Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Knowing your Audience? Or I should say, knowing the audience of your audience?

In the first issue of our newsletter we begin a series about what the current crop of kids (i.e. digital natives) know and don’t know. Our research tells us they don’t know much about the formal strategies of searching. (See Five Things Digital Natives Cannot Do (and what you can do to help, coming soon!)

We as educators, do know a bit about this generation of students. I found this link on Gary Price’s Research Shelf to Lee Rainie’s March 23rd speech: Life Online: Teens and technology and the world to come. This speech was given to the annual conference of the Public Library Association of Boston. (Teens and Technology.pdf) Rainie describes our students as the Millennials (born 1982 – 2000). He then shares eight recent findings of the Pew Internet & American Life Project that he directs.

I will provide a few direct quotes from Rainie’s speech as a teaser! ~ Dennis O'Connor, 21CIF.

How Millennials Approach Research:“For your purposes, it’s important to note that Millennials’ devotion to the internet has greatly shaped the way they approach research process. In many cases, they start projects by going online and browsing around. When they have questions, they will often ping their social network for advice and guidance.

They approach research as a self-directed process. Those who want to serve them would probably do well to think of themselves as “info support” in the same way all our offices have “tech support”: on call and ready to deal with problems, but not in my face showing me every possible function and setting on my computer.”

Brave New World?The 21 st Century Information Fluency Project plans to adapt and grow to meet the needs and demands of ‘new workers and consumers’ in the coming age. It is a great feeling to be out here on the bleeding edge helping to define this reality.

"I can’t tell you precisely how different this work and research environment will be – and I would be very wary of anyone who claims to know for sure just how much change will occur.

I think it is safe to say, though, for the new workers and consumers coming of age in the 21 st Century, learning and research will be:

  • More self directed and less dependent on top-down instructions

  • Better arrayed to capture new information inputs

  • More reliant on feedback and response

  • More tied to group outreach and group knowledge

  • More open to cross-discipline insights, creating its own “tagged” taxonomies


  • More oriented towards people being their own individual nodes of production.

As a researcher, I see this new world as a fantastically target-rich environment for things to study.

Your role is much more complicated, scary, and exciting. You have the privilege of reacting to and shaping the new environment for these emerging workers.

As the parent of four of these neo-workforce participants, I would only ask you to be brilliant at what you do."

~ Lee Rainie

So What Do You Think?

Does Rainie's description of the new generation jibe with your personal experience? Are the kids in your classes the fluid digital natives that the Pew Internet & American Life Project so richly describes?

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