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Monday, July 29, 2013

What is wrong with Today's Youth? (or how an old dude can relate)

In my years as a teacher there was a constant strain felt between the students and the staff. Not the kind that you may be thinking about, though the traditional strain will always be there. This strain was between the youth, the Millennials as some call them, and the teachers of the Boomer generation, even some from the generation before that. The strain was with technology.

As some of you may know, I was part of the technology guidance committee for the schools I worked at, and this strain was present even there. I would be able to retire if I had a $10 every time I heard a technology teacher say they did not want their students using spell check. There were teachers who could not understand email. There were those who required only books on research reports.

You might ask yourself, why is this important, what is wrong with the old ways? There is an interesting article on the Future of Talent Institute's blog about the learning of generation Y. In short this generation has always been connected. Spell check and Wikipedia are a natural part of their lives. They will find the answer to any question they are given. Today it is not necessary to know everything off the top of your head, the skill lies in finding the true answer among a sea of noise.

As I write this my children are watching "Elmo's World." Elmo wants to know more about cameras. So what does he do first? He goes online and watches a video on the history of the camera. Only after learning all he can online and realizing he wants to know more does he find an expert (in this case it was a talking camera). This is the essence of the new learning landscape.

The challenge then is how to bring this into the business world. At a presentation given by Kevin Wheeler from Future of Talent he mentioned that in the current training environment we encounter all three generations, Baby Boomer, Generation X and Generation Y. We need to meet the needs of all of them. How best to do this?

My belief is that blended learning, of a sort is the answer. Generation Y, and to a certain extent Generation X (my generation) value options in learning. By presenting the information in a way that can be done in a classroom or online, or both, the learner can choose. There are of course exceptions, you cannot teach how to use a tool except to use the tool.

Options and choice, within limits, are the best way to provide meaningful training. This is not the cheapest option, WBTs are expensive, and repeating effort for both ILT and WBT can run up the bill quickly. But, on the whole, the end result can be effective.