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Back to School: A new brand of learning for generation y-ers

Bruce Langer | Interrobang | Opinion | January 11th, 2010

Editorial opinions or comments expressed in this online edition of Interrobang newspaper reflect the views of the writer and are not those of the Interrobang or the Fanshawe Student Union. The Interrobang is published weekly by the Fanshawe Student Union at 1001 Fanshawe College Blvd., P.O. Box 7005, London, Ontario, N5Y 5R6 and distributed through the Fanshawe College community. Letters to the editor are welcome. All letters are subject to editing and should be emailed. All letters must be accompanied by contact information. Letters can also be submitted online by clicking here.
The topic came up during lunch last semester: what's with all these students playing on their laptops or BlackBerries during class? Are they rude, spoiled or both? How can they ever learn if they don't pay attention?

Ah yes, kids these days. Every generation has had complaints about how their offspring behaves, learns and works. My parents boasted about their stamina and work ethic. I would just roll my eyes and go back to listening to my hard rock albums. My son does about the same thing when I refer to how things were done back in the day and plugs in his MP3 player.

The lunch talk was among a few Boomer back-to-school classmates, who were comparing observations about the majority of generation y-ers in our program. There was some likes and dislikes about the way they learn and work, but the key thing that emerged was that they were different from us.

But back to the Facebooking students. What do teachers think about it? We buttonholed a Boomer teacher, who compared the behaviour to the way we used to doodle on paper during lectures. Other instructors, however, have appeared at times to be annoyed by the online “doodling” and the “muted” cellphones that still manage annoying hums, especially when placed on hard-surfaced desks.

I imagine this is an observation made by many of the 700 Second Career students hitting the books for the first time in years. But lest my generation y-ers take umbrage at my observations, take this to heart: your work is generally outstanding. I don't know how you do it, but it works for you, even it seems unorthodox.

Many of us admire your technology savvy and your ability to quickly learn software that older folks require more practice to master. I've noticed a lot of creativity in projects, although sometimes the spelling and syntax leaves a bit to be desired. I definitely enjoy the “edutainment” aspect of your presentations and have also noticed the positive response when I've endeavoured to deliver the same.

As a student in the graduate corporate communication and public relations program, perhaps these observations wouldn't apply to the general student body. To get in this program, one needs a university degree or college diploma. This alone explains a lot of the good study habits honed through previous post-educational experiences that perhaps enrolment in a first-year class of 18 or 19-year-olds wouldn't be there.

As I head into the second and final semester of this program, I'll be looking a lot less at the in-class Facebooking activities and a lot more about the character of the people behind the flashing screens.

Because as the old saying goes: you can't always judge a book by its cover — especially if it's Dell, HP or Apple.

Bruce Langer is a student in the Corporate Communication and Public Relations program at Fanshawe College. He can be reached at
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