As the first generation to be raised with the Internet, Gen Y has an intuitive ability to use ICT as a means to foster, support, discuss and explore new ideas. As a result, a multi-faceted approach that blends current learning theory, social technologies, and web-enabled mobile devices are the most effective in designing online learning environments.
For example, students can utilize mobile and/or social networking technologies to contribute using related stories, personal experiences, anecdotes and questions to reflect and actively encourage others to contribute as well.
The interactive, collaborative, engaging social activities, combined with the ability to self-publish and remix content on the web, enable students to use technology as a vehicle for presenting and sharing their own work as well as provide feedback on contributions made by other students.
Moreover, due to the wide variety and availability of social software, students are able to choose from multiple formats including text, video, audio, or photos to find the tools that best support their own learning style, interests, and goals.
A recent study by the Irish National Teachers Organization (INTO) found that students are using their mobile phones for just about everything--except making phone calls. According to INTO, only 20% of the 671 students surveyed report using their mobiles to make phone calls, whereas 81% report using their mobile to communicate via text or IM messages.
The INTO survey seems to dovetail with the results of a 2005 Pew Internet and American Life study on teens and technology. Like their peers in Ireland, American youth preferring using IM or TM for everyday conversations with friends.
Other key findings from the Irish National Teachers Organization survey:
- 96% of 11 & 12 year old students have a mobile phone
- 60% have a camera on it
- 72 % say they use it to access the Internet
- 20% use it to make calls
- 81% use it to send texts
Recognizing the growing connection between mobile media and youth, the popular social networking community MySpace has teamed with Helio to provide a mobile version that includes access to Yahoo! Mail, Yahoo! Messenger, and various Yahoo! services.
The combination of social interaction with opportunities for peer support and collaboration creates an interesting, engaging, stimulating, and intuitive learning environment for students. Effective course design will need to blend traditional pedagogy with the reality of the media multitasking Gen Y learner.
Clearly, the nearly ubiquitous use of portable media devices on the college campus has provided instructors with a unique opportunity to design mobile learning environments and new innovative pedagogical approaches built around the increasingly mobile landscape.