A Vision of Students Today

Preparing today's youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Project-based learning allows students to acquire 21st-century skills in the context of real-world scenarios, and the integration of video and other media to support instruction links students with outside resources and enables teachers to address many learning styles at once.

Profiles of Millennials and the 21st Century Learner
This section has been developed to explore the uniqueness of the millennial generation and the challenges they pose to the traditional model of education.

The students you will have in your classes belong to this generation. It is imperative that you understand the influences that have made them who they are, and the role technology plays in their lives.

According to a research paper released at the 22nd Annual Conference of Distance Teaching and Learning (2006), "a 21st Century Learner tends to be a multi-tasker that uses sound and images to convey content whenever possible. Text, the primary medium of traditional academics, is tolerated only when the technology does not (yet) support something better. They have a different relationship with information and learning than do previous generations. Technology is the center of their learning and interations with information. " Read the entire paper for an in-depth look at the characteristics of the 21st Century Learner.

Building online learning communities into your curriculum map, unit and lesson plans will help motivate and inspire them to become life-long learners and contributing members of society.

What other images (feel free to add to the collage) come to mind when you think about millennials?

Who are the Millennials?

Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history

Generation Characteristics Comparison Chart


  • optimistic
  • diverse
  • tech-savvy, digital natives
  • collaborative, enjoy cooperative activities
  • used to clear structure from adults; expect it
  • strong parent advocates
  • multicultural
  • confident
  • civic-minded
  • goal-oriented
  • multi-tasking
  • respect for authority, look for ways around it

Generation X

  • relationships important
  • starved for love
  • individualism
  • self sufficient
  • commitment wary
  • risk takers
  • pragmatic
  • challenge authority
  • welcome change
  • materialistic
  • stressed but organized
  • ambitious
  • music important
  • work/social life prominent
  • embrace technology

Baby Boomers

  • sandwich generation
  • competitive
  • “Me” generation
  • idealistic
  • question authority
  • experimental
  • social consciousness
  • hectic lifestyles
  • spend not save

Harnessing the power of Millennials: new education strategies for a confident, achieving youth generation.

A new batch of youth is coming on stage--the Millennial Generation, born since 1982, whose leading-edge members were the celebrated high school Class of 2000. But contrary to expectations, this generation is a trend-turner. To date, the Millennial track record marks a dramatic reversal of the trends toward dysfunction and disengagement associated with young boomers and young Xers.

Four Models of the 21st Century Learner

This era of radical and rapid change places demands on learners to increase their capacity for learning. This capacity is not necessarily about learning more, but, as Alberti has reminded us, about expanding and enhancing the ways in which learning takes place. There is the growing expectation that students will become more flexible, more self-reliant and autonomous, learners who can ‘select personal pathways … and who will develop the skills of life-long learning’ (Dunne, 1999, p.6).

What are the models of the learner for this brave new world? What are the approaches and processes by which our new-century learners will learn? The four models which follow are my own postulations, my own imaginations, of how these 21st Century learners may look.

The Collaborator

The first model is that of ‘The Collaborator’. For this learner networks of people, knowledge, skills and ideas are the sources of learning. For this learner new brain research which stresses the importance of social interaction (Maxted, 1996) is a significant rationale.
The Collaborator-learner:
  • seeks out and maintains links and networks
  • negotiates and exchanges ideas
  • uses new technology to support collaborative work (e.g. Hazemi et al., 1998)
  • contributes and adds value to cooperative learning processes
  • also exploits and derives value from them
  • is a team player, able to reach ‘win-win’ agreements.
What sort of learning environment does the Collaborator require? This learner needs access to knowledge and ideas, especially those of practitioners. This learner needs partnerships and networks from which to profit. This learner needs support for development of people skills and a sense of personal value within collaborative ventures with others.

The Free Agent

The second model is the ‘Free Agent’. This learner makes full use of continuous, open-ended and life-long styles and systems of learning. This is a learner who is:
  • flexible, able to keep pace with change, to take advantage of it
  • able too to cope with changing requirements of an unstable job market and of employers who ‘are by no means certain and often ambiguous about the necessary qualifications of graduates’ (de Weert, 1998, p.27)
  • more concerned with personal transferable skills than with those relating to particular occupations - this learner is not bound to an occupation
  • conversant with new technology and therefore not constrained by place and the accessibility of instructors
  • independent, self-reliant, using new combined courses of study, rather than those which are profession-related
  • able to take advantage of modularity, credit transfer, and arrangements for accumulated learning.
This Free-Agent learner requires opportunity to engage in practical work, to integrate performance and learning. This learner needs opportunity to plan flexibly, to seek out a wide range of sources and use these creatively and effectively.

The Wise Analyser

Model number three is the ‘Wise Analyser’. This learner gathers evidence of effective activity, scrutinises it and applies its conclusions to new problems and new contexts.
The Wise Analyser is:
  • reflective and critical
  • skilled at the processes of research, testing of validity and the application of findings
  • close to the world of work and opportunities for action research
  • able to argue judgements securely
  • able to apply and adapt arguments to new contexts and to use them in the management of change.
This learner requires opportunity to analyse and manage processes and to apply analysis to new situations. This learner seeks to pursue initiatives through circular processes of identification, analysis, result, impact and evaluation.

The Creative Synthesiser

My final model is the ‘Creative Synthesiser’. This learner connects across themes and disciplines, cross-fertilises ideas, integrates separate concepts and creates new vision and new practice.
For this learner knowledge does not rest on particular ways of seeing the world. This learner:
  • has ‘new ways of seeing’ (Bowden & Marton, 1998, p.278)
  • puts aside ideas that learning is linear and confirms to us that everything is inter-related and complex
  • is able to create, investigate and to seize opportunities for development and change.
The Creative Synthesiser requires complex and stimulating learning environments, with access to disparate disciplines. This learner needs opportunities to negotiate across boundaries, together with the framework for creating radical visions and seeing them become real.

Information and Strategies for Teaching Millennials

With more than 82 million people texting regularly, it's no wonder you've seen this cryptic looking code! Commonly used wherever people get online -- including IM'ing, SMS'ing, cell phones, Blackberries, PDAs, Web sites, games, newsgroup postings, in chat rooms, on blogs -- these abbreviations are used by people to communicate with each other.

Will this language become the language of the future? Should we embrace it, or fight it in the classroom?

Educating Millenials in the Information Age

What is Project-Based Learning?

In project-based learning, students work in groups to solve challenging problems that are authentic, curriculum-based, and often interdisciplinary. Learners decide how to approach a problem and what activities to pursue. They gather information from a variety of sources and synthesize, analyze, and derive knowledge from it. Their learning is inherently valuable because it's connected to something real and involves adult skills such as collaboration and reflection. At the end, students demonstrate their newly acquired knowledge and are judged by how much they've learned and how well they communicate it. Throughout this process, the teacher's role is to guide and advise, rather than to direct and manage, student work.

Example of Project-Based Learning Activity
In a high school class, a project might begin with a hypothetical letter from the White House that says oil prices are spiking, the economy is faltering and the president’s poll numbers are falling. The assignment would be to devise a new energy policy in two weeks. The shared Web space for the project, for example, would include the White House letter, the sources the students must consult, their work plan and timetable, assignments for each student, the assessment criteria for their grades and, eventually, the paper the team delivers. Oral presentations would be required.

Wikis in Plain English

Wikis In Education: Teaching Students to Share Knowledge

What is a Blog?

A blog (a contraction of the term "Web log") is a Web site, usually maintained by an individual, with regular entries of commentary, descriptions of events, or other material such as graphics or video. Entries are commonly displayed in reverse-chronological order. "Blog" can also be used as a verb, meaning to maintain or add content to a blog.
Many blogs provide commentary or news on a particular subject; others function as more personal online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, Web pages and other media related to its topic. The ability for readers to leave comments in an interactive format is an important part of many blogs. Most blogs are primarily textual, although some focus on art (artlog), photographs (photoblog), sketches (sketchblog), videos (vlog), music (MP3 blog), audio (podcasting), which are part of a wider network of social media. Micro-blogging is another type of blogging, one which consists of blogs with very short posts. As of December 2007, blog search engine Technorati was tracking more than 112 million blogs. With the advent of video blogging, the word blog has taken on an even looser meaning — that of any bit of media wherein the subject expresses his opinion or simply talks about something


Podcasting is the latest in on-the-go, on-demand technology. With podcasting, you can listen to radio programs or events whenever and wherever you choose. Podcasts are MP3 audio files that are automatically downloaded to your personal computer, and then transferred to an iPod or other MP3 player using a podcasting application.

RSS Feeds

What is RSS?

RSS (Rich Site Summary) is a format for delivering regularly changing web content. Many news-related sites, weblogs and other online publishers syndicate their content as an RSS Feed to whoever wants it.

Why RSS? Benefits and Reasons for using RSS

RSS solves a problem for people who regularly use the web. It allows you to easily stay informed by retrieving the latest content from the sites you are interested in. You save time by not needing to visit each site individually. You ensure your privacy, by not needing to join each site's email newsletter.


Motivating Students: 8 Simple Rules for Teachers

By Lana Becker and Kent N. Schneider, East Tennessee State University
becker@etsu.edu or kent@etsu.edu

Reprinted from The Teaching Professor
by permission from Magna Publications, Inc., Madison, Wis.
www.magnapubs.com. Subscriptions and submissions at custserv@magnapubs.com
August/September 2004

Rule 1: Emphasize the most critical concepts continuously. Reiterate these concepts in lectures and assignments throughout the course. Include questions relating to these critical subjects on every exam, thus rewarding students for learning, retaining, and, hopefully, applying this knowledge in a variety of contexts.

Rule 2: Provide students with a "visual aid" when possible to explain abstract concepts. A significant proportion of today's students are visual learners. For these students, a simple diagram or flowchart truly can be more valuable than a thousand words in a text or a lecture.

Rule 3: Rely on logic when applicable. Point out to students which information is merely "fact" that must be memorized and which course material is based upon "logic." Show students how to employ logical thinking to learn and retain new information. For example, in the double-entry bookkeeping system, "debits" equal "credits," and debit entries cause assets to increase. These are "facts" or features of the system; they are not based on logic. However, once the student accepts the system, logic can be used to operate within the system. Continuing the example, if debit entries increase assets, it is logical that credit entries will cause assets to decrease.

Rule 4: Use in-class activities to reinforce newly presented material. After a new concept or subject has been presented via text reading, lecture, or class discussion, allow the students to put the concept into action by completing an in-class assignment. These assignments can be short, but they must be developed to ensure that the students understand the critical concepts underlying the new material. Typically, the most learning takes place when the students are permitted to work in small groups, to refer to their text and notes, and to ask questions of the instructor while completing the assignment. If these in-class assignments are part of the course grading scheme, class attendance also improves.

Rule 5: Help students create a "link" when teaching something new. If the student can "link" the new material to something already learned, the odds of learning the new material are greatly increased. Examples of possible links include: prior material learned in this course (e.g., the critical concepts described in Rule 1), material learned in prerequisite courses, and "real-life" experiences of the students outside the classroom.

Rule 6: Recognize the importance of vocabulary in a course. Students often struggle with new vocabulary in many courses, especially introductory ones. To succeed in these courses, students must become comfortable with the new terminology. As subjects are presented, new and/or confusing terms should be identified and introduced to the students. Present "real-world" definitions and alternative terminology, in addition to textbook definitions. One way to help students assimilate the course vocabulary is to create a "living" glossary on the instructor's website where new terminology is added, explained, and illustrated throughout the course.

Rule 7: Treat students with respect. Patronizing behavior may be expected in primary school teachers, and :drill sergeant" strategies may be effective in military book camps. However, most college student will not respond well to these techniques. Give students their dignity, and they will give you their best efforts.

Rule 8: Hold students to a high standard. If students are not required to maintain a specified level of learning and performance, only the most highly motivated students will devote the time and effort necessary to learn. In contrast, maintaining high standards not only will motivate student learning, it will also be the source of student feelings of accomplishment when those standards are met.

Each of these rules can help motivate even the most lethargic student, but Rule 7 and 8 are the most important. If students are not treated with respect and held to a high standard, scrupulously following the first six rules will have much less impact and might end up being an exercise in futility.

Standards for the 21st Century Learner

Reading is a window to the world.
Reading is a foundational skill for learning, personal growth, and enjoyment. The degree to which students can read and understand text in all formats (e.g., picture, video, print) and all contexts is a key indicator of success in school and in life. As a lifelong learning skill, reading goes beyond decoding and comprehension to interpretation and development of new understandings.

Inquiry provides a framework for learning.
To become independent learners, students must gain not only the skills but also the disposition to use those skills, along with an understanding of their own responsibilities and self-assessment strategies. Combined, these four elements build a learner who can thrive in a complex information environment.

Ethical behavior in the use of information must be taught.
In this increasingly global world of information, students must be taught to seek diverse perspectives, gather and use information ethically, and use social tools responsibly and safely.

Technology skills are crucial for future employment needs.
Today’s students need to develop information skills that will enable them to use technology as an important tool for learning, both now and in the future.

Equitable access is a key component for education.
All children deserve equitable access to books and reading, to information, and to information technology in an environment that is safe and conducive to learning.

The definition of information literacy has become more complex as resources and technologies have changed.
Information literacy has progressed from the simple definition of using reference resources to find information. Multiple literacies, including digital, visual, textual, and technological, have now joined information literacy as crucial skills for this century.

The continuing expansion of information demands that all individuals acquire the thinking skills that will enable them to learn on their own.
The amount of information available to our learners necessitates that each individual acquire the skills to select, evaluate, and use information appropriately and effectively.

Learning has a social context.
Learning is enhanced by opportunities to share and learn with others. Students need to develop skills in sharing knowledge and learning with others, both in face-to-face situations and through technology.

School libraries are essential to the development of learning skills.
School libraries provide equitable physical and intellectual access to the resources and tools required for learning in a warm, stimulating, and safe environment. School librarians collaborate with others to provide instruction, learning strategies, and practice in using the essential learning skills needed in the 21st century.

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© 2007 by the American Library Association
Permission to use, reproduce, and distribute this document is hereby granted for private, non-commercial, and education purposes only.
ISBN (bundle of 12) 978-0-8389-8445-1.