Warning: this post is full of digressions, contradictions, and tangents. (I’m just saying…)
I read an older Pew Publication recently on the behavior and traits of 18-25-year-old U.S. Americans (born 1981 and 1988) for some research I’m currenly doing on “generational learning styles” (don’t get me going on that – I’m a mess about it!). Although the report is a year old, I don’t think much has changed in the past year as far as this study goes.
Interesting when I look at these findings based on my own experiences as an 18-25 year old American in 1982-1987 (although some of what I remember is probably blocked out, lost due to blacking out, or forgotten entirely). To give you context, I was born on the same day and year as Kirk Hammett, from Metallica. I’m part of the Generation Jones – between the X’s and the boomers or, as I like to call it, the Marcia, Marcia, Marcia generation.
Here’s Generation Next, the subject of the study:
- Half send or receive text message over the phone daily (double 26-40-year olds). [My text messages were written on paper and roughly said, “I’ll be home at dark” (for my parents) or (for my friends/enemies) were passed in class or left in lockers. I frequently used emoticons on my actual face – the one-eyebrow-up was my hallmark. I would say half of my generation used ‘text messaging’ with the technology known as a pen.]
- Four-in-ten have created personal profiles on social networking sites. [My social network site was the bottom of the driveway where I hung out with neighborhood friends. Nobody’s parents would take us anywhere and they didn’t want us in the house either. The information I shared with my friends then was similar to the open-book information I now display for the world. So only 8-10 people listened to my inane crap then and now slightly more. Suckas.]
- Eight-in-ten say new technology makes people lazier. I had to hide to be lazy. If I was caught lazing around, I was given a job to do. Technology was a clothespin out on the clothesline. I’m reminded of a recent conversation with my 20 year-old nephew and his suggestion that he thought technology would take us to the point where we did not need arms or legs. Not that he didn’t want arms and legs, but that he wanted to live in a world where he didn’t have to use them if he didn’t want to. I have agreed that the new technology of my generation – the dryer – made people lazier.]
- Half say immigrants to the U.S. strengthen the country. [I am a first generation Scottish-American. My parents are immigrants so I can”t really comment on this other than to say I believe it is true – then and now. Plus then, I would’ve gotten smacked on the side of the head if I didn’t think it was true. My own kids today get a lot more information on diversity in general.]
- Are generally less critical (and less cynical) of government regulation and business. [I speak cynicism fluently as do many friends my age and many of my kids friends. Workin’ for the man. Workin’ for the man. 18 or 40 we’re all workin’ for the man. Only the super-cyncial admit to being cynical in a survey.]
- Are in close contact with their parents. [See first bullet point “ I’ll be home at dark.” This is an interesting dynamic. We’ve probably all read stories about the helicopter parent who called their kid’s boss at work to question a poor performance review. I’m not sure what, if any, impact this has on workplace learning but I think it may. My feeling is that there is a need for greater performance support.]
- Half have gotten a tattoo, dyed their hair an untraditional color, or have body piercing on body parts other than the ear (1/3rd have tattoos). Tattoos in the 70s-80s were primarily found on the skin of those in the military, bikers (Harley style), rock stars, and those in prison. [Brian Jackson lists five reasons people get tattoos today – loved ones, religious, military service, mistake, just for fun. I’d add anger, celebration of an event, love of pain, and love of art. But this is generation “me” or generation “look at me” we’re talking about so permanent markings doesn’t surprise me. Does anyone else see a demand here for more laser surgeons in the future? The looming talent shortage (if you buy it) along with this trait are why conservative HR depts. scramble to update policies about appearance. No tattoos is replaced with ‘only tasteful tattoos.’ I’d like to be on that committee…]
- 1/3rd follow what’s going on in the government and public affairs. [I have to admit, they do a better job at this than I did. Government was a parent thing. Now kids have to get community hours to fulfill graduation requirements for high school. We only did community service if we got caught doing something illegal.]
- Twice as likely (than older generations) to name a family member, teacher, or mentor as hero. [I would’ve named someone famous I think. Probably some rock star. Perhaps I would’ve named a family member if I had been more close. The Jones Generation are a bunch of basement kids.]
- More comfortable with globalization and new ways of doing work. [I think so. I still thought then that it was good to have one, stable job. How long have you been in your current job? I don’t even know what my job will look like 5 years from now.]
- Top goals: fortune and fame. [I’m reminded of a cartoon: how to be a famous blogger (1) become famous, (2) become a blogger, (3) become a famous blogger. (And, accept advertising for the fortune part.)]
- Feel that educational and job opportunities are better for them today than for the previous generations but are concerned with getting into and graduating from college. [It’s not hard to get into an online college. But it often is hard to get into many f2f colleges. However, there are more and more online education opportunities every year. They are not restricted by space. I think this creates opportunities. I don’t think I dared to flunk out of college because I would’ve gotten smacked on the side of the head again. And, lost my funding. I think my generation felt the same way – that I had better opportunities then the previous generation.]
- 86% use the Internet at least occasionally (nearly all college grads do while 77% of non-college graduates do). (Gen X=91%, Baby Boomers=73%, Seniors 46%) [I do wonder though about losing the ability to think deeply. When everything is at your fingertips, why remember? What does it mean not to have to try to remember who played Jed Clampett on the Beverly Hillbillies? Or what the heck the lyrics to Led Zeppelin’s Immigrant Song were? What does that do to your brain?]
(BTW that’s Buddy Ebsen and “on we sweep with threshing oar,
Our only goal will be the western shore! Ah, ah!)
Regarding generational differences and learning, I’m really not convinced that we need to create different instructional strategies any more than we need to create different instructional strategies to address learning styles. To me, it’s an issue of individual experiences, context, and preferences.
Most people, regardless of age, want to chit chat with their friends, get a little rebellious, and share their background & interests with others. And, I think they understand that most technology might make them lazier.
While I recognize different characters and traits of a group bound by a time period in a particular part of the world, I’m not convinced generational differences mean that much when designing instruction. The fact that the net gen texts all the time so therefore needs immediate feedback doesn’t change the non-texters also might need immediate feedback. Yes, we may need to address abilities (for all learners) but I think it’s more about the need to focus on how to teach and learn. If technologies are used to make that easier and better, then we do it. In short, I’m not seeing a lot of research in this area that doesn’t suggest the entire issue of generational learning styles is hype.
I know only fellow 40+ers have hung in to the end of this post. There weren’t enough pictures for the 18 year olds ; )
You know how they are…