Written by Dr. Greg Williams, Director of the Instructional Systems Development program at UMBC.
I recently read an article on Smart Blog on Education by Mike Fisher called “Snapshot of a Modern Learner”.The author describes how a young learner named Santos approaches his own learning. Technology is an important tool that helps this student learn. How he uses technology may come as a surprise to some people, especially those over the age of 40. He uses it to find information, communicate with his friends, play games, listen to music and more. To him, using technology is part of his life. So why should his education be any different?
However, there is a problem. While his teachers look at technology as an event, Santos looks at it as part of his life. Most of his teachers do not use technology at all, or in a very limited way. He gets frustrated using textbooks that will not allow him to click pictures or icons for more information when he wants it. Even though he is a high school student, he exhibits many characteristics of a self-directed “adult learner”. He wants to find information when he needs it, connect with his classmates on his own schedule, and learn about things that are meaningful to him.
Santos is not unique for people in the same age group. For example, my graduate assistant is learning Apple’s Final Cut X software. She has never taken a course in it. When she encounters something she doesn’t know how to do, she looks it up online in an online users’ group. In her view, taking an entire class would be a waste of her time and money. Her learning is based on a just-in-time approach, rather than a just-in-case approach.
Instructional designers know that analysis is a big part of designing learning. Part of that analysis includes examining the behaviors, learning preferences and competencies of learners. If we don’t understand how the younger generation lives, then it will be very difficult to understand how they learn. The Santos of today will be your employee of tomorrow.
If you are involved in the design or delivery of learning, I encourage you to read Mike Fisher’s entire article.