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Educating the “New” students

January 14, 2007 by Dustin Swanson · 2 Comments · learning

I learned a new word today – Millennials. In essence it describes people born since 1982 and who are described by the following indicators (as taken from Oblinger’s article in Educause):

  • gravitate to group activity
  • feel close to their parents
  • spend time on homework – not TV
  • fascinated by new technologies

I can’t say that my experience with teenagers would entirely support their descriptors. Regardless, the summary of the article is that these Millennials “prefer teamwork, experiential activities, structure, and the use of technology”. The article then extends how the characterisitics of these “new” students has impacted post secondary education. For example, online experiences, connectivity, competitiveness between universities, and a large increase in customer service.

In the end, I’m struck with the image that what “new” students, or Millennials, really want is to be meaningfully engaged in learning. Universities are being forced to become more learner centered in order to remain viable. But, what about in a secondary environment where competition for tuition is not largely and issue? I have seen some very exciting things happening in my school division that address some of the needs of “new” students. However, I think we can still go a long way to engaging our youth in more meaningful ways. Where can we start? One place is to to continue trying to understand these “new” students and try to adapt our schools to more closely meet their needs.  What exactly does this look like? In fact, this is one of the reasons I have started a blog. To start developing, testing, and reflecting on this issue. If anyone out there has any good starting points – please let me know!

2 Comments so far ↓

  • Dean Shareski

    Just can’t resist the temptation to chime in.

    I think it’s more about changing pedagogy to a more constructivist approach than about embracing new technologies. I’ve shown many folks new technologies only to see them used in pretty traditional ways.

    For example, many teachers are blogging but it’s largely to post assignments. Not that that is bad but it should be combined with an opportunity for students to contribute and share their learning. Maybe it happens in their classroom but I’m not seeing as much evidence as I’d like.

    From your experience and observation do you think it’s more challenging to help teachers embrace a more constructiivst approach or embrace new technologies? I’d say the latter is easier. But maybe you see things differently.

  • Dustin

    I agree Dean that a more constructivist approach to teaching is the largest challenge. I think helping teachers to make student work public through blogs or a class wiki could be an excellent starting point.

    I can recall the pd work you started three years ago to help teachers intergrate technology – to me that was a step in the right direction. Although it appeared the sessions were about technology (ex. blogging) – in practice they were really about pedagogy.

    I often think about the issue of engagement from a school structure point of view (scheduling, culture, etc). However, good point to look at things where it matters most – in the classroom.

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