Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research for Business Instruction

Using Twitter to Engage Digital Natives

Academic journal article Journal of Applied Research for Business Instruction

Using Twitter to Engage Digital Natives

Article excerpt


Whatever generation we may identify with, the students in our classrooms are likely to come from a different age cohort. Secondary school educators are most likely teaching the Millennial generation, while those delivering instruction at the college level or training adult learners may have to engage a mix of generations, including Millennials. The learning needs of Millennials may be radically different than those of previous generations. The Millennial generation-also known as the Technology Generation, Generation Y, Echo Boom, GenNext, or the Google Generation-in particular creates special challenges for educators. Prensky (2001a) was the first to designate this generation as "digital natives," those who grew up in the digital world speaking its language, as opposed to "digital immigrants," those of an older age who may have adopted many of the new technologies but who will never understand them in the same way. As Prensky observed, "Today's students think and process information fundamentally differently from their predecessors" (p. 1). According to him, the result is that "the single biggest problem facing education today is that our Digital Immigrant Instructors, who speak an outdated language (that of the pre-digital age), are struggling to teach a population that speaks an entirely new language" (p. 2).

Millennials are thus often more comfortable with and more knowledgeable about technology than their teachers and parents, which in turn influences the way this generation communicates and interacts and how they approach learning. Educators may experience frustration when they are unable to reach Millennial students in the same way they reached students in the past (Prensky, 2001b). Technology is not simply about new devices (laptops, iPads, cell phones, computers, etc.); in fact, it presents new ways of thinking: "Technology isn't something we need in addition to mental activity; technology is now part of mental activity" (Prensky, 2013, p. 1). However, although Prensky (2001a, 2001b, 2013) and others first identified many of these issues more than a decade ago, educators have often been slow to jump aboard and adapt their instruction to meet the needs of the Millennial generation.

In fact, the use of social media as a teaching tool is now an imperative for trainers and educators, and indeed, social media can be effectively harnessed to enhance instruction at all levels and with all generations. Social media is an outgrowth of the socalled Web 2.0, where technologies invite the creation and sharing of content. The earlier Web 1.0 lacked that collaboration and outreach as experts simply created Web pages that served like an online encyclopedia (Bozarth, 2010). Since these early days, the use of blogs, wikis, YouTube, Google Docs, Facebook, and Twitter has increased exponentially. The effective use of social media has multiple benefits for both teachers and learners, since "the technologies dissolve many of the barriers between the learners and instructor, creating a more informal, collegial, and interactive learning environment" (Bozarth, 2010, p. 13).

This article focuses specifically on the Millennial generation and the social media platform known as Twitter. In particular, it elaborates on how business educators can use this form of social media as a tool to engage digital natives whether at the secondary or college levels, where younger Millennials are continuing to receive their education.

The Generations

The Players: Who Are the Generations?

Researchers differ in how they define and label the timeframes for each generation. There can also be overlap at the end of one generation and the beginning of another, so that, for instance, someone from GenX born in 1980 may have a mindset similar to that of his Millennial friend born in 1981. There is, however, general agreement that every generation is guided and influenced by events that occur in its formative years: "Each generation develops a world view and mindset in response to the social and political dynamics of the world in which they come of age" (Coates, 2007, p. …

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