Not Net Gen – Oh No!

I think I am in trouble!

In 9 days, Jeff Nugent and I are doing a full day training session at INFORMS Teaching Effectiveness Colloquium in Washington DC.  Jeff is starting off with a session on How People Learn.  I then spend some time exploring the Net Generation.  Then we tie it together with Teaching, Learning, and Technology.

We submitted our plan months ago, and at that time, “Net Gen” made sense.  But recently I have been rethinking this term…influenced by some recent posts I will note below, and something Jeff said today in a podcast that really moved me in a new direction.

First, I recommend you listen to the GenTech podcast in which Michael Kelly, Steve Whitaker, and Mark Hofer interview Jeff about his work in our Center for Teaching Excellence.   Jeff did that, but then the conversation shifted to his Learning with Digital Media class he is teaching at the undergraduate level.  Jeff made the distinction between introducing social media to faculty we work with versus the students he teaches.  He noted that faculty rarely have any frame of reference for the sharing aspects of tools like Delicious, SlideShare, or Twitter, and so see little value in the sharing.  His students, on the other hand, come to these tools with experiences such as FaceBook, where the social aspects are paramount.  He introduced Delicious to his students last week, and within 15 minutes his class had added each other to one anothers’ networks, created subnetworks, and begun sharing bookmarks.  One noted that this was “just like Facebook.”

What Jeff was seeing was that this rapid adoption was not generational in nature so much as it was experiential.

This ties in to a post Dean Shareski made last week entitled “Digital Resident Makes More Sense Than Digital Native.”  Dean was building off a post made by Dave White back in July – “Not Natives & Immigrants But Visitors & Residents.”  I had not seen this earlier post, but it really resonated with me (and obviously Dean).  A resident lives a portion of her or his life online while a visitor goes to the web to use a tool and then leaves.  Under this definition, the students in Jeff’s class, as well as Jeff and myself, would be classified as residents.  The faculty we work with for the most part are visitors.  They may be aware of applications but they do not have the experiences with them that a resident would, and so have difficulty seeing the value that a resident would.

As with most stereotypes, there are teens and college kids who are also visitors, not residents, just as there are “chronologically-challenged” individuals like me who are not immigrants.  So labeling our students “Net Gen” no longer makes a lot of sense.

It is too late to rename my presention on October 10th, but it is definitely changing and evolving.  I would be interested in your thoughts about lessons we should share with teachers based on this new insight.  Rather than natives and immigrants, I am thinking more along the line of walled communities versus hostels.  Faculty need to spend some time in the digital hostel and experience the value that their students are intuitively picking up.

{Photo Credits: Lend Me Your Eyes, 733}

The Digital Native’s Perspective

Rae Niles, who works for Apple, was one of the panelists speaking at CoSN last week that Wes Fryer captured in his podcast. She mentioned the following anonymous post that was posted to the Abilene Kansas High School Dialogue Buzz website. It not only sums up the power of incorporating Web 2.0 tools in classroom instruction, but highlights the very real disadvantages one places on students by not using these tools…whether in K-12 or in higher education. Thanks for the tip, Rae!

Laptop Kid MarkOMeara

Let’s have a little competition at school and get ready for the future.

I will use a laptop and you will use paper and pencil.

Are you ready…?

I will access up-to-date information – you have a textbook that is 5 years old.
I will immediately know when I misspell a word – you have to wait until it’s graded.
I will learn how to care for technology by using it – you will read about it.
I will see math problems in 3D – you will do the odd problems.
I will create artwork and poetry and share it with the world – you will share yours with the class.
I will have 24/7 access – you have the entire class period.
I will access the most dynamic information – yours will be printed and photocopied.
I will communicate with leaders and experts using email – you will wait for Friday’s speaker.
I will select my learning style – you will use the teacher’s favorite learning style.
I will collaborate with my peers from around the world – you will collaborate with peers in your classroom.
I will take my learning as far as I want – you must wait for the rest of the class.
The cost of a laptop per year? – $250
The cost of teacher and student training? – Expensive
The cost of well educated US citizens and workforce? – Priceless

Priceless indeed!

[Photo Credit: Mark OMeara]


Tom Peters has stated many times in his presentations that we should not “benchmark” our performance – base our performance off good past practices, but rather we should “futuremark” – be the future others will wish to benchmark. I was thinking about that this week as I conceptualized this coming summer’s faculty institute. Our Center for Teaching Excellence has a week-long institute each June for selected faculty in which we work to develop that intersection between pedagogy, technology, and content. It is probably typical of many summer technology institutes which have had a focus on developing learner-centered practices. Our schedule from last summer is here.

I listened to Wes Fryer’s podcast this past week on Leading Differently: Digitally Informed School Leadership for the 21st Century. He noted that technology allows two things to be done better in schools: Creation and Collaboration. I thought to myself – I just heard the themes for this summer’s institute! The whole point of the Read/Write Web is user-generated content and social sharing.

Then, Steve Hargadon posted a very insightful “Web 2.0 Is the Future of Education” on Tuesday. I have spent this week reflecting on his post. He started by talking about how, as he worked on a presentation for IL-TCE conference, his presentation title kept changing:

He stated that “…the read/write Web, or what we are calling Web 2.0, will culturally, socially, intellectually, and politically have a greater impact than the advent of the printing press.”

Bold words!

In Steve’s post, he noted that the two-way medium of Web 2.0 is based on “contribution, creation, and collaboration.” His words mirror Fryer’s and suggest a seismic shift in teaching. As he stated:

“…I also want to suggest that their implications for education and learning are paradigm-shattering, as they in fact are all really about education and learning.

* From consuming to producing
* From authority to transparency
* From the expert to the facilitator
* From the lecture to the hallway
* From “access to information” to “access to people”
* From “learning about” to “learning to be”
* From passive to passionate learning
* From presentation to participation
* From publication to conversation
* From formal schooling to lifelong learning
* From supply-push to demand-pull”

All good things and all in line with Chickering and Gamson’s Seven Principles of Good Practice for learning and teaching. So, in thinking about the 2008 Institute, it seems to me that some radical redesign is required. If one buys (and I do) the concept that teaching with technology is no longer an enhancement but is now part of “the air we breathe,” then the tool approach is not necessarily the right approach for this institute. Will Richardson’s commented last month about teaching as an isolated community that does not yet speak the web language. If faculty do not speak this language nor see this shift occurring, it is problematic that we can attract them into a week of study on Web 2.0. Steve suggested that faculty need to learn about Web 2.0, lurk in social media, and then become personally engaged. I am looking for that marketing hook that will get them to consider this week we are offering. I think that faculty by and large look at attending a summer institute to learn best practices that they can implement in their classes. In other words, they are looking for benchmarks. The Web 2.0 world is so different that we need to help faculty shift from benchmarking to futuremarking. Attracting faculty – particularly mid- and late-adopters – will require us to sell a product many faculty do not realize they need.

I know we in our Center are not the only ones wrestling with this concept, and I would be interested in others’ views on approaches.

Steve ended his post with:

“For centuries we have had to teach students how to seek out information – now we have to teach them how to sort from an overabundance of information. We’ve spent the last ten years teaching students how to protect themselves from inappropriate content – now we have to teach them to create appropriate content. They may be “digital natives,” but their knowledge is surface level, and they desperately need training in real thinking skills. More than any other generation, they live lives that are largely separated from the adults around them, talking and texting on cell phones, and connecting online. We may be afraid to enter that world, but enter it we must, for they often swim in uncharted waters without the benefit of adult guidance. To do so we may need to change our conceptions of teaching, and better now than later.”

He is right. Now to work on the “how….”

Three Stellar Presentations and One Dud

eLrn08 Logo
Hello again from the Instructional Technology Council’s eLearning 2008 Conference. It was a full day today and I have already blogged about Myk Garn’s keynote this morning…which set the pace for an instructive day.

The first presentation I attended was “fun” but fell flat for reasons I will discuss below. The other three were insightful and stimulating. A brief recap of each.


Researching and Teaching Digital Natives with Web 2.0

Manoucher Khosrowshahi, Tyler Junior College

He tried to take a day long workshop and cram it into one hour. It was entertaining but geared for a non-techy audience, which this was not. He spent the hour detailing the differences between Boomers, Nexters, and Millennials (nice job), and then discussed how faculty needed to adapt to deal with educating millennials. His key point (with which I agree):

If students do not learn the way we teach, maybe we need to teach the way they learn.

Where he lost me (and turned this in to a dud) was at the end, when one of the participants asked if he would share his slides. His comment, “This is my intellectual property, so no, I will not share, but if you want to pay me to come to your campus, I will be happy to do so.”

Okay – a guy’s gotta make a buck…..but don’t feed me Web 2.0 platitudes for an hour and then practice Web 1.0 philosophy on a personal basis. This really turned me off and demonstrated for me that – in the end, he does not get Web 2.0!

<end of rant>


Online Instructor Competencies – It’s About Time

Edward Bowen, Executive Dean, Distance Learning, Dallas TeleCollege

Slides available at Ed’s Blog. (Someone who DOES get it!)

Ed started out with one of the nicest moves I have seen at a conference. He first asked everyone in the audience who would be giving a presentation to give a 15 second promo (nice touch). He then asked for a quick round-up of “take-aways” others had learned so far. One was an inexpensive text to speech conversion tool. I discussed a tool my colleague Bud Deihl is investigating: Jott – and Bowne ran with it – talking about how cool it is to be able to call an 800 number and have Jott RSS feed the text of your call to all students in your class!

Ed then shifted to his presentation. He started by noting that one cannot talk about competencies until one decides how learning occurs online. For instance, he solicited input from the audience as to their articulation of a philosophy as it relates to our online discussions:

Learning outcomes
– Social connections
– Motivation

He suggested that we need to develop instructor competencies in five areas:

1. Subject Relevance (Outcomes / Expectations)

2. Media (Text / Audio / Video)

3. Assessment (Formative / Summative / Peer / Remediation)

4. Control of time/place/pace (Flexibility / Continuing)

5. Type of Relation with instructor/other learners (Social / Personal / Professional)

Ed discussed the components of the online environment and suggested we need to be assessing courses not only at the end, but pre-course and during. We should be assessing students entering the course, teachers capabilities to teach online prior to the course, and course design prior to the course. During the course, the process in the LMS should be reviewed. And post-course, one should look at student evaluations and learning outcomes.

In focusing on teaching, he suggested we look at seven categories of competencies:




Instructional Design



Social Processes and Presence

All of these should be aligned with the learning outcomes and aligned with faculty development.

Nice job, Ed Bowen!



Personalized Learning Environments – Tools that Support Learning-Centered Instruction

Rhonda Ficek, Minnesota State University

A very nice presentation on the use of different web-based tools to drive the development of PLE’s for students. PLE’s are personally managed learning spaces that are social, distributed, and layered with both formal and informal learning. Key features included:

– Communication tools

Flexible structures

Integrated formal and informal learning

She discussed tools in four areas of instruction:


4 quadrants

Writing: Google Docs / Wikis / Google Notebook

Presentation Tools : Google Presentation

Organize Resources: Zotero / Flickr / delicious

Collaboration: Skype / Wimba

Think Tank

E Portfolios: Minnesota eFolio



Free Web-Based Tools

Google Notebook


Google Docs:

Zotero – bibliography help (Firefox only)

Nice job, Rhonda!



Mashing Up the Face of Academia –

John Krutsch, Senior Director of Distance Ed, Utah Valley University

John reviewed teaching and personal learning through mash ups. He demonstrated:

Viral videos (President George Bush singing rap)

– The Mashed Up song of the day from local radio
Nothing new – Simon and Garfunkel in 1969 combined Silent Night and Evening News

Teachers have historically been doing this:

Rewrite stories

Thematic Events

Movie Madness http:/

Romeo and Juliet’s Blackboard / WEBCt “affair”

John discussed some of the technologies available, including Twitter feeds, Google Map feeds, Open API (application programming interface), FlickrVision, TwitterVision, SLoodle (mashup of Second Life and Moodle), etc.

John’s main point: Culture of Mashups allows students to participate in creation of course content.

Mashups can occur at lesson-level, course-level, or degree-level. Mashups at the course level help break the monopoly of single textbooks as content source.

John reinforced Barry Dahl’s point from yesterday that teachers need to engage their students, and suggested teachers of the future will resemble Club DJ’s, shifting their content if it is not engaging students.

He summarized by suggesting that mashups allow students to take more ownership of their own education, reusing, remixing, and resubmiting material as part of their personal learning journey. This all supposes that alternate forms of assessment will be needed.

John’s blog –

Still trying to get my head around tying mashups to learning outcomes…but an interesting presentation, John!


As usual, my head is spinning. I present tomorrow on Instructional Uses of Social Bookmarking, and I am looking forward to another great day!