Monday, September 11, 2006

Are we becoming NET geners?

One of the claims about the (future) NET generation (see the work by e.g. Oblinger, Veen, Prensky) is that these youngsters are perfectly capable of using a large set of ICT tools (e.g., smartphone, laptop, mp3 player, PS2) in a multichannel fashion. At the university where I work it can be observed that more and more students have their own laptop, which they use during the time that the teacher is giving his lecture. Do they perform learning related acitivties? Well certainly not the whole time, basing myself on the number of MSN and Skype conversations that could be observed. The conference I visited last week showed a remarkable number of laptop users during the conference presentations. I was able to make several observations about what people were actually doing: writing software code and sending e-mail were the two acitivities I noticed most. Indeed, I saw one guy taking notes about the presentation! Were the others not listening, or not interested then? At least one guy was still able to pose a relevant question, even while he produced some lines of software code in the very last minutes before. So the interesting question is: are we (30+ generation) learning to become NET geners too? It seems that we are learning quickly. Nevertheless, from a cultural perspective it's still a strange phenomenon that most of your listeners look at their computer screen instead of looking at you. You don't get the non-verbal feedback about whether they understand, agree or disagree to what you are saying.

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