Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Some notions about the 'Net Gen learner'

Interesting article from the Melbourne Age writer Eric Wilson (April 5, 2005)

A culture clash between internet-savvy students and old-style education professionals is brewing.

Carol A. Barone, a fellow of non-profit IT advocate Educause and a former chancellor of IT at the University of California, believes alternative ventures targeting today's learners have already begun to succeed in traditional university markets.

"The arrival of the net generation on campus is causing unrest in the classroom," Barone says in a new book published by Educause, titled Educating the Net Generation.

"A wave of young people empowered to create knowledge, not merely absorb it, now flows in and out of the classroom - calling into question the convictions and processes that have served as the foundation of traditional higher education. It remains to be seen if traditional higher education will adjust sufficiently to truly engage the net generation."

Surprisingly, the "net gen" doesn't necessarily crave more web-based e-learning. According to the book's editors, Diana and James Oblinger, the reverse is true.

"Traditional age students often say they came to college to work with faculty and other students, not to interact with them online," they say in the book. "Older learners tend to be less interested in the social aspects of learning; convenience and flexibility are much more important."

Instead, the clash of learning styles stems from how thousands of internet hours have affected the net gen's formative years. This has influenced not so much what they think but how they think.

He is in fact referring to a book published by Educause and freely available online which talks about the 'Millennial learner' who have vastly different stules of learning.

The characteristics of traditional age (18-to-22-year-old) college students—a group sometimes called the Millennials—have been described by Howe and Strauss as individuals who:

  • Gravitate toward group activity
  • Identify with parents' values and feel close to their parents
  • Believe it's cool to be smart
  • Are fascinated by new technologies
  • Are racially and ethnically diverse; one in five has at least one immigrant parent
  • Are focused on grades and performance
  • Are busy with extracurricular activities

When asked about the biggest problem facing their generation, many respond that it is the poor example that adults set for kids.15

Individuals raised with the computer deal with information differently compared to previous cohorts: "they develop hypertext minds, they leap around."16 A linear thought process is much less common than bricolage,17 or the ability to or piece information together from multiple sources. Among other differences are their:

  • Ability to read visual images—they are intuitive visual communicators
  • Visual-spatial skills—perhaps because of their expertise with games they can integrate the virtual and physical
  • Inductive discovery—they learn better through discovery than by being told
  • Attentional deployment—they are able to shift their attention rapidly from one task to another, and may choose not to pay attention to things that don't interest them
  • Fast response time—they are able to respond quickly and expect rapid responses in return18
Well worth a read.

Exemplary Online Educators

I like this article from the Turkish Online Journal of Distance Education-TOJDE April 2005 ISSN 1302-6488 Volume :6 Number: 2 Exemplary Online Educators: Creating a Community of Inquiry

In the introduction it says;
Within most disciplines there are those who are recognized as being exceptionally competent practitioners. These people are sometimes called exceptional or exemplary. In the educational realm, students remember these individuals at the teachers who most positively influenced their learning. The commonality of these exemplary practitioners is that they do their work in a remarkable way and their teaching strategies and interpersonal interactions are regarded by their students as highly successful.

I am interested because it is to easy for online educators to just transfere huge amounts of text online and call it online learning. This article highlights the importance of good practitioners who know how to inspire and lead through online learning.

The whole article can be found at

Friday, March 11, 2005

What makes a good learner?

I'm interested in finding out what makes a good learner - focusing on the year 7-12 group. I know there is a billion pages of research written on this topic but I want to start with this article which recently caught my attention. It is a study put out by NORTHWEST REGIONAL EDUCATIONAL LABORATORY (NREL) I want to use this study as a platform to develop my ideas on student learning particularly as they apply to online and blended education.

The NREL maintains that "to understand and help students achieve the many traits characteristic of a self-directed learner, we must examine the disciplines of motivational psychology and educational psychology. Teachers, parents, administrators, and students must understand the concepts of student motivation, metacognition, self-efficacy, self-regulation, locus of control, and goal orientation. These concepts provide the foundation for a student seeking to become a self-directed learner. Although a student can become a self-directed learner without explicit instruction and development of these traits, it is more likely to occur when teachers and administrators understand and foster them at the classroom or school level (Lumsden, 1999; Renchler, 1992; Biemiller & Meichenbaum, 1992)."

They list traits as: (I have summarised these)

Student motivation: a slippery concept, in that a student may be intrinsically motivated to perform a particular task (e.g., "I want to do well on this for my own satisfaction") but extrinsically motivated to perform another (e.g., "I want to do well on this task to increase my grade point average")

Goal orientation the individual's ability to make plans and set goals, it works in conjunction with self-efficacy to increase motivation.

Self-efficacy is defined as "people's judgments of their capabilities to organize and execute courses of action required to attain designated types of performances" Self-efficacy is more specific to a task (e.g., "I can reduce fractions correctly") instead of a generalized notion of competence (e.g., "I am good at math").

Locus of control the tendency students have to ascribe achievements and failures to either internal factors that they control (effort, ability, motivation) or external factors that are beyond control (chance, luck, others' actions)." A self-directed learner would have a higher internal locus of control than an external one.

Metacognition is the ability of the student to analyze, reflect on, and understand her own cognitive and learning processes. Students who identify appropriate learning strategies in the right context are using metacognition. For example, a student may know that she has trouble picking out the main idea in a reading passage. If she has been taught a simple graphic organizer—such as webbing — to identify the main idea, and then chooses on her own to map out the passage in a web, then that student has used metacognition to complete the task. Students who are aware of their own cognitive strengths and weaknesses are more likely to be able to adjust and compensate for them.

Self-regulation is the ability of the learner to control interest, attitude, and effort toward a task or a goal. The key to self-regulation is the ability of the learner to understand the requirements of the task or goal, and then to monitor and adjust his effort without reminders, deadlines, or cues from others such as teachers, peers, or parents. A student who has a clear understanding of an academic task.

Student Choice/Responsibility

A student cannot become a self-directed learner without becoming engaged in a curriculum that allows it to happen. Here are the features that help foster self-directed learners and learning:

1. The curriculum has opportunities for student choice in the way mastery of content and subject matter is demonstrated and investigated.

2. Teachers raise awareness of students' role in their own learning

3. Educators encourage study skills, inquiry, questioning, and an atmosphere where errors are acceptable during the process of arriving at correct answers. Teachers need to be able to comfortably inhabit "a world of ambiguity."

4. Teachers provide opportunities for students to self-monitor, revise work, and reflect on their own thinking and learning processes. Journals, study groups, and critical friends' groups are just a few of the ways to achieve this in classrooms.

Project Learning/Collaboration/Rewards

1. The curriculum has a strong strand of problem-based and project-based learning. Students have opportunities to explore solutions to real-world problems and focus on innovation. Students also have opportunities to transfer conceptual knowledge to new situations.

2. Collaboration and cooperation are high. Interestingly, self-directed learners are not nurtured in isolation but where there are ample opportunities to collaborate and interact with their peers.

3. Rewards are used sparingly and when they are used, they reward achievement, perseverance, risk taking, and collaboration. Remember, rewards are part of an ethos that reinforces extrinsic motivation.

4. Teachers model the behaviors they wish students to exhibit. Teachers should model critical questioning, risk taking, and subjecting assertions and hypotheses to public scrutiny and debate. Teachers need to model the discipline it takes to really investigate complex problems and formulate possible solutions.