Introducing the Neomillennials

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So what is this: Neomillennials – a new term for a new year?

This morning I listened to a podcast by Jarrret Cummings of Educause in which he interviews Chris Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, on some of the ideas behind his upcoming keynote address at the 2007 ELI Annual Meeting. Dede’s topic will be “Emerging Educational Technologies and Neomillennial Learning Styles.”

In this discussion, Dede explains the concept and key characteristics of “neomillennials.” He also highlights the transformative effect of emerging immersive learning environments on higher education pedagogy and discusses the importance of faculty development in relation to these developments.

My initial scepticism turned to genuine interest as I listened to the podcast. Dede presents a compelling case for his notion of neomillennials, arguing that the thing that distinguishes this group is the way they use media in their lives, and the way that this influences and changes their preferences, their strengths and their styles in terms of learning – and because it is media-based, it is not dependent on age. This is good news for me, as a classic “baby Boomer”, I’ve often struggled with the ageist typecast of the notion of the digital immigrantand digital natives.

For me, Dede takes the whole area of thinking about the impact of media on learning a step further than what has been popularised so far. He focuses on learners’ use of a wide range of media – not just the net, and argues that we need to be especially looking at the emergence of interactive media that fosters immersive, collaborative simulation (including things such as MySpace, MMOGs etc).

I particularly like his argument that we need to be focusing on a change of pedagogy in order to realise the potential of these technologies for learning (particularly in formal learning contexts) – his metaphor of “technology is not like fire” will resonate with many.

I don’t want to spoil the message –listen to it yourself. While it is presented as a message targeted at the tertiary (higher ed) sector, the main points of the message apply to our endeavours at all levels of the education system.

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