Friday, May 23, 2008

Online Learning Book Chapter Relies on Net Gen Hype

The second edition of the widely distributed book, The Theory and Practice of Online Learning (edited by Terry Anderson) has now been released and is available for free download.

I was disappointed to see that Chapter 8, "In-Your-Pocket and On-The-Fly: Meeting the Needs of Today's New Generation of Online Learners with Mobile Learning Technology" relies on the same old net gen hype to support the argument for the increased use of mobile learning technology. According to Maureen Hutchison, Tony Tin and Yang Cao, todays learners are, guess what, "tech-savvy, accustomed to multi-tasking, and expect control what, when and how they learn" (p. 203). And just in case that didn't sink in, later in the same paragraph they claim: "This new generation of learners is smart but impatient, creative, expecting results immediately, customizing the things they choose, very focused on themselves" (p. 203). And who do they cite to support these claims? An article from the Chronicle of Higher Education that reports on an interview (one interview!) with a librarian at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, Oblinger & Oblinger (2005) (see earlier posts on this) and Don Tapscott's 1998 Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation.


crogoza said...

It find it amazing that the rhetoric propounds that in the short span of less than 30 years the brains of the Net Generation have apparently changed. Tapscott tells us that this is so because of their persistent interaction with technology. Hence the NetGeners’ way of learning is different than that of previous generations because their cognitive processing has adapted to a changed brain. It now behooves educators to respond to this phenomenon. The logic seems to look like this:

NetGeners are using technology persistently.
This persistent use is changing their brains to process differently.
Therefore, educators must adapt their instructional strategies to this “new brain”.

Despite the problems with these assumptions, faculty are increasingly pressured to integrate technology into their curriculum using the tools that the students apparently use on a daily basis such as email, text messaging, blogs, and podcasts. The rhetoric abounds with directives like, “Change your teaching style. Make blogs, iPods, and video games part of your pedagogy. And learn to accept divided attention spans. A new generation of students has arrived ¬and sorry, but they may not want to hear you lecture for an hour." (Carlson, 2005, p. A34)

However this seems to fly in the face of the Educause (2006) survey of 29,900 freshman and senior students at 96 higher education institutions in which 56.2% of students responded that they preferred a moderate amount of technology in their coursework. Younger students indicated an even lower preference for technology than older students.

As Bullen points out, there are many examples of the lack of empirical substantiation of the rhetoric to use technologies, in particular social networking technologies in our classrooms. But alas we are warned that “The revolution has begun, and it can't be stopped. So rather than being beaten down by the technology, teachers must use it, use it, use it, and use it again to do what school is supposed to be about, learning about life and the world around us.“ (Regan, 2002 p.25)

Carlson, S. (2005). The net generation goes to college. The Chronicle of Higher Education 52(7), A34

Educause. (2006). The ECAR Study of Undergraduate Students and Information
Technology, 2006. Retrieved October 15, 2007, from

Regan, T. (2002). Net savvy students to teachers: You just don't get it! CS Monitor. Retrieved April 12, 2008 from

Johan said...

The correct link is: