is worth reading – the wisdom of a crowd I have selected and am very happy and priviledged to be some part of. And technology, used in ways that its originators did not intend or foresee, has made this possible.
If anyone doubts the value of Twitter and the people it connects, surely the use of Twitter for the #altc2009 conference has given them pause for thought? What a pity the ALT powers that be did not see fit to project the #altc2009 Twitter stream in the keynote presentations. A lost opportunity. Perhaps next time.