Changing Technologies: Impact on Agricultural Education

Article excerpt

Remaining informed about the impact of technology on public education, educators should take note of two contemporary authors with very powerful messages: Donald Tapscott and Jane Healy. In Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation, Tapscott (1998) purports that the Net Generation ("N-Gen") is imposing its culture on all of us, changing the way individuals and society interact. In Failure to Connect: How Computers Affect Our Children's Minds-for Better and Worse, Jane Healy (1998) examines the potential misuses of technology in public schools. Informed agricultural educators will synthesize lessons learned from both authors and design instructional strategies that will meet the needs of a generation of interactive learners through the use and application of technology.

Today marks the first time in history that students are outpacing and overtaking adults on the technology fast track; parents, teachers, and other adults are looking to children for help with computers and computing. In Finland, for example, the government has chosen 5,000 N-- Geners to teach the country's educators how to use technology! The N-Gen is transforming the new media from a cult enclave to a harmonious cauldron of millions. Through their massive demographic muscle and unconstrained minds, N-- Geners are creating a new world. This world is one in which any idea, regardless of how threatening it may be to the contemporary social order, has voice and can spur radical views on such topics as business and the process of democratic governance.

N-Geners will soon want power in every domain and will take it. How will non-N-Geners fare in the future? Will they be able to share power? Will educators and others have the courage to accept the NGen and its culture and media? Every educator should delve into this issue as they examine what it would be like to grow up digital.

Some probing questions may include: Are computers being used in age-appropriate ways? Do program designers take into account the developmental needs of the student? Are future teachers receiving sufficient technology training? Is learning software really what it purports to be, or is it simply "edutainment" that reinforces impulsive point-and-click behavior in the pursuit of a trivial goal?

We all should agree that most public schools are ill positioned to embrace technology and use it properly, and that we need a significant redesign of instructional environments to make technology applications meaningful. N-Gen kids think, learn, work, play, communicate, shop, and create in fundamentally different ways than their baby boomer parents. Tapscot identified the following ten characteristics of N-Gen culture and advises all educators to take each into account as they rethink the teaching and learning environment:

Ten Characteristics of N-Gen Culture

* Fierce independence: a strong sense of autonomy derived from active roles as information seekers rather than passive information recipients;

* Emotional and intellectual openness: a priority for those with Web pages and chat rooms through which they explore and expose who they really are;

* Inclusion: evidenced in the way students from different cultures meet, collaborate, and accept each other as never before;

* Free expression and strong views: the result of access to a wide range of ideas, opinions, and arguments;

* Innovation: encouraged by constant exposure to ways of doing things differently and better;

* Preoccupation with maturity: the need to be taken seriously based on ideas and capability rather than age;

* Investigation: a strong ethos of curiosity and empowerment to change things;

* Immediacy: the expectation that things will happen quickly (because in the N-Gen world, they do);

* Sensitivity to corporate interest: the awareness and avoidance of controlling and exploitative businesses; and

* Authentication and trust: the continual questioning of the veracity of what is on the Web. …