Issues in Digital Technology in Education/The Net Generation

The Rise of Net Generation

For much of our recent history, the Baby Boomer Generation (29 % of population) was the biggest population wave ever until it was surpassed by the Net Generation (30% of population).

A Brief History

Several factors explain the rise in population during the Baby Boom (1946-1964). The economy was quite strong after the war giving families the confidence and stability to have babies. The United States was considered land of promise, attracting many immigrants who were procreating with large numbers. While computer and the internet may be the technologies that have shaped the Net Generation, the television shaped the generation of the Baby Boomers. TV created a real-time world and began to consume a significant part of the day. TV was the era’s most powerful communication tool. Not only did the TV spark controversy (i.e. Elvis Presley), but it mobilized and sent messages across the world (i.e. Viet Nam war).

Immediately followed by the Baby Boom was the Baby Bust (1965-1976). During this time-period there was a great decrease in population. The Baby Boom Echo (1977-1997) followed the Bust, and resulted in the fact that many women were postponing having children to prolong youth and to advance careers. The Echo becomes the Net Generation (1990s). The Net Generation is shaped by the Web browser, e-mail (1994), cyber kids, interactive technology pours into schools; computers become indispensable, and complete social transformation results. Children growing up in the Net Generation are developing in an environment extremely different from their parents, thus causing the idea of the digital divide.

Today’s youth taking control of communication revolution. They are searching rather than viewing information; they are questioning the unchallenged; information becomes knowledge; and they are fostering critical thinking skills

Net Generation Learning

Dan Tapscott in his critically acclaimed work growing up digital: The Rise of the Net Generation reminds educators and all readers alike, that it is high time that we abandoned the “Broadcast model of education and focus all educational endeavours on a more “Interactive” approach to learning.

Tapscott defines the broadcast method of learning as one in which the teacher is someone who is considered to be an expert, someone who dispenses information en masse to groups of students. It is the receptacle theory of education if you will, one in which children/students are passive recipients of the knowledge that is transmitted to them by their teachers and is then stored in the active working memory bank. The lecture, textbook and myriad homework assignments that are dispensed at will are factors that are indicative of a broadcast method of instruction.

In a Broadcast method of instruction, the curricula is created by a group ‘experts’ in a format that is believed to deliver a program that is drenched in age old tradition, tried and true methodologies that help all children learn all of the subjects in the same way. The program is executed in such a way so that all children receive the same curriculum in the same format- a one size fits all mentality much like a broadcast which when delivered reaches all people in the same way. Also, much like in a broadcast, the learning is unilateral and does not allow for an open dialogue in which the listener or student can contribute or participate in their own education.

The Interactive Learning Model

In order to meet the needs of students in the 21st century, Tapscott (1998) delineates steps that should be taken or at the very least considered in order to make the paradigm shift to an interactive learning model. (Tapscott, 1998)

1. From linear to hypermedia learning

2. From instruction to construction and discovery

3. From teacher centered to learner centered education

4. From absorbing material to learning how to navigate and how to learn.

5. From school to lifelong learning

6. From one-size fits all to customized learning

7. From learning as torture as learning as fun

8. From the teacher as transmitter to the teacher as facilitator

The Net Generation @ Play

In the past, online gaming and video games were not considered to be beneficial. Some games were considered to be very violent and many parents found video game playing to be more harmful than a violent movie or television show because the child is initiating the actions. Parents developed the fear that their children would become numb to violence and may resort to violence in everyday situations. However, one must consider the ratings of games; that should give a good idea of whether or not it is appropriate for children. Today, computer games and non-violent video games are being regarded more positively. It is believed that children have the opportunity to play with ideas, images and develop relationships with other people. They allow for playful brainstorming & playful construction of ideas. Games cater to the multiple intelligences and help children develop a healthy attitude. They provide a zest for life and openness to new, interactive experiences, help develop hand-eye motor skills and give the child a sense of accomplishment. In addition, “boys” culture is traditionally violent and aggressive. Video games help displace that violence. The net generation also greatly participates in online chatting, emailing and often develop online relationships.


1. McKenzie, Jamie. (2001) How Teachers Learn Technology. Electronic Retrieved May 1, 2008, from

2. McLaughlin, Laurie. (2006) Teaching the Net Generation: How Learning is Driving Technology in the Classroom. Retrieved, May 5, 2008, from

3. Tapscott, Dan. (1998) Growing up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York. McGraw Hill.