The Net Generation:
Throughout history, numerous names were assigned to various generations of Americans. The titling of the generations was reflective of the time and the culture of that particular era. In a recent presentation, Merritt (2002) used the following labels in the box on the left for generations over the last hundred years. Other labels and slightly different time frames are used by others. There was the "greatest generation" signified by the heroic acts of patriotism and their defense of democracy. The "baby boom" generation, was born between 1946 and 1964, and was considered by many to be the "TV generation".
This new generation has many labels such as the:
Each label attempts to describe the cultural values and characteristics that represent the children of today.
I prefer to use Tapscott’s (1998) term, Net Generation. His early writings certainly influenced my thoughts on the implications of the Net generation on nursing education and practice. According to Tapscott (1998), the N-Geners refers to the "generation of children who, in 1999, were between the ages of two and twenty-two" (p. 3). This generation has grown up in a digital world. They are different from other generations in that their lives are surrounded by digital media (Tapscott, 1998). Let’s start to examine this generation by looking at the sheer numbers and the demographic information available on them.
In this chapter of the Living Book you will:
STATISTICS ON THE NET GENERATION
A quick look at the US Census data indicates that a total of 25.7% of the total population, roughly 70 million are under the age of 18 years old with another 7.8 million between the ages of 18 and 24 years old. You can easily look at the statistics of your state and the surrounding region at this US Census government web site.
Go to the website below:
Look up the number of N-Geners in your state and enter it into the box below.
The number of N-Gen students in my state is:
Consider these questions…
If you wish, type your responses in the box below.
THE NET GENERATION AND THE INTERNET
To further understand about this generation, let us look at some statistics about this group and the Internet. There are numerous surveys and sites to read about youth and the Internet. Here is a sampling from a 2001 study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life group. They estimated that approximately 17 million or 73% of youths between the ages of 12 and 17 use the Internet. For teenagers, the Internet is a way of life. It plays a major role in their relationships with family, friends and school. Internet usage includes the use of instant messaging (IM). Close to 13 million or 74% of the online teens use IM as a major communication vehicle. IM is used not only to chat with friends but as a mechanism for communicating unpleasant things to friends or starting/ending relationships. As a contrast, IM is only used by 44% of online adults.
In the newest Department of Commerce study (Victory & Cooper, February 2002), A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet, 89.5 % of all school-aged children (between the ages of 5 and 17) use computers and 58.5% of them use the Internet. Internet usage increases with age and more that 75.6 % of 14-17 year olds use the Internet. A striking finding is that 14.3% of children between the ages of 3-4 years old have reported use of the Internet. According to this study, the digital generation uses the Internet for completing homework assignments, playing games and communicating. The older the child, the more likely the Internet is being used as a communication device.
One particular web site, Cyberatlas, contains numerous reports about Internet usage especially by our nation's youth. In one web article, Web as a way of life, Robyn Greenspan (May 21, 2002) stated that:
There is no doubt that the Net generation accesses computers and uses the Internet. The current wireless or mobile rage only serves to complicate their technical prowess. In another recent study presented by Brent Marcus on the Digitrends web site, young adults, aged 10-24, labeled as the Y generation are the fastest growing market for wireless and data services in the USA over the next few years. The research group, Cahners In-Stat, predicts that the youth wireless subscribers will reach 43 million by 2004. Not only will this generation be using computers and the Internet, they will be doing it in real time with their wireless devices.
GOALS OF THIS CHAPTER
To provide the broadest context for this generation, no matter the name or label, this chapter reviews several key articles in an attempt to describe this generation. This chapter serves two fundamental goals. The first is to present the major characteristics of this generation and summarize how this generation plays, learns and works in society. The second goal is to highlight the major impacts of the net generation on nursing education and practice.
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE NET GENERATION
Let’s start with the groundbreaking work of Tapscott (1998) in his book, Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. In this work, Tapscott worked with a research team who collaborated with hundreds of children across six continents. This research was conducted using a shared digital workspace and the Internet. Tapscott (1998) did not want to use the Y generation label as he found it too diffuse and wanted to find a positive label that truly reflected the power of the demographics and the power of the digital media. Here is what Tapscott's research team found.
The most notable observation was that technology and the world of digital media are "like air" (Tapscott, 1998), something that just exists. Perhaps Alan Kay in 1994 best described it…"technology is technology only for people who were born before it was invented." (as cited in Tapscott, 1996, p.17). As John Seely Brown stated " the role of the child in the family is changing and in many households the child is the authority when it comes to technology" (as cited in Tapscott, 1998, p.36). At the heart of this generation is the notion of interactivity…it is not a passive generation but one that fully expects to interact and be part of their culture. Accordingly, ten themes emerged to describe the N-Gener's culture. These may be found at:
Emotional and intellectual openness
Free expression and strong views
Preoccupation with maturity
Sensitivity to corporate interest
Authentication and trust
Think about an N-Gener that you know. Perhaps you have a child of this generation… or a niece or nephew…or a neighbor?
Think about Tapscott’s themes and fill in examples of behaviors that illustrate each theme in the table below.
Tapscott further described that the N-Geners want learning to be engaging and exciting. The N-Geners live in a global networked knowledge-based society. They view learning as interactive and participatory. They are more likely to be involved in discourse with others including the teacher than to be listening to the teacher spout facts and figures. Connectivity and social learning are keys in the world of N-Geners. They like to research a topic, inform each other, and construct their ideas from their research and within the context of their own experiences. They are interacting, debating, brainstorming and influencing each other in the learning process. Given these characteristics and learning processes, Tapscott postulated there are eight consequences of the N-Geners shift from the traditional broadcast method of teaching to this interactive learning model. The following table highlights these shifts.
Read about The New Teacher. Consider each of the following questions and type your responses in the boxes below them. Use the link below:
Consider each of the following questions and type your responses in the boxes below them.
How does Richard Ford’s view compare to your own? Describe ways in which it is similar and different:
Ford describes his learning model as a place where "everyone relies on their own resources, and on everyone else, sharing their expertise."
List one or two examples of approaches that you could use to implement such a model in a course that you teach.
The notion of play is also a distinguishing characteristic of this Net generation. Play, according to Tapscott (1998) is productive and tied to technology. Play and learning become intermingled. For Tapscott and John Seely Brown, play is an important and overlooked function in promoting creativity. Video gaming, playing in MUDs (Multi-user dimensions or dungeons), chat rooms and e-pals are all a part of learning and entertainment. To learn more about Tapscott's views of play, you can visit his web site bu clicking on the button below:
CONSUMERISM AND THE NET GENERATION
The net generation is also distinguished from other generations by their purchasing power. Teens spent their own money to purchase many products. According to Tapscott (1998), these five themes illustrate the N-Geners as consumers:
For more information on the N-Geners as consumers, you can visit the following web site:
Consumerism is an important factor in the culture of the Net generation. Again it serves as a distinguishing characteristic. In Merritt's (2002) recent talk, he highlighted that the current Y generation teens are enormous consumers. Merritt cited Teenage Research Unlimited (2000) data to indicate the following trends: Teens spend 155 billion dollars a year with an average weekly spending of $84, of which 57 dollars is their own money; Two thirds have savings accounts while 22% have checking accounts; A smaller percentage (18%) owns stocks & bonds and has mutual funds (8%).
It is important to consider the Net generation and their relationship to consumerism as it will play an ever increasingly important role in their selection of higher education opportunities and how they will act as a health care consumer…one that you may care for in the hospital or as an advanced practice nurse in a clinic or community setting.
LEARNING CHARACTERISTICS OF NET GENERS
Now let us look at other corroborative research about this generation. John Seely Brown (2000) described today's youth as digital learners. Brown and colleagues at Xerox PARC invited adolescents to their work place to observe them as they created workspaces for the future. From their observations, these digital learners were distinguished from other generations by the following characteristics:
Bias toward action
Consider whether you are you a digital learner. Fill in the Table.
The issue is not whether you are a digital learner. The real message is that you need to be aware of what kind of learner you are, and then think about how you approach learners whose learning style does not match your own. There has been much written about this topic…enough for another chapter! For now just think about the following and type some ideas that will help you plan new strategies to incorporate into your teaching activities.
How does your rating as a digital learner influence your teaching?
Is your style of teaching effective with students
who do not match your style?
FRAND’S TEN ATTRIBUTES OF THE INFORMATION-AGE MINDSET
Category I: Broad Observations of Change
The first Category relates to broad observations of change.
Category II: How People Do Things
The second category focuses on how people do things.
Category III: Subliminal Needs Conditioned by the Cyberage
Frand (2000) categorizes the last three attributes as subliminal needs conditioned by the cyberage.
Consider this case study…
Sharon Webber is a 20-year-old student in her junior year of a generic baccalaureate nursing program. Her GPA is 3.5. While reading a paper that she has submitted as part of your course requirements, you recognize that she has copied several paragraphs verbatim from a website that you assigned. There are no quotes or footnotes, but the URL of the website is included in the bibliography. This paper contributes 30% to the Sharon’s final grade.
How would you deal with this? Type your response in the box below.
Consider where your answer would come on the continuum of responses below: Check the appropriate box to place your answer.
Are you aware that your peers may hold very different views than your own on this matter, including acceptance of this practice?
Let’s assume that you consider what Sharon
did to be plagiarism and decide to take further action. You send a message
to Sharon, asking her to meet with you. When she arrives, you point out
the paragraphs in her paper that are verbatim from the website and ask
if she understands that this is considered plagiarism. Sharon shows genuine
surprise when she says, "What, are you saying you think I cheated?
No way! I only used two or three paragraphs from a really long document
that’s on a free website. It was easy to cut and paste the text
using my web tools. Most of what is in there is my own opinion. Besides,
look here. I referenced the website in my bibliography so you would know
the sources I used. I wasn’t trying to hide anything. Honest, I
would never cheat!"
In a recent talk, Merritt (2002) confirmed many of the same attributes mentioned by previous authors.
Merritt referred to the 75 + million youth of today as the "Y generation." Merritt (2002) reiterated that this generation are doers, tremendous consumers, and technology veterans. In support of the technology veteran status, he mentioned several marketing research firms who have confirmed that this generation is comfortable in the use of technology and have thoroughly integrated it into their lives. He gave the example that it is predicted that by 2005, 70% of this generation will own wireless phones. Yankee Group Research is cited at:
His data on computer and Internet usage is further corroborated by recent studies conducted by Harris Interactive and a joint study conducted by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Economic and Statistics Administration of the Department of Commerce (Victory & Cooper, February, 2002). The latter study, A Nation Online: How Americans Are Expanding Their Use of the Internet confirms that children, above all other age groups, have embraced computers and the internet as a daily part of their lives.
The study confirms "the pattern of Internet usage has become integrated into daily routines, which involve school, entertainment, communication and play" (Victory & Cooper, February 2002, p. 59). In addition, Merritt (2002) highlights two other characteristics not previously mentioned. The first is their relationship with their parents. There is a strong influence and bond between the Y generation and their parents. The second is the diversity of this generation. According to Merritt (2002), the Y generation is sensitive to the issue of diversity and how society will embrace and foster this diversity.
NET GENERATION CHARACTERISTICS REVIEW
Therefore, based on the corroborative evidence, the Net generation is one that is signified by the following characteristics:
First and foremost, the Net generation does not consider computers, any digital devices such as cameras, PDAs or other sundry wireless devices as TECHNOLOGY. This is a striking contrast from the over 40-year-old generation who view everything as technology (complicated technologies) including the near-extinct VCR.
Second, connectivity and interactivity are two key elements in the way they learn, play and communicate. These elements are integral to the way they live their lives. The Net generation lives in the anytime, anyplace world of 24 by 7 by 365 (i.e. a global orientation). They need to be connected and need to interact with their world by communicating, searching for information, discovering knowledge and inter-mingling the worlds of play and school. They are "do-ers" with a bias toward action. It is the Nintendo Logic that drives their need to interact.
Consider how important it is for you to "stay connected" throughout your typical day.
How many communication devices do you use on a regular basis?
The next time you are walking along in a crowded area take note of how many people are using cell phones. How old are they? Do you think they are using them for business or personal reasons?
Let’s continue with the characteristics of the Net generation.
Third, they are multi-taskers. They are not distracted by multimedia. They truly can listen to music, read a homework assignment online, send an IM and answer their mother's question, all simultaneously. As many have said, they have the attention span of a gnat.
Fourth, they live in an immediate world and have little tolerance for delays. Their expectations and need for immediate responses far exceed our needs as adults. They want a short quick response on e-mail and cannot understand why it takes so long…after all isn’t everyone hard-wired like they are?
Fifth, their sense of reality and the blurring of owner, creator and user of information are important factors in their digital view of the world. Their reality may include multiple identities and accessible information is theirs for the taking. They are certainly more comfortable in the reality of virtual life.
Sixth, their method of learning is based on knowledge construction rather than instruction. They are active learners, creating their knowledge by interacting and participating. They are not listeners but are communicators. They learn through experimentation and by collaborating with others. They do not use linear learning as they are products of the hypermedia generation. They epitomize lifelong learners.
And above all they are comfortable with change and the uncertainty that characterizes their change-driven world.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSE EDUCATORS
So given this information about our potential customers, what implications does this have on nursing education and practice. Perhaps Tapscott (1998) best says it in the following quote
"We need to pay attention to the culture which
flows from the N-Geners' experiences with technology as it predicts the
future citizens, learners, workers and leaders of tomorrow"
Become more comfortable with technology
To start, educators need to become more comfortable with technology and learn how to incorporate technology into their teaching. Most educators are from the industrial-age when computers were considered complex, difficult tools that were not part of our standard teaching repertoire. Taking online courses and experiencing the N-Geners world is a good beginning to understand their culture of connectivity and interactivity. John Seely Brown and associates at Xerox Parc hired adolescents to help them create the office workspace of the future. This cutting edge proposition provided them with a host of innovative ideas. Perhaps we need to bring our adolescents into nursing school and ask them what they would do differently.
Consider the suggestion of inviting adolescents to examine your nursing program and share innovative ideas. Do you believe this would be a meaningful pursuit? Would your faculty and administration be receptive to this approach for exploring change?
Type your answers below:
Rethink teaching-learning methods
A second step is to begin to rethink our teaching-learning methods. We do not need to make subtle changes, we need transformational changes. As educators we need to shift to a learner-centric model as suggested by (Tapscott, 1998.; Tapscott, 1999). This model will allow N-Geners to be full, active participants in the learning process. As educators we need to shift from the broadcast model (lecturing and focusing on facts) to a model that promotes knowledge construction and discovery (Brown, 2000). Establishing communities of practices is one method suggested by Brown (2000) to accommodate the N-Geners. We need to rethink our academic requirements and our measures of performance. Educators need to engage N-Geners in a highly interactive and connected learning environment. Educators need to foster collaborative learning and learn how to be the coach or guide rather than a sole disseminator of knowledge. As educators we need to recognize that multitasking is a reality and students are capable of learning in this multitasking process. We will need to design strategies to deal with the immediacy factor. As educators, we will have to find coping strategies to live in our change-driven world.
Seek a balance to meet needs of N-Geners and students of other generations
Now here's the challenge that Stephen Merritt (2002) posed and it will serve to further complicate this transformation of nursing education. He poses that nurse educators must seek a balance to meet the challenges of both the N-Geners and the equally growing number of non-traditional students who are returning to nursing school. Merritt (2002) provides excellent suggestions on meeting both the academic and administrative challenges for both groups of students. It is interesting to note that he still advocates for the transformation of nursing education and customizing educational opportunities. There is no doubt that he believes higher education can meet these challenges and that nursing education is also ready for the challenge
To take these steps to transform, nursing education will require individual faculty to serve as catalysts in their schools of nursing and guide other faculty on this journey. Nursing leaders, particularly educational administrators, need to step up to the challenge. They need to support the faculty catalysts and provide forums for healthy dialogues. Professional organizations, such as the National League for Nursing, need to support and nurture these pioneers. We, as a profession, need to create a critical mass of educators who are willing to transform nursing education.
Click on the button below to visit netheadkids.com.
What do you think of the opening screen? Would it appeal to older generations? Click through a few of the activities.
Next, click on the button below to go to another website called netheadSeniors.com.
How is this page different?
Think about how you might present learning activities on a web page to appeal to students who span several generations.
I would recommend reading the following books and articles as a beginning. Share them with your colleagues and begin to integrate some of their ideas in your classes. In addition to Tapscott's (1998) book on Growing up Digital, I would also read Tapscott's (1999) article in Educational Leadership. I would also recommend Jamie McKenzie's (1999) article on Grazing the Net: Raising a Generation of Free Range Students. Although it is not focused on higher education, it is an insightful article with many suggestions for transformational teaching strategies. I would also suggest John Seely Brown's (2000) article that presents a model using the web as a community of practices. And for good measure I would read John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid's (2000) book on The Social Life of Information. It will help transform the way you think about information.
IMPLICATIONS FOR NURSING PRACTICE
But our work is not yet done as we also need to rethink our nursing practice. Unless you are within 5 years of retirement, you will be encountering the Net generation in your nursing practice. It will not matter if you are in a hospital, in a clinic or in the community, these 70 million customers will be at your door before your know it. As you can see from their characteristics, it will be a group of empowered consumers who will give new meaning to word, empower. Again, remember this is a group who embraces technology. It believes that health care, like education, is in the dark ages when it comes to technological usage.
In case you are not convinced that this is an equally important area for nurses to address, check out the audio-cast provided on the MSN.COM web site with a series of physicians talking about the Net Generation and their use of the Internet. You can listen to experts discussing the pros and cons of our health-information age by clicking on the button below.
A recent article by Debra Cascardo (2002) is an excellent synopsis of what the Net Geners will be like as patients. Her article talks about getting ready for the new generation of savvy patients. Here is what she says to expect from this Gen Y patient population.
(Note: If you choose to go to Medscape and read the Cascardo article, you will be prompted to register. Registration only takes a few minutes and there is no charge to register.)
These patients will
Cascardo has identified expectations of N-Geners that reflect the Net generation themes of Interactivity, Connectivity, Knowledge Construction, and Immediacy . Match Cascardo's expectations to the appropriate themes. If you choose the wrong box, click on the Reset Checkbox button.
Click below to see our comparison:
Cascardo (2002) also outlined what your Gen Y patient will want to know and suggested you might want to maintain an interactive Web site that demonstrates your technological savvy. This interactive web site should contain the following features:
(Note: If you choose to go to Medscape and read the Cascardo article, you will be prompted to register. Registration only takes a few minutes and there is no charge to register.)
There is no doubt in her mind that these Net savvy patients are only a few years away from knocking on your clinic doors.
Consider what your educational program teaches students about the characteristics and expectations of patients. Are your students ready to meet the needs of N-Geners? What learning experiences would assist your students to prepare for this generation of healthcare consumers?
Type your thoughts below:
In our ever-changing world, we are faced with many challenges. In nursing education and practice, we are facing one of the biggest challenges - how to transform nursing education and practice for the N-Geners. We as a profession can no longer tweak and make minor changes, we need to make transformational changes. As Tim Porter-O'Grady (2001) has suggested, "It is only in the demise of the industrial models of nursing work where space will be made for the emerging requirements of a new practice arena." I would concur and take it a step farther to suggest that nursing education needs to sever its ties with an industrial broadcast model of teaching.
The author of this chapter has called for the transformation of nursing education. Consider what you could do to contribute to this transformation
The references are located on a separate page.
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