I was doing some research on teaching and distance learning when the obvious question came up: How do adults learn? Compared to lets say 20 years ago, are they learning in different ways now? Do they master different skill sets?
The answer was an eye opener. My first real shock was to learn that the previous generation (at least up to 1980) was called the Boomers, but the youngsters applying for jobs today are called Gamers. They grew up with Windows and game consoles. They don’t do e-mail or radio programs or billboard ads. However they play games, lots of it. They are impatient and want their stuff when they want it, not when it might appear on TV interspersed with advertising. The Guardian published this article “How Teenagers Consume Media: the report that shook the City” and it is compelling reading, besides having shaken the Bank off its high chairs. Provocative new data show that video games have created a new generation of employees and executives – bigger than the baby boom – that will dramatically transform the workplace.
So, how do the youngsters learn? What will work for them? What can we as greybeards offer to help the transfer of knowledge?
For one thing they were born with one finger on a keyboard and a mobile phone stuck to their ears, so they will expect their learning to be carried over those media paths. The Australians did some research at the University of Wollongong and it shows clearly that mobile technologies can open new ways of teaching and learning.
And while we as Boomers were fascinated by the invention of new technologies, Pedagogy will overtake Technology as the main focus of todays learners. Most of them have never known a time without games and they accept that technology can do everything that they want.
Boomers grew up with weekly or monthly newspapers, chalk-and-talk classrooms and fixed line telephones. I suppose Virtual Classrooms and virtual learning tools will soon be as free as e-mails, social networking, social bookmarking, file sharing, chatting, wikis, blogging, Skype or uploading videos.
Perhaps it is time to make room for Gamers in my classrooms.