Generalize about generations #cck11

Just another guru?

Stephen Downes writes about The Net Generation and the Myth of Research. Stephen writes on an article of Jim Shimabukuro.

This blogpost is a comment on discussing the Net Generation, or what ever generation.  People are often discussing the new generation or the old generation. Mostly they produce at best generalizations and simplifications and sometimes (worse) they produce prejudices. (Please do not read this wrong, I do not point at Stephen or Jim or do I accuse them of this generalization).

Congresses for teachers often have these guru’s speaking of the new Net Generation. The New Net Generation is a new race, born with skills and knowledge that the audience does not know of. “The New Net Generation is able to multitasking” , is one of the things guru’s told us, and they were wrong. Multitasking is what some people do and it mainly is the reason why they do not succeed.

This guru  babble on generations is never to the point. Does not help a teacher.  A teacher has students  in the classroom, not a generation. In a generation is so much difference. All those different people of the same age belong to different groups, cultures, sub-cultures and all are individuals. “Generation” is a sociological term of little use for teaching and upbringing youth. I wonder what is the use of “generation”?

Do this blogpost and the blogpost on Leadership have connections? The guru babble on generations is an example of old style leadership: One guru to lead them all to the new grasses of wisdom.

And  this talk about generations, is it a barrier like the language barrier of Apostolos Koutropoulos ? A barrier in understanding people?

Is this generalization a way to foster (false) security?

7 thoughts on “Generalize about generations #cck11

  1. Speaking about generalizations as in “digital natives” etc pays better than speaking of specifics like the individual student who does well or fails based on known factors. Generalizations are malleable so the speaker need not account for their predictions or assertions. People deal with the real world and its daily disappointments and love it when someone comes along with an “everything will be alright” message.

    That’s why we like TED TV. Uplifting messages we need do nothing about but can all agree seem really cool–like going to church.

    Truth is, we really are at a loss as to what the hell is going happen in the world. If someone smiles and gives us an answer that sounds both positive and reasonable we melt on their hands, buy their books, attend their conferences and divert funds away from those we are mandated to serve to implement this or that ethereal notion about how children learn. And Opps! if it doesn’t work, we’ll just come up with another theory.

    I don’t think there is a barrier to understanding here. It’s easier to reduce others to generalizations than to bother getting to understand them. On the other hand, if you populate an imaginary world with people who are so clever as to support the tenants of your pet theory and never let you down, it is sort of soothing. I guess it’s a form of security to pretend we know what we are doing. To admit to not knowing makes people vulnerable.

  2. Ha Scott, thanks for comment. I really like your comment on TED TV, it gives me pleasure that I am not the only member of society who does not like that.
    I did read your post.
    I do not know whether connectivism is the real thing, I guess in the future other isms will emerge. But i like it to try to use the connectivist way of thinking to solve educational problems. Like this: What if a right wing politician tries to reform education and tries to put all teachers in front of the classroom to give ‘the old fashioned’ lessons like in the days of our grandfathers. Would that be a good idea? How to act as a teacher in that political and educational ‘back-to-the-good-old-times” policy? I only started thinking about that. How would connectivists solve this problem?

  3. Hello. I came across the trackback while following the conversation over at As one of the commenters to the post and co-authors of the research being discussed, I appreciate hearing other thoughts on how net gen generalizations may not be helpful. Rather than engage in a circular conversation with Jim, I thought it would be helpful to hear the opinions of others, and I’m glad I didn’t try to respond, since you have essentially stated a concern in this post that is one that I share. I’ve tried to explain where I think ‘generation’ breaks down as a supposedly useful label but it comes from a different practical experience than yours. Thanks for weighing in with your perspective!

  4. Hi Tanbob, T. Morgan. Thank you for this comment. about generation as a non researchable variable. Labeling something sometimes is handy, but I try never forget the label is not the thing, specially when one label has to fit all kinds of things.
    regards Jaap

  5. Hi Jaap,

    Hard to say how a modern teacher would give old fashioned lessons. Since ‘the good old days’ are a fantasy used by politicians to access people’s emotions rather than their logical brain, the teacher could connect the students with fanciful stories all day.

    I actually like the idea of bringing teachers back into the classroom. It suggests an interest in adding something back into the schools besides ever more complex tech toys to replace humans and enrich technology manufacturers. It may not be intentional but reducing the human presence and “empowering” students by abandoning them to teach themselves is going to disenfranchise a large segment of the student population.

    Humans can sabotage totalitarian messages by directing students to strategies for thinking.

    Digital Promise campaigners have tried to define technology as empowering while teachers and schools are oppressive backwards. That the interests of educational systems are only to stifle thought, uphold exhausted traditions and hold us all ransom to their needs only. What sort of empowerment can come from a culture that abandons its children to learn from robots? How does that reflect a caring attitude towards the next generation?

    I’ve had bad teachers and good teachers and I’d take the bad ones 100% over studying alone with “interactive” software I know is a clever machine–nothing more than that.

    This is a good question. Thanks!


  6. Ha Scott, machines could teach, but I mostly do prefer human teachers. The robot-teacher-people, the techy-learining people do want to teach at low cost and, may be you are right, to rule with robots without human interfering. Learning is connecting, with emotions and feeling and humans can do that very good.

  7. Hey Jaap,
    With so many people in the world it does seem silly to build robots to replicate humans that come already loaded with appropriate teaching software. Why not build things we don’t have like unicorns?


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