Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Net gen skepticism bashed

Net Gen skepticism is generating a backlash. Chris Lott writes:

"The only Net Gen nonsense is coming from those who spend their time worrying about a research basis for a phenomenon that is easily observable in any classroom...The remonstrations about the evidence remind me of scientists concluding that bumblebees can’t fly and philosophers concluding that there is no physical reality. Like Berkeley, I refute you thus, with the students I teach every term… but I will refrain from kicking them as proof!"

Well, I didn't know that scientists claimed that bumblebees couldn't fly. If they did, this is all the more reason to examine claims critically. I do not doubt that the current generation is different from the previous. All generations differ from each other in some ways. It would be foolish to argue otherwise. Social, economic and technological conditions change and these shape who we are and how we think and behave.

What I take issue with is are the sweeping, apparently unsubstantiated, claims that are made:
a) about the defining characteristics of this generation and,
b) the implications these have for how we teach.

I do not dismiss practitioner knowledge. All teachers should be adjusting what they do based on what they observe in their classrooms. But to generalize that to an entire generation and then propose and make widespread institutional changes based on these anecdotal observations is irresponsible. It is also irresponsible for educators to continue to blindly accept these claims without examining the evidence.

As George Siemens points out in his response to Chris Lott, I am not refuting the claims, I am only saying the evidence doesn't support the claims. And as I have said in my presentations, I am not saying we shouldn't be critically examining how we teach and responding appropriately to our learners, but this should be based on evidence not on techno-utopian net gen hype.

4 comments:

chrislott.org said...

I don't know that I was "bashing" net gen skepticism as I have a fair (some might even say healthy!) amount myself. But just as skeptics get worked up over excessive hype and using characteristics observed (or imagined) in learners as an excuse, so I get worked up when I hear-- essentially-- that I am deluded when I see a significant number of students demonstrating an approach toward, understanding of, and posture w/r/t technology than I was seeing a decade ago...

As George alludes to, when we debated on this subject (and I suspect he, I and you agree much more than we disagree), I wasn't interested in defending Prensky-- who I think is a hypester. Rather, I was making the point that the reason Prensky resonates with so many isn't out of laziness or delusion, but because he-- like Oblinger-- represents someone who is recognizing what so many people are seeing in their everyday practice.

I am also reacting, in part, to those who misrpresent the position of the educators *I* am aware of who are generally moderates looking to find better ways to educate now in the context they are in without waiting for the slow wheels of research to take into account what is right before their eyes. This doesn't mean they are, as posts like these put it, trying to get teachers and students "out of the way," engaged in intellectually lazy "pedagogical folly," or misguided "optimism"-- even if we don't necessarily see all of the characteristics of learners some will call Net Gen as positive or negative...

chrislott.org said...

Of course that should be "that is different than I was seeing a decade ago." Among other grammar errors I didn't get a chance to correct.

Blogger is not cooperating with previewing at the moment. I must not be net gen! :)

Mark Bullen said...

Sounds like we agree more than we disagree Chris. I am certainly not advocating that we wait until research has conclusively demonstrated the need for change. We need to react more quickly and let the research take its course. The problem is that organizations like EDUCAUSE present this stuff has though it has been properly researched. And then the hypesters get involved and the claims get bolder and bolder. And nobody stops to question them. I have no doubt there is some truth to some of the net gen claims but some appear to me to be completely bogus or contradictory which is what makes me skeptical.

Mark.

Nichthus said...

"I am also reacting, in part, to those who misrpresent the position of the educators *I* am aware of who are generally moderates looking to find better ways to educate now in the context they are in without waiting for the slow wheels of research to take into account what is right before their eyes."

Chris, fair cop. In my defense as blogger in question, I HAVE come across the sorts of extreme mentioned in point 3 of my post... however unreserved apologies for the implication as it applies to you.

Best,

Mark.