Thursday, November 02, 2006

Changing Needs and Expectations

When promoting creativity at the workplace, or in the classroom, it is generally a good idea to have as thorough an understanding of one’s employees, or students, as possible.

Both academe and the private sector are facing a new generation of students/graduates—a demographic much unlike those that have come before.

When scholars and commentators refer to the millions of “tech-savvy” members of generations X & Y, no one is implying, as far as I can gather, that there are suddenly 100,000,000 computer programmers in our midst. However, the last two generations do a wonderful job of using the tech skills they already have, in order to navigate new technologies as they are encountered. And while I use “their,” this includes me, as I’ve been an avid “geek” since the early 1990s. (My first Internet experiences were via Gopher and Mosaic—and that definitely dates me.)

With a little research, there is plenty of hard data to back up the general tech-familiarity of the under-30 demo, as well as their changing work habits and lifestyles. But the main issue professors and teachers ought to address is that our students’ needs are changing, and that this cultural shift includes the work habits and expectations of many recent graduate students.
In academe, we all too often forget that in the end, we are teachers. And as such, our primary duty is to educate and prepare our students for what they will meet/need after they’ve left our classrooms.

If we listen to the business community, we hear a steady call for students who are prepared to work collaboratively, and think critically—as well as creatively.

Certainly, academe has always moved at the proverbial snail’s pace, and change has never come without hundreds of man-hours spent in committee, etc. to study cost/benefit analyses, etc. Inevitably, there will also be the persons of privilege, who perceive any change as threatening—or at the least, a softening of the “standards.”

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