Generation X & Y Learners

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Generational differences impact many areas of society, but one area where differences are perhaps most visible is within the educational system. People from multiple generations often have differing opinions based on their own generation's culture regarding how information should be shared in educational environments, both in terms of who should be teaching and how information should be delivered. Teachers often teach based on what worked best for them, and what worked best is often a trait of their generation, rather than something based on their success as a teacher (“Generations”). Cultural issues with different generations can even influence the amount of money spent on educational programs. Cultural differences within multi-generational environments can also play a role in how students learn and impact teaching style.

With the increased use of technology and a student body who are extremely technologically literate, schools need to emphasize technology in education. However, most educators are in Generation X or are Baby Boomers nearing retirement - having been educated long before there were iPads. These educators are often relying on teaching methods that were appropriate for their generations but may not have the knowledge or information to address the dynamic needs of the current generation, Generation Y (Oblinger, 2004). Generation Y students are creative and communicative and are often looking for ways to expand their knowledge base (“Generations”). However, while people within Generation Y make up the entirety of the student body, those in Generation X, Baby Boomers, and older generations are the groups making most decisions regarding financing for school programs through voting (Poterba, 1997). Given that the majority of those making voting decisions are typically considering their interests, funding for new technology is not often viewed as a priority by older generations (Poterba, 1997). This is one example of a cultural difference (technological savvy) between generations that has a major impact on education.

Though Generation Y high school students express an interest in greater access to technology, more fluid schedules and the ability to contribute their opinions on school-wide issues (“Generations”), there is a gap in research in terms of how to best implement those changes within school systems. Further research on the impact of hybrid (on-line and physical school-based) programs would help to educate Generation X and Baby Boomers on the functionality and benefits of increasing technology while allowing Generation Y students to apply their skill sets and knowledge base in a way that would encourage them to participate more in their educational environments. Students and teachers would also have some flexibility in their schedules and the ability to study subjects from multiple perspectives, rather than just based on a single textbook.

To solve the problem of cultural gaps in education between generations, education in technology and the use of tax dollars to further that cause must be increased. Previous studies have not addressed how to effectively train staff and update their knowledge base on new technologies that can be beneficial in the classroom. They have also not addressed how students could be involved in decision-making processes. What is known about Generation Y students is that they feel more attached to their educational environments when they can share their ideas and collaborate with peers and teachers. By increasing teacher education in areas of technology and expanding lesson plans to include group activities and collaboration with other teachers, along with encouraging student involvement, cultural differences that have caused poor learning outcomes could be reduced. Research dedicated to hybrid programs and geared towards educating teaching staff on how to create and implement the programs, would encourage new opportunities for learning and growth, with teaching staff and administration, as well as with students.

References

Oblinger, D. (2004). The next generation of educational engagement. Journal of Interactive Media in Education, 8. Retrieved from http://jime.open.ac.uk/jime/article/viewArticle/2004-8-oblinger/198

Poterba, J. M. (1997). Demographic structure and the political economy of public education. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, 16(1), 48-66.

Sollah Interactive, LLC. (n.d.). Generations. Retrieved April 8, 2014, from http://sollah.com/white-papers/generations/