Teaching Professors to Read

Will Richardson in his post alerted me to the Innovate article by Mark Mabrito and Rebecca Medley entitled ‘Why Professor Johnny Can’t Read: Understanding the Net Generation’s Texts’. [Registration is needed to read the full article.] The abstract includes:

[the authors] explore the nature of Net-Generation texts as a reflection of the cognitive differences between this generation’s students and their older instructors, discuss the unique challenges this group of learners may present for instructors who do not share their technological immersion, and suggest the means by which such challenges may be overcome.

Mabrito and Medley highlight the problem further (echoing the quote chosen by Richardson):

…while N-Gens interact with the world through multimedia, online social networking, and routine multitasking, their professors tend to approach learning linearly, one task at a time, and as an individual activity that is centered largely around printed text…Not having been raised in the world of the N-Gen student, then, presents some significant challenges for faculty members who must attempt to address the needs of a learning style they have never experienced, may know little about, and may be unable to comprehend fully because of their different skills in processing information.

Out of few more fanciful ideas one of the ‘solutions’ offered is:

…faculty members must spend time in the learning spaces of N-Gen students in order to develop an understanding of how N-Gen literacies and learning styles develop. We need to experience these learning spaces as learners before we can understand how to use them as teachers.

The authors add a rider that institutional support is needed to aid the instructor in exploiting the new type of learning space. I am happy to see my institution taking a lead here with the introduction of a pod room that will allow the creation of just the new type of learning space.

First, though, faculty must experience the N-Gens online world and the tools that drive it – a big ask.

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About Michael Rees
Academic in IT interested in Web 2.0 and social media

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