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Digital natives - almost

By Murray Bourne, 29 Dec 2007

I recently attended the International Conference on Educational Technology in Singapore.

I noticed these 2 guys early in the conference. During each keynote speech, they were quite immersed in Facebook - sending each other messages and photos, or leaning across and showing each other some interesting/fun item.

The significance? The participants at the conference were all teachers or lecturers - the very same people who probably insist that students close laptops, turn off mobile phones, stop playing with PSPs and the like, while their lecture is going on.

I have often made the following point during training. If you put a laptop in front of participants (students or lecturers) and then expect them to concentrate while someone is giving a talk, then forget it. It doesn't happen. The participants will concentrate on the laptop, of course, since it provides them with an engaging environment (something that most talks do not).

The solution? Re-design the lecture (and keynote) to involve intelligent use of the laptop by participants, to enhance the learning event. Don't expect people to listen for hours - that is becoming a non-existent skill.

Footnote: Why do I call these guys "almost" digital natives? Well, their ages are late 20s, so they miss out on having grown up completely in an Internet-based world. But they have certainly embraced it.

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