Speaking with Understanding About Net Gen Learners

Link to: CogDogBlog » Blog Archive » NetGen Learners: Where’s The Action? Check the Assumptions at the (Classroom) Door?

I’ve just gotten back from the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI) fall forum at Estrella Mountain Community College, part of the CogDog’s own Maricopa system. The forum convener was Diana G. Oblinger, one of the editors of the e-book Educating the Net Generation and the vice president of the ELI. As you can imagine, there were a significant number of references to the book throughout the meeting, and it was very useful to have a comprehensive reference work available (on-line and for free) with the ideas of a dozen or so thoughtful people on the topic.

As CogDog notes, we’re all surrounded by anecdotal evidence that this generation is different.

A colleague recently shared her story of her youngest daughter going off to her first year at a university. Mom helped her move, and then, waiting for some information, waited patiently while no phone calls came to describe how things where going. Mom simmers a few days saying, “I will give her time.” Finally, the older daughter, who is graduated now, calls her younger sister and asks, “Why you have not called Mom? She’s going nuts.” The response? “I wrote everything on my blog! If she just read that, she would know how I am doing? Why do I have to call all these different people to tell my stories, when they could just read my blog!!!!”

(Unrelated note: Our CIO just found out that his daughter keeps an online journal. He’s more of a believer in Web 2.0 than he was a few weeks ago.)

I agree with the major points of this post that we need to be more critical about our professional gatherings and responses to some of the points in Educating the Net Generation. It is indeed a “Good Thing” that we are seriously questioning our assumptions about learning as “presenting the material”. (I also agree that we have to be careful about the ” subtle danger of assuming every room full of students from the defined age group are all game playing, multi-tasking, IM-ing, MTV mindset sterotypes.”)

However, I think we also have to be a little careful to be sure that we don’t under-estimate the value of carefully thought out presentations at professional meetings and gatherings. Gardner Campbell has written about the value of the “explaining voice” in conveying the meaning of poetry:

There’s something about the explaining voice, the voice that performs understanding, that doesn’t just convey information or narrate hermeneutics, but shapes out of a shared atmosphere an intimate drama of cognitive action in time….When we hear someone read with understanding, we participate in that understanding, almost as if the voice is enacting our own comprehension. We hear the shape of the emerging meaning, and intuit the mind that experiences that meaning even as it expresses it, and it’s all ours.

I think we need presentations that mirror the kind of thoughtful understanding that comes when a faculty member who really understands a poem reads it in person. That experience goes well beyond the power of a podcast even from an expert like Gardner. Well designed presentations from professionals who have personal experience struggling helping students actually learn with technology will bring our professional conference the kind of authenticity they need. I’d like to see more presentations with that kind of voice before deciding that most “content” could be served up as well on line.

(I do admit that I’ve heard more than my share of presentations this summer than seemed like the presenter had just read the World is Flat while on the plane. Those would have been far better by just playing one of the on-line sources of the author explaining his own work.)

3 thoughts on “Speaking with Understanding About Net Gen Learners”

  1. Amen to all. Thanks for the kind words. And welcome back! I wish I could have joined you all. Here’s to San Diego in 2006 for the annual meeting.

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