Educating the Net Generation: Introduction

Oblinger, J., 2005 (pp. 1.1 – 1.5)

Although I object to the idea that older generations are predominantly tech-illiterate, I have to agree that I’ve seen some of the behaviours described by Oblinger in my own family, with the younger people often acting as tech support agents for their elders.

Experiential learning (p. 2, para. 2) definitely seems to be the way our young learn how to play their electronic games and to use their devices. They don’t learn these things by sitting down and reading or manual or listening to a lecture. Or do they? Have you heard of cheat codes (GTA Wiki Guide Cheats and Secrets) or YouTube (iPhone 11 Instructional Videos).

I definitely believe that experiential learning is a great way to learn and that it has a long history. How Inuit parents teach kids to control their anger (Doucleff, M. & Greenlaugh, J., 2019) recounts one of the most profound examples of experiential learning that I’ve ever encountered:

Briggs, who died in 2016, wrote up her observations in her first bookNever in Anger. But she was left with a lingering question: How do Inuit parents instill this ability in their children? How do Inuit take tantrum-prone toddlers and turn them into cool-headed adults?
Then in 1971, Briggs found a clue.
She was walking on a stony beach in the Arctic when she saw a young mother playing with her toddler — a little boy about 2 years old. The mom picked up a pebble and said, “‘Hit me! Go on. Hit me harder,'” Briggs remembered.
The boy threw the rock at his mother, and she exclaimed, “Ooooww. That hurts!”
Briggs was completely befuddled. The mom seemed to be teaching the child the opposite of what parents want. And her actions seemed to contradict everything Briggs knew about Inuit culture.
“I thought, ‘What is going on here?’ ” Briggs said in the radio interview.
Turns out, the mom was executing a powerful parenting tool to teach her child how to control his anger — and one of the most intriguing parenting strategies I’ve come across.

I first heard this story on a CBC Radio program, as well as other passages from Briggs’ experiences with the Inuit, and was struck with how powerful the Inuit methods of experiential learning are. In an environment as harsh as the Arctic, where many lessons must be learned or people will perish, experiential learning seems to be preeminent.

Later in Doucleff & Greenlaugh, 2019 I see another very important lesson from the Inuit style of parenting/teaching: “Across the board, all the moms mention one golden rule: Don’t shout or yell at small children”.

A further example from the same source is: “Traditionally, the Inuit saw yelling at a small child as demeaning. It’s as if the adult is having a tantrum; it’s basically stooping to the level of the child, Briggs documented”.

How does an educator have a tantrum? In the not too distant past an “educator” might employ corporal punishment or public humiliation to discipline students. Today it is still appears to be acceptable to irreparably damage a student’s self esteem by giving them low marks and/or “flunking” them out of class. I question whether or not this is the right way to treat students in adult education, where the students’ tuitions fees or labour within a business (in a corporate training scenario) are paying for the education.

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