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}

6 thoughts on “Not Net Gen – Oh No!

  1. Love these ideas. They resonate with me too. I will be following the links you have provided here. Good luck with that presentation. With these ideas you will make an impact I’m sure.

  2. Great observations, Britt, and echoed by my experiences last week at the Brandon Hall conference.

    Last year I did a workshop on blogging where I had people physically act out the process of blogging. We had flip chart paper on the walls with actual blog posts pasted to them. Then we gave people Post-It notes and had them go around “commenting.” We also demonstrated RSS by having the posts brought to them, etc.

    This physical, low-tech way of introducing blogging seemed to really resonate with people and I wonder if you couldn’t do the same thing somehow to represent the difference between having access to only your own content and being able to share and communicate with others about their stuff? Twitter might be a different story–I’m totally into Web 2.0 and still struggle with its value–but you could potentially do something with Slideshare and Delicious that physically demonstrates the value. Just a thought. . .

  3. Britt,

    Great post with some excellent questions to ponder! I would agree with you wholeheartedly regarding the experiential component being so important. I also like the idea of digital residents and visitors. I am becoming more and more convinced that this is less a generational characteristic as you have pointed out. It does seem that many Net Gen folks have this experience coming out of college, but there are also a number of GenY and Boomers that are digital residents in their own organizations and personal lives as well.

    The Facebook analogy was excellent. The more people that begin to use Facebook, the more they are willing to try out other social media tools.

    You might want to have your teachers begin with a Facebook page and perhaps even a Facebook group. They will at once experience the power and the intimacy of the group. Once they experience this value, they will be more likely to use other tools in their own classes.

    Thanks for the post.

    John Zurovchak

  4. Britt,

    Some really thoughtful points here, and the “walled communities v. hostels” take is an interesting perspective on it. I thought Jeff was dead-on yesterday on the show.

    And thanks for the link!


  5. Hi Britt!

    great post. Love the idea of being “classified ” as visitors and residents.

    Unfortunately this situation described in your post is so common in Romania: students want and know how to use new tools & new media and we can do so many things with them. BUT teachers (even from universities) are so immune against the changing and almosthalf of them has no idea what are we talking about at courses.

    I really hope , as Jeff said, that we’ll be able to understand that are only 79 days to 2009! (in THIS century).

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