Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Academic Network Conference 07 (6)

Teen Appeal – Touching the Moving Point

At the Academic Network Conference Christina Handford of Staffordshire University (UK) presented a paper. Christina was a category winner pf the EUROPRIX Top Talent Award with her project Green scheme. Having received her Master’s degree, she went on for her Ph.D. and centers her attention around the relationship of designing educational multimedia for the teen target audience. Her premise is: though it maybe bad practise to make generalised assumptions about a particular group of people, it is a necessary step in order to move forward in determining the needs of the 13 – 16 target audience. She just started this research and presented the first results of her inventory.

Basic question is: Who are the teen generation? Those individuals born in or after 1982, and children of the ‘Baby Boomers’. They are typified as Millennials or Digital natives and are known to display different patterns and behaviours from their peers and siblings just a few years older. Millennials have little or no experience of what life is like without digital technology and are growing up to become the most knowledgeable group of multimedia users today.

She has made an inventory of traits and trends in this generation:
- Teens are fast-paced, multi-taskers;
- Social creatures;
- Sensitive
- Sheltered
- Conventional and High Achievers
- Able to adapt to new technologies very quickly
- Experiential learners
- Creative
· Teenagers are looking to make their mark on the internet and enjoy expressing themselves in different ways.
· In research tasks, teens find it very difficult to work though and contextualise large amounts of information. They are prone to giving up quickly and resort to asking teachers or adults for the answers.
· Teens have much less patience than adult users. They want answers quickly and become frustrated with complex interactions.
· Factors which positively impact teen user satisfaction are: Attractive design with age appropriate graphics and information that is easy to find.
· Teens are turned off by sites that offend their sense of maturity.
· Most of the sites which they are attracted to are those which target a broad age group, not just teenagers.
· Although they are willing to scroll pages teens are highly active clickers and will quickly leave if they cannot find what they need at first glance.
· Teens often find mine sweeping particularly annoying and like adults they do not like to hunt for navigational elements.
(Source: Neilson Norman group)

With increased awareness of the needs of the digital native we must ask: how do educators and instructional designers empower and inspire students in an environment that increasingly excludes them? This question is particularly difficult to answer due to the fact that digital natives/teens are such a dynamic, varied and trend conscious generation. However from the executed research we can conclude a number of steps to move forward in the successful provision of new technology content and recourses:

1. It is clear that digital natives are looking to see more integration of technology into general school life. One of the greatest complaints heard from students, with regard to technology, is that their access to computer equipment and the internet is extremely limited within the school environment. In review of this point technology should not be kept as a separate entity, confined to a time limited slot in computer laboratory, it instead needs to be seamlessly entrenched into the educational system and daily lesson planning.

2. Educators and e-content developers should not assume that all teens are entirely tech-savvy. Most teens are not interested in the technology itself but are more concerned with the fact that it facilitates improved communication routes, enhanced information retrieval etc.

3. Electronic applications used by the digital generation must be carefully selected in order to increase motivation and appeal. A special effort must be made so as not to insult their sense of maturity and dexterity, but at the same time make considerations for their patience level, research abilities and literacy standards.

4. E-content should be used in a way that holds a sense of value and interest to the learner based on topics which the students can see applicable to their daily or future life. Frequently, a digital native’s perspective is that their instructors do not make learning worth paying attention to especially compared to the range of other interactive experiences of which they have access.

As the digital native generation develops, the inherent importance and integration of multimedia combined with teen friendly, interactive content becomes ever more evident. Social network systems and digital communication will only be of more profound importance to the future teenager and instead of forbidding the use within the classroom environment, educators must embrace the medium as a prerequisite to 21century learning theories.

Blog Posting Number: 935

Tags: millenials, digital natives

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