I’ve just come across something Brandon Hall researcher Janet Clarey blogged the other week about research into the new ‘received wisdom’ about the different generations and their attitudes to learning, and in particular about how learning should be designed for them,
She concludes that there’s no solid research supporting the contention that learning has to be designed differently for ‘boomers’ and ‘Gen X or Y’; that the digital immigrant/native distinction, while it opened a new window on the situation, shouldn’t be allowed to set up a false dichotomy, and that there are too many factors at work to allow us to say there are ‘generational learning styles’ – factors like workplace culture, one’s stage in life, one’s exposure to technology and other socio-cultural differences.
I instantly related this to the feeling I get in the morning when I switch from reading elearning blogs, where I get my learning, to booting up my firewall-protected, IT-controlled work laptop to get my work email. In one world, everyone slideshares, blogs, twitters, and works on (or at least talks about) collaborative learning. In the other, many people aren’t even aware we have elearning, for many their only exposure to it is multiple choice online compliance tests, and those who discover it and like it say things like ‘I like the way you can just go back to a previous page if you haven’t understood something, and it asks you questions and says something different depending on how you answer’. Whether it’s workplace culture or technical exposure I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem to bear much relationship to birth date. I suspect that most of the people whose blogs I read, whom I regard as more technologically and 2.0 savvy than me, won’t see 40 again. Some of the people who made comments like the one about elearning at my work were in their early 20s. They’d used Google and seen YouTube but that was it.
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I don’t mean to pooh-pooh the whole Gen X and Y idea, it just chimed that the picture wasn’t that simple; I need to be ready with the wet blanket for when the HR people here start chasing the bandwagon and saying we need to design this differently for these people because they’re under 25. The responsibilities of being a dour Scot.
Here’s the presentation from Janet’s page: