Dr. Larry Rosen ~ Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn

From Discovery Education comes yet another great webinar in their EdTechConnect series featuring Larry D. Rosen, Ph.D. on what parents and educators should expect, socially and academically, from their wired children and adolescents? Virtual attendees include continental United States and Australia. Nice global representation for this hour’s foray into understanding the rewired iGeneration with over 100 people in attendance. Known for his understanding of the current classroom generation and how they process and learn, Rosen is a globally-renowned keynote speaker, author, educator.

 From the Silent Generation in 1925 to Baby Boomers born in 1946, to Gen X, 1965, to Net Gen born 1980 to iGeneration, our current generation, this generation is an iGen, or individualized generation. They can individualize their lives and they want their education individualized as well. Their media consumption, compared to NetGen of 20:38 hours daily use to iGeneration’s totals, the iGen are multitaskers, with their activity changing radically. By third grade, students are spending 5.5 hours a day with technology and media, compared to 16 – 18 year olds with 20:25 hours. But the usage has changed for this age bracket of techno-cocoons with technology in their bedrooms.

The iGeneration owns their technology and they cannot live without it. Equally interesting is their use of free time, moving from task to task, rather than multitasking, like the NetGen.
What marks the iGeneration is the portability of their devices. They can have multiple tabs open and can be on multiple sites while IMing, texting, and the question becomes has all this multitasking, or taskswitching, and Rosen calls it, gone too far. Students are mobile, and let’s face it, they are masters of texting without our really knowing it.

Simply put, texting is the iGeneration’s communication tool, with many children getting 3000 texts a month. They connect through texting and they do it all the time. And they socialize differently. Facebook forms the largest country in the world, with 80 percent of a teen’s time spent social networking. They explore their identity, determine their personality, find who they are. They comment back and forth, and when they are online and not communicating, they are content creating. They are blogging, creating music, creating websites, podcasting, and creating their own social networks.

Consequently, they have different learning styles. They are tactile/kinesthetic learners, which is why they take to technology so well. They don’t need manuals; they just touch something and open it up. They differ in their personality type. This group is open to change, loves their family, like to live, stay at home, work at home with friends. They are the most confident generation ever.

We know this generation is very different, but we really don’t understand them. We are only beginning to understand their traits and core values: social connections are everything; speed and immediacy are critical–everything should happen instantly; and they firmly believe that anything they can imagine can be done. Interesting philosophy. These students will develop all the new technology and they believe they have no limitations. The technology they use has made them independent, narcissitic, want to brand themselves and create their own companies, and they will have more jobs in their lifetimes because they will continue to switch to find their own identities.

This generation needs instant gratification and motivation because their technology does that for them. Games reinforce through bells and whistles and rewards how good they are. The number one trend is technology for socializing and a way for learning. WMDs, a wireless mobile device, are ubiquitous. Ongoing WMDs can be used in multiple ways, Twitter for parent updates, Poll Everywhere…endless possibilites. WMDs can give them 24/7 access. And social networks encourage students to discuss, enjoy, participate.

Switching to virtual environments (Second Life)

It’s about realism and immersion. And it impacts brain activity. Students like to learn in virtual learning environments like Virtual Vassar College in Second Life with avatars. Teachers have to move from content determiners to content selectors, letting them learn in their virtual environments. Teachers assimilate learning and assess. Textbooks are creating online versions, making textbooks less expensive and providing more monies for technology. Rosen says we need to find someone who is a knowledge broker who finds different ways, for example, to explore the Sistine Chapel. Your knowledge broker pulls together the learning and helps teachers retool for education. There is a gap between how student work in and out of school, and that is part of the iGeneration’s rewiring.
In Q & A:

  1. Students don’t multitask; they switch tasks and wait for down time to text in a class.
  2. Gap between rich and poor is about access, not how they learn.
  3. People don’t use phones very much; they use portable wireless devices.
  4. Research about brain development on the iGeneration between on and off-line working is so new that we still do not know much, except there is increased activity in parts of the brain, suggesting rewiring or at least more brain use.
  5. 3-D is coming and in a few years, everything will be 3-D.
  6. Gender issues in technology: girls text, use Facebook more than boys, but technology is affordable, flattening the gender issue.
  7. Medical issues and technology: we are part of a very large experiment. Research is controversial and no one seems to know about radio waves and issues. You can talk your texts and finger tap less, but medical issues will come up. Mobile apps allow speech to text.

Time flies when you participate in a Discovery Webinar, and the hour ended packed with information about the iGeneration.

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  1. Tracy said:

    Thank you, RJ, for the in- depth posting about the webinar. It was one of those that make you want to run out and get his book if you haven’t yet already read it.

  2. Larry Rosen said:

    Hello Tracy, Glad you enjoyed my webinar!!! If you do get the book I would love to hear what you think. Always looking for feedback about what resonates with people and what fall short.

  3. Linda said:

    Dr. Rosen,
    I have started reading “Rewired,” and find it fascinating, but also full of tension. Perhaps it is the baby boomer in me, but I struggle to understand how all of this task switching can result in learning. Current brain science would suggest that blocking tasks works best for learning. The iGeners interrupt the brain processes by flipping to the next WMD,tab,or text message. How can the brain make connections if the pathways are always being rerouted? In the classroom I see the evidence of students who are accustomed to instant gratification; they lack the intrinsic motivation for applying themselves to learning for the learning itself. External rewards are highly susceptible to either personal value or inflation. As a vocal music teacher, I do not know how to resolve this tension. Perhaps I need to read further?

  4. Larry Rosen said:

    Hello Linda, you raise an interesting point about the young students’ predisposition to task switch seemingly all the time. Evidence is starting to come out suggesting that this is not as bad as we thought. I subscribe to the idea that our students need to be trained WHEN IT IS OK TO TASK SWITCH and when it is not. We are now doing some research on this topic (which in Psychology is called “metacognition”) and help teachers develop and implement strategies to help students become more aware of their own metacognition. We just ran a workshop where we taught teachers some strategies that they can use with their students and the ideas were well received. One simple one is to recognize that the students have a need to check in with their technology often (sorry but we made the tech that they love so much and it literally screams at them to task switch) and so build that into the lesson plan. I had a math teacher, who was having trouble with her students surreptitiously texting, give her students three minute text breaks every 15-20 minutes. She also instituted a penalty for doing so during the “work time” and it is working out well.

    I think the main thing that I have learned in working with iGeneration kids is that they have been task switching for their whole lives and they simply can’t (and won’t) unitask. This obviously presents some challenges but I believe that we only have ourselves to blame. We made the tech that allows them – or even encourages them – to task switch and so it is incumbent on educators to teach them when to do that and when it is counterproductive.

  5. Ted Angstadt said:

    Thank you Dr. Rosen for this excellent information. I am constantly trying to think about how my students learn the best, and you have provided some insight to that constant question. Our educational institutions change glacially compared to how fast this igeneration is changing. I notice that you say they want instant gratification. I have seen this in my 4th grade classroom. Students want to be on the computer to do math games because they win awards when they pass levels. I have seen that they love that instant gratification as you said. My main concern with this generation is that they don’t know how to slow down and relax. This is a societal experiment in progress with all the technology usage and multi-tasking. I am wondering what kinds of mental health issues will result from their constant hyper drive of multi-tasking with technology. I also wonder how they will be able to earn a living and keep jobs because they will want to change so frequently. Our economic system is set up that you have to generate income for a specified time period to pay a mortgage, car loan, and students loans. Will our economy create enough jobs to employ this multi-tasking generation? These are endless topics. Thank you for your excellent insights.

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