The Millennials are here!

It is my last training of the summer. Finish up these two days with MIT students from Whitworth University and then two weeks of not traveling or speaking. It’s 9am and everyone is slowly coming in and getting their laptops and iPads set up for the day. I too am getting set up, frantically trying to figure out the projector system, trying to link the two rooms together so that both projectors showed what was on my laptop.

wwmit2I’m introduced and for the first time I stop and scan the room. 43 future teachers sit in front of me. All of them preparing to enter a classroom that looks a lot different than my first classroom. In my elementary education program’s technology course, we were graded on whether we could thread a projector properly both to play and then know how to rewind it. In that same class we had to build a web page. You know…..it was 1998….and this Internet thing might have some purpose in education…so we built a web page from scratch…I mean coding HTML not the program scratch. 🙂

I digress…..I’m looking around the room excited that I get to help shape the thoughts and ideas of what education is in 2015 and in the future to the next generation of teachers. But this isn’t just the next generation of teachers……this is the next generation.

“How many of you are 34 or younger?” I asked.

All but about 8 hands went into the air. I smiled…..shook my head……and realized for the first time, they have arrived.

wwmit3I’ve been talking about and following this generation for awhile now. Heck, everyone has been. We have more research about this generation than we do about any generation before them. Here’s a White House report on Millennials, here’s all the Pew Research on them, or do your own search…..there is plenty to read.

The oldest of them graduated high school in the year 2000 and the youngest of them just last year. This generation is the first true technology generation. They have grown up through this amazing time of personal computers and the Internet. They are connected and being connected is a way of life. One student even proudly admitted to being one of the first million users on Facebook. That’s this generation! The generation that jumped from MySpace, to Facebook, to Twitter, to Instagram without flinching.

Just as further proof of this generation’s way of thinking when it comes to technology, I set up collaborative notes in a Google Doc for them to take and use over our two days together. Now I do this a lot in my presentations and usually it goes like this: I explain what a Google Doc is, why we’re doing this, what implications this has for the classroom, and then wait, sometimes up to 5 minutes for people to volunteer to take notes.

And then there are the Millennials. I showed them the link and by the time it loaded on the screen in the front of the room 4 different people were writing on the document. Most of them had never seen or used a Google Doc before (No…they don’t know everything!) so to see each other writing in real time was just as cool to them as it is for a 3rd grader the first time.

Off they go….writing, deleting each other’s stuff…..talking….not listening to me and figuring it all out. I started to laugh, shook my head again and just let them go. By the time I got done explaining how we were going to use the doc to take collaborative notes 3 people had already put their name in the table to do it.

My two days with them were fantastic…..the conversations I had with others like me…..us non-millennials….were really good as well. Non-millennials for the most part have a different way of approaching technology. They want steps and procedures not chaos and discovery.

wwmitI’m excited to have Millennial teachers in our schools…as they are different in many ways from any other generation before them. I’m not excited about their technological know-how. That still varies greatly based on a number of factors. What I’m excited about is how they approach technology and the fear they don’t have about just trying things out and figuring things out as they go. That mindset when it comes to technology education is their biggest asset.

Of course I had to be put in my place as well. As I’m preparing to do the opening Keynote for 14 school districts here this coming month, I have titled the Keynote: Preparing for Doc and Marty; seeing that they arrive from 1985 on October 21 of this year. So I ended our two days giving them a sneak peak of the keynote….except…..the oldest of the Millennials were 4 when the movie came out….maybe only about 10 millennials had actually seen the movie. My whole message was ruined. The jokes fell flat and it was pretty much a disaster. Lesson learned.

There’s nothing like realizing you’re getting older when a movie that helps define your generation isn’t even known by the next. Wake up Jeff…..it’s 2015!

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