As part of a larger message to faculty returning from winter break, our CIO offered this summary of how he sees advancing internet use affecting higher education:
Are you familiar with blogs and podcasts? Google them, or look them up in Wikipedia. Some of you may already be using these new tools. Others may think these terms are the latest in a sea of techno-jargon. Regardless, your millennial students — the NetGens — are using these new technologies — along with the ubiquitous cell phone — more and more. Google is a first step in most research and you’ll be seeing more references and quotes from Wikipedia. They have more access to more technology than our generations could have ever dreamed of… and more of it is coming right to their cell phones! I’m not suggesting that you suddenly change your teaching processes, but you should be aware of how this generation gets and interacts with information. And to know them is to understand better how to work and communicate with them. Help them to be discerning with the wealth of information they have.
There are lots of studies and research written on our students today. Here are some of my own observations, as a parent and teacher.
- Students’ span of attention may be short, but their capacity to absorb more information and multitask is significant.
- Google is the first point in their research. Wikipedia is fast becoming a knowledge base of choice.
- This generation of students has vast amounts of information at their fingertips and phone, but they tend to trust too much of what they find as valid.
- Students tend to spend more time on their phones and text messaging than they do in email.
- Students walk to classes with their MP3 players in their ears. They walk out with cell phones dialed.
- They spend significant time online and connected, yet they know or care little about the underlying technology.
- They share personal information far more readily in blogs, Facebook.com and other web sites.
- Sales of watches are declining because young people have clocks on their cell phones.
- All the above are generalizations. Not all students are as ‘wired’ as we assume. We need to be mindful that some students come from homes where there is no internet, no computer and no cell phones.