How to Train the Young of Today and Tomorrow

I never thought I’d admit to this, but I have discovered this, believe it or not, in the college English writing class that I teach. It is almost as if the students don’t have a real sense of the past. They cling to the here and now that technology is what makes life civilized and it is hard for them to think beyond that, hard to convince them that there are civilizations that exist today that don’t have running water and electricity, let alone computers, cell phones and IPads.

“Those poor people who had to write letters and wait weeks for a reply and we can do it in seconds.”

That was the awful past. The world without computers–only a few decades ago the PC–is unthinkable. Imagine what they think of the days of the horseless carriage. How do they rational a couple of big films –”Lincoln” and “Les Miserables,” totally out of their reality?

Naturally, it makes teaching some of them the past very hard, but some are fascinated by it, of course. What does this mean to trainers? I think it means we really have to know our audience, now more than ever taking into account their technology proficiency and not overally assuming it based on age; (I’m fairly proficient and not terribly young) and not ignoring the interest and proficiency if it is there; and teaching and training the old ways. At least in teaching English, we incorporated different aspects of technology so they would learn at least the positive and the negative.

What I found is that most of the students were very familiar with anything they could glean online and could use that in an essay–the ancient mechanics needed attention though; however, the basic idea of looking up information from the book was so foreign to them, most didn’t bother. Not a good thing. This also was one of the few classes that did not have an e-book, but an expensive book of essays and a grammar reference book. I’m sure, other than reading the essays, the books were hardly touched and if they could get away with it, not touched at all.

My question is this: does that mean they will take to a CD better than a book? Can they cut and paste from it? Or, an online program? Again, is it something they can do other than read and write a response to? Not much different than dealing with a hard text.

I’m not going to use X, Y generations because I think there is much overlap these days. Do we modualize depending on subject student/trainer’s tech IQ, assuming our highly proficiency people will be more interested in doing it? Bottom line: today’s student or trainee is used to the lightning speed of technology. If you can’t speed up your training and practically pour it into their brains, I’m afraid it won’t make a difference to anyone except who made the sale. Not to deny the vendor his due, but his or her product has simply become another way of presenting the same material and I think not much effectively–except in especially motivated individuals.

Herein lies the mystery: how do we reach use them through their interest in technology? If we wow them with fancy techno shows, will they pay attention to the content or just want to know how we did it? So, we’ve accomplished nothing. How do you get their minds off of technology if you want them to be elsewhere? You can see for certain subjects this would be important. Science and technology is easy. It’s where they live. You could go back in history and they would find it easy to learn the history of what they now enjoy. Beyond that?

Now, I’m not even pretending to have an answer here. I’m just saying we need to pay closer attention, more personalized attention to who we teach or train, and find out from them the way around this conundrum. I had a student who spent so much time on the computer writing for no one in particular, he never realized what a good writer he was. When he was in danger of failing my class, I pulled him aside and asked to see some of his work in progress. He was not only good, but he was the best writer in the class. His reclusiveness behind the computer made him terrified to make his writing and his ideas public. Once he realized his work was positively received he came out of his shell, but what if he hadn’t? What if his work was deplorable? At least I’d have been there to work with him.

And so it goes with training. Instead of making it less personal, we need to go the other way. We need get tight with our students or trainees and learn from them what is keeping them from learning.

That’s all for now. Happy New Year. Happy Training

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