Things Have Definitely Changed
Our investigation into Teaching Adult Millennials revealed that the role of adult educators is far more complicated than it was a generation or two ago. When I attended public school in the 70s and post-secondary school in the 80s, the authority of teachers, instructors and professors was mostly accepted by default. The instructors held the information we needed to achieve the grades, so we listened. In contrast, millennials – the generation born since the early 80s – have grown up with information literally at their fingertips. It now occurs to me that this radically changes the role of an educator. What is an educator who is no longer the primary source of information?
Given today’s ubiquitous access to information, the primary role of adult educators has moved from “teacher” to “facilitator”. Millennial students are accustomed to gathering information for themselves, but are willing to accept guidance and structure regarding what to look for. To best facilitate self-learning for this multimedia generation, educators will do well to break up information into small bite-sized chunks and mix up the delivery between text, video, audio and animation whenever possible. Millennials have a few other unique attributes that will stretch the versatility of even the most technically savvy facilitators.
Salesperson, Coach, Entertainer
For older educators, it may be helpful to visualize adding the hats of “salesperson”, “life coach” and “entertainer” to their repertoire. Having grown up on a diet of video and computer animation, there are physiological reasons for millennials’ shorter attention spans. Successful educators will “sell” their topics up-front, granting a quick answer to the unspoken student question, “What’s in this for me?” As a true latch-key generation, many millennials require coaching and training in life skills such as academic tenacity and “meta-cognition” … learning how to learn. The often short attention span of millennials makes it necessary to be creative in maintaining their attention. Humour, multimedia, and a fast pace will cater to this multi-tasking generation. Educators who are willing to accept the task of developing skills that were once assumed a parental responsibility will be far more successful than those hanging onto a sink-or-swim mentality.
It’s impossible to undo the cultural changes that have come with a generation raised on Google, YouTube and Facebook. When today’s educators roll with the changes, we have an opportunity to create a dynamic, stimulating, successful learning environment. When we accept our new multi-faceted roles as facilitator, salesperson, life coach, and entertainer, we have the opportunity to serve our student “clients” in a profound and fulfilling way.