A new year begins: part 3

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Hey, we’re on part three now, so no need for an introductory paragraph; let’s jump straight in…

In addition to working with my students on classroom research and developing my content knowledge with online courses, another area that I’ll be considering greatly over the coming academic year is the notion of Generation Y. For those of you not particularly familiar with this term, it relates to those people born roughly between the years 1982 and 2000. While initially this term was mostly applied to those born in Westernized nations, research is showing that, in terms of this generation, there are many commonalities with people in this age group across the entire globe, including Turkey. Given that the people I teach were born smack bang in the middle of this era, it makes a great deal of sense that I should look at what makes them tick.

Why Generation Y?

I must admit at this point that there is another reason for my interest: In December I will be one of the keynote speakers at Yıldız Technical University’s 1st international ELT symposium (a big thanks to Işıl Boy for inviting me), where I will be joined on the bill by such heavyweights as ‘the’ Stephen Krashen, Gary Motteram, Nicky Hockly, Chuck Sandy, Luke Meddings and Lindsay Clanfield. Anyway, that event is going to be the subject of a future blog post, so enough of that for now.

What focus will my Gen Y research take?

I’ve done a lot of reading around this already and, much to my surprise, a lot of what my teaching philosophy currently leads me to do is actually pretty much perfect for this generation. A great article by Professor Ronald A. Berk notes ten characteristics of Gen Y learners, all of which I can find reference to in my classes. While I am tied to the classroom and set teaching hours (I sometimes feel like I should be taking a masters degree in human resources to be able to deal with this), I plan this year more than ever to work with my students beyond the confines of the classroom walls and the hours I’m assigned to teach them.

How? Primarily, I’m going to be looking again at the lessons I’ve learned from the online educational environment. Here are three areas from the 10 listed by Professor Berk that seem appropriate for me to think about:

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1. They are tech savvy

This generation is, if not ‘Tech Savvy’, then at least comfortable with technology to the point that they rely heavily on it in their daily lives. With this in mind, I plan to incorporate technology meaningfully into my class assignments, activities, and especially demonstrations; I’ll be using music, video clips, blogs, video games, wikis, and search engines that are interactive, animated and image-based. These are all elements I’ve encountered in my online learning and have found them engaging, so why not focus on using such resources with this generation?

2. They are interested in Multimedia

They’ve grown up not knowing a world without YouTube, so it makes sense to use music, video clips and video games, especially those that are student favorites. I see this as a great way of connecting them to each other as people, to you, and to the ‘actual’ course content. Students are used to engaging with a wide array of media, often simultaneously. With this in mind, I plan to expand on my practice of structuring class work using e-portfolios (another lesson I’ve learned from my online studies).

3. They are able to create their own Internet content

Web 2.0 is another thing that they’ve grown up with, and they know how to use it to create their own content. This year I’m going to provide my learners with opportunities to write their own blogs contribute to Websites, and wikis. Another thing I’d like to expand on is creating YouTube videos and podcasts with content appropriate to their course work. Again, this is something that has been expected of me on my online courses (perhaps there’s an online project management degree somewhere in my future), and I’ve enjoyed it greatly as a way of engaging with the content.

Basically, I hope to benefit from having put myself back in the position of the learner, albeit the position of a 21st century Gen Y learner. I’ll be looking to take the tips I’ve got from online study and apply them to my classes (I’m starting to sound like I’m taking an online masters degree in organizational leadership!). I think this is a theme I’ll be returning to on a frequent basis on the blog, so I hope you’ll come back and see how I’m doing!

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