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Doug Johnson’s Closing Thoughts

A.B. What role does the librarian have in engaging the 21st Century Learner?
D.J. “In answering this question, I would highly encourage all educators to read EDUCAUSE’s online book, Educating the Net Generation – especially the introduction and first chapter. The authors do a wonderful job of aggregating the findings of a number of studies of today’s kids.

For those of us who work with (or live with), this demographic group, many of the findings are not terribly surprising. These kids use technology to communicate. They expect immediate feedback. They multitask. They are easily distracted. They play a lot of video games. They may be more visually than verbally literate.

But other findings surprised me. They value human interaction and value human teachers. They like rules and order. They want face-to-face educational experiences. They are very social creatures. They prize education. And their technology understandings are often very superficial.

All interesting, but the book also suggests that this generation has some unique learning style characteristics. They want to discover information themselves. They want to be work in groups. They demand relevance in their schoolwork. They want to learn 24/7.

These are preferences that we as librarians and technologists are often better suited to defer to than are classroom teachers. It will be easier and more productive for we adults to change what we do educationally than it will be for us to try to change the mindsets of the “net genners.”

I see this “next greatest generation,” as being tremendous library users and supporters if we create hybrid libraries offering both print and online resources, provide information in both print and multimedia formats (and stigmatize neither), supply the technologies for them to communicate both through writing and imagery, give them spaces to be social and work in groups, and take pains to give them a digital means of communicating with us in a timely manner. They need to see us as teachers who empower them.

If we work toward changing our libraries and ourselves to meet these kids needs, when they become our students’ parents, our school board members and our legislators, they may react to the word “librarian” in wholly positive ways (and only dread encountering “proctologists.”)”

Thank you Doug. I started reading Educating the Net Generation this weekend and found the authors are dead on with their understanding of this 21st century generation. This is certainly along the lines of what the SLJ Summit is working toward.

-Amy Bowllan