Friday, August 16, 2013

Digital Natives Go to College - a Baby Boomer Reflects

Most of this year's Leaving Certificate students were born in 1995, also the year that Web browsers were first introduced to the then very basic and small World Wide Web. So - all their lives, these students have been browsing the web, they can only know a world without browsing the web from the history books. They are the first generation of real Digital Natives (a term first used by Marc Prensky in 2001) to go to College. When I was 18 it was 1977 and I had never seen a computer in my life. The only computers that I knew about were the ones on TV programmes like Star Trek, I wonder what's ahead for the children of 1995?

A Digital Native.
Image Source: Psychology Today.
I suppose the first thing is that going to College will not be that much different for the 1995s than for the 1994s. Nevertheless, they will enter institutions far more technically advanced than in my generation. Some things will be the same. Lectures will still be delivered in lecture theatres by a lecturer standing in front of a class who talks for 50 minutes. And of course the lecturers are almost all born well before 1995 (1959 in my case) - these are what Prensky called the "Digital Immigrants". Throw in the Generation Gap (between today's Generation Z, and the Baby Boomers in my case). This is a problem without a solution. Now there is nothing I can do about my age, so even if I pierce my nose, pull on a hoodie, wear the arse of my trousers down at my knees, I will never be able to close the Generation Gap. Let's not forget, today's young people are tomorrow's old people - this gap will always be there. Their turn to look at the generation gap from the other side will come!

The technology gap can be narrowed. During my recent holidays I listened to talk radio a lot and I was surprised to hear many people worrying about what their children are doing on the Internet, and at the same time moaning that they "don't know anything about computers". Well LEARN! It's not rocket science, and it is people's own responsibility to keep up with technology. Take a course, there are a lot of free on-line courses available. For our seniors there are the wonderful (free) Age Action Getting Started with Computing programmes for the over-55s.

For today's new College entrants, the world could be a very different place in the four short years until they graduate. They may get jobs in companies that do not exist today, or use technologies that have not yet been invented. Even the job that they do might not yet exist. This Baby Boomer (someone born between 1945 and 1960) is very envious of them, but wishes all new entrants to College the best of luck.

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