In the span of 10 years, there have been many new inventions such as the Ipad, Kindle, and Wii. There is no doubt there are a plethora of changes that happens in a decade that generations before have yet to experience. This being said, special attention should be paid on how to educate up coming generations. The Net Generation (individuals born from 1977-97) experiences a lifetime based around computers, instant messaging, chat rooms, and online pages. Net Gens demand and expect instant access to unlimited amount of information 24/7hrs a day. The old lecturing, blackboard teaching ways is arguably not suitable for Net Gens. Society needs to start rethinking the way they teach information to students to improve their learning experience.

The Net Generation account for 7% of the population and with around 49.5 million students enrolled in schools in 2003. Net Gens have grown up in a digital environment but, the education system is behind at least 100 years. The current model of education in schools today was designed for the industrial age and is inappropriate for the students today. Classes are revolved around the teacher who delivers a “one size fits all” lecture where students work alone and are expected to absorb all the content. The culture and educational experiences are very different from the one today’s Net Generation face. Most delivery styles are text based and content focused knowledge, where chalkboards and power points were the dominant class room delivery tools. With massive dropout rates in the United States in both high school and college, it is evident these styles of teachings are not appropriate for the Net Gen mind. Further research has shown that such lectured based models are not the best delivery method for the Net Generation . Educators’ need to make changes like listening and focusing on the Net Gens as well as changing the relationship between student and teacher in the learning process.

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The Net Generation means a Generation of Network; they rely on technologies from a computer or cell phone. They are also known as Millennial, Generation Y, Generation D (Digital) or anyone who is born after 1980. Net Geners have grown up in an environment much different from the generation before, being surrounded by laptops, wireless internet and video games. By the age of 21, they would have spent 10,000 hours playing videos games, sent 200,000 emails, 20,000 hours watching TV and 10,000 hours on cell phones . They have grown up being able to connect to people in real time regardless of location; the internet enables people to instantaneously communicate with each other. These individuals use the internet to find information and communicate with friends on a regular. Being raised in a different environment means that the needs and perceptions of students of the Net Generation are fundamentally different compared to students a generation ago. Undoubtedly, Net Geners learn differently, and have a distinctive way of thinking, communicating and learning. They have grown accustomed to instant communication and continuous multitasking. The younger Net Generation has no other reality than their internet based world and are to likely have heightened technical expectations, attitudes and beliefs.

Raised in a media saturated world, new technologies have created a culture of learning where the learner enjoys enhanced interactivity and connection with others. Educators need to satisfy student’s technology expectations as it is critical to create a better and more successful learning environment. Technology enables students to do their own research and assemble projects regardless of their abilities. Inquiry based learning motivate students and showed higher scores on program tests as well. These students are fascinated by new technologies and perceive technology to play a very important role in their lives. Technology is viewed as an efficient and natural way to work and allows students to maintain and engage in relationships.

Educators need to incorporate technology throughout the curriculum such as web based and blended courses where they can experience higher satisfaction. Online education is becoming more available in schools, a study done in 2001 revealed that among public institutions offering at least some distance learning courses shown more satisfaction in students . Other forms of technologies such as video games and interactive media can also engage younger students within the curriculum. Furthermore, educators can provide quality information through internet sources and create communities of learners. They can also provide electronic learning modules by linking students to webpages as a central page or starting point. There is great potential in online learning and educators need to take a lead role in establishing and designing online communities or learners. Unless schools use technology to implement change to the current model of education, students will not be prepared for the world today.

President Barack Obama and a boy from the education documentary "Waiting for Superman" fist-bump in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.

President Barack Obama and a boy from the education documentary “Waiting for Superman” fist-bump in the Oval Office, Oct. 11, 2010. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

Millennial students are a reflection of the world in which they live in; their lives involve online technologies where the internet serves as a huge platform. The current educational model (broadcasting learning style) needs to change in order to suit this generation of students. Boredom is a huge factor in the dropout rates, a study shown that nearly half of the students who dropped out said classes were not interesting and boring where seven out of the ten were unmotivated to work. Considering the difference between how Net Geners think and how most teachers teach this comes to no surprise. These students expect to have a choice in what, when and how they learn. They need self-directed learning opportunity, interactive environment, and multiple forms of feedback as well as assignment choices that use difference resources to create personally meaningful experiences. Net Geners want school to be interesting and fun, rather than listening to a professor and regurgitating facts and theories, students prefer to discuss ideas and learn from one another.

There needs to be an increase focus and conversations with students instead of just lecturing. Rather than memorizing information, students need to learn the process of discovery and critical thinking; education is more than the mere transfer of information. Harvard professor Eric Mazur noted that information has to be assimilated; students have to connect to the information and learn how to apply the new knowledge to new and unfamiliar situations . Unlike the linear fashion way of learning, Generation N learns hands on. For example, when playing video games, a majority of them play on trial and error rather than reading manuals. The focus is on doing and not knowing , similar to the education system; they need to construct narratives that make sense out of their own environment. Moreover, a study done at Purdue University showed that hands on projects were more effective an as education tool when compared to lectures .

The Net Geners are experiential learners who are comfortable in groups and learn better in active and social environments. They enjoy working in groups, believing that education is a social event where it should be interactive and engaging . These individuals thrive in group activities as it fulfills their desire for constant feedback and presence of support. Educators have begun to move from the traditional lecture to discussion based classes allowing for more individual expression . The use of teamwork and reliance of experiential learning needs to become the norm. Universities now are encouraged to combine the traditional lecture format with techniques that stimulate student interaction. Millennial learn by doing, deep questions elicit higher order of thinking and the frequent participation of peer discussions showed that they scored higher on their exams. The process of explaining someone else their information enables students to internalize what they have just learned. Interactive education allows students to learn at their own pace so they can internalize what something meant to them .

The Net Generation undoubtedly enjoys social interaction, which come to no surprise that they expect easy access to professors through various means. They are more comfortable speaking to their professors when compared to previous generations. It is important for professors to take an interest in connecting with their students as they desire a relationship with their instructor to learn from honest and integrity.

Moreover, students demand flexibility within their academic environment, where it should be personalized for each individual. The aspect of delivery and assessment are important to students. Teachers are able to play off those learning styles by offering different ways to learn not just through text books. Educators need to learn students as individuals rather than a group which the one-size fit all lectures.

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Educators have to rethink their teaching styles to adapt to the way Net Generation students learn. Undoubtedly there is a big difference in the way they learned compared to previous generations. The one size fits all learning style has to be switch to a customized learning where teachers learn the learning style of their students. The teacher should not be a transmitter but rather a facilitator interacting with students and feedback on homework and exams when needed. This shifts it to a learner centered education rather than teacher centered. Students will have more fun being able to engage in social interactions with their peers, allowing them to share their ideas with each other. Moreover, educators have to implement technology within the classroom to enhance the connection between the environments Net Gens grew up in. With these changes, the Net Generation will have better tools to learn information and an appropriate environment to learn in.

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Farrow, C. Ben, Junshun Liu, and Mark Tatum. “Curriculum Delivery and Assessment for Net Generation Construction Students.” International Journal of Construction Education and Research 7 (2011): 109. Print.
Barnes, Kassandra , Raymond Marateo, and Pixy Ferris . “Teaching and leaning with the net generation.” Innovate 3.4 (2007): 382. http://www.innovateonline.info. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
Shea, Peter , and Temi Bidjerano . “Measures of Quality in Online Eduction: An Investigation of the Community of Inquiry Model and the Net Generation .” J. EDUCATIONAL COMPUTING RESEARCH 39.4 (2008): 341. Print.
Tapscott, Don. Grown up digital: how the net generation is changing your world. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print. 132
Feiertag, Jeff, and Zane Berge. “Training Generation N: How educators should approach the Net Generation.” Education & Training 50.6 (2008): 458. Print.
Farrow, C. Ben, Junshun Liu, and Mark Tatum. “Curriculum Delivery and Assessment for Net Generation Construction Students.” International Journal of Construction Education and Research 7 (2011): 113. Print
Farrow, C. Ben, Junshun Liu, and Mark Tatum. “Curriculum Delivery and Assessment for Net Generation Construction Students.” International Journal of Construction Education and Research 7 (2011): 114. Print
Barnes, Kassandra , Raymond Marateo, and Pixy Ferris . “Teaching and leaning with the net generation.” Innovate 3.4 (2007): 384. http://www.innovateonline.info. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
Tapscott, Don. Grown up digital: how the net generation is changing your world. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2009. Print. 133

About The Author

June Li
Social Media Specialist

York University graduate, majoring in Communication Studies and Anthropology. Moved from Hong Kong to Toronto as a young child. Consumed by social media and real estate. Loves festivals, food and Netflix. Wanderlust at heart.

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