In a report titled “Educating the Net Generation”, Diana Oblinger writes:

“Digital Natives accustomed to the twitch-speed, multitasking, random-access, graphics-first, active, connected, fun, fantasy, quick-payoff world of their video games, MTV, and Internet are bored by most of today’s education, well-meaning as it may be. ” (Read More…)

There will always be people who say it’s the fault of students. If they focussed more, they wouldn’t be bored.

And while there certainly is some truth in that, there may also be a need to update our whole educational approach.

Being an Educator doesn’t mean being Dry As A Bone

There is a common misconception that education is so infinitely passive that if it doesn’t lull you to sleep it’s not the real deal.

If you’re actively having fun and enjoying yourself that can’t possible be learning, or can it?

Real adults “hit the books” and suffer through endless nights of “serious studying”. Right?

No pain, no game. This is what we’ve been told.

And it might be terribly wrong, as the new generation shows us.

I want it all! I want it Now!

What I dubbed here “F-5 Generation” doesn’t describe a certain range of age but an attitude, although you could probably nail it on a time-line if you’re so inclined. (It generally appears more with younger people, especially Digital Natives)

It’s a mindset modeled after and influenced by video-games, television and of course Internet media, F-5 being the key that reloads a webpage and which is often excessively used.

I use this this term “F-5 Generation” here to describe an approach to life.

In its positive aspect it means:

  • preferring action to passivity
  • desire to reach results fast

In its negative form it can be understood as:

  • not being able to focus
  • inability to follow long-term goals

Marshmallows & Jumping To Conclusions

Now, there is that famous experiment with the marshmallows.

Kids were left alone in a room with a marshmallow and told if they’d keep their hands off it for 15 minutes they’d get another one.

It was then concluded from this experiment that kids who were able to “delay gratification” proved to score higher in their SAT tests later in life and therefore were more refined human beings.

This led some people to establish a link between delayed gratification and “intelligence”.

Immediate gratification equalled succumbing to one’s direct urges. Delaying gratification meant stoically overcoming then.

Now, apart from the fact that the SAT test favors people who are able to delay rewards, what does it really mean?

What are the relations between gratification (delayed or immediate) and learning?

Are people who don’t wait for the second marshmallow dumb?

Maybe.

Also, maybe the way our society and its education system which is supposed to prepare individuals for becoming “good citizens” works might be not compatible with the way the F-5 Generation is wired.

Rome Wasn’t Build In One Day But Facebook Took Only One Week

The F-5 Generation is accustomed to doing something and seeing results.

In its most primitive form this could be pressing a button on the remote and changing a channel.

In more advanced applications this could mean

  • shooting a video, editing and uploading it – and even getting viewer feedback all on the same day
  • building a webpage in a few hours
  • building or creating something, putting it online and selling it – all in one go

Now, this is not how society normally works. Offline everything takes more time. Hence, in RL (Real Life) the delayed gratification mode is more likely to reach the goal where the immediate gratification approach will lose interest and drop out along the way.

But online…

According to Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg it took him, only one person “literally one week” to create the popular website which is now worth around 50 billion dollars!

There’ll always be people who say: “Yeah, but he was just lucky.” – but the money or the popularity is not the point.

The point is that in the online world the Marshmallow Experiment could turn out very differently.

Now, again this is not to say that people should succumb to their urges at any given stage in life. This would make a functioning society impossible and I don’t even want to imagine it.

But if the Internet is continuing to grow in its importance and will become the future workplace of many young individuals growing up today, maybe a bit more “Let’s do it and let’s do it now!” attitude should be encouraged?

Instead of fighting to calm down students and turn them into passive listeners against their will, maybe it’s time to make education not about instilling knowledge but about sharing practical skills and strategies that will be of use in the future ?

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