When Adult Students and Digital Natives Collide

Sad to see that the purveyor of Digital Native nonsense will be making a guest appearance next month in Duluth at a $125 per person, one-day conference. Needless to say, I’ve not been one of the dittoheads who repeats the whole digital native/immigrant folderal as if it’s the most brilliant thing ever written. Not only is there very little evidence that there’s any truth to this stuff, most people can’t even agree on which anecdotes are the most prophetic.

People in higher ed need to figure out some better generalizations when they’re trying to pigeonhole different groups of students. There’s still too many people who think they have something relevant to say about the Millennial/NetGen/GenY/DigitalNative/etc. group – but they have a hard time telling you when the birth dates for the group actually start and end. It’s pretty common to put the start date somewhere around 1980-1982 or so. Okay, let’s go with that.

Many of the same people then talk about how different the “adult learners” are from the “traditional age” students. Adult students are usually considered to be those 25 years old and over. This group needs very different teaching techniques for them to succeed (don’t believe me – just Google it – there’s tons of stuff about this out there).

Here’s the rub. A fair number of those Gen Y inhabitants are now between the ages of 25 to 31. So for any of them who are currently in college, they are also adult students. So now what the heck do we do? Treat them like Gen Y with their special needs, or like adult students with their special (but different) needs.

You really can’t make this stuff up. This is what happens when two cottage industries collide.

(CC-by photo by shawnzrossi)

2 Responses

  1. […] Dahl, former Lake Superior College vice president of technology, blogs about why it’s tricky to differentiate between so-called “adult learners” and today&#821… who have been brought up with technology: Many (in higher education) talk about how different the […]

  2. Which purveyor of digital native rhetoric? Prensky? Tapscott? There are others… wondering if it’s one of those two.


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