The age range of the millennial generation varies quite a bit, but the majority of sources point to current young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 years old (Howe, 2007). This generation currently accounts for roughly 81 million people in the general population (Who are the Millennials, n.d.). The millennial generation is mostly made up of the children of the Baby Boomers and Generation X populations since they can vary in age range (Oblinger, 2003). The majority of this generation is made of non-white people, and they are the most diverse with the highest minority being Hispanic people (Millennials: Diverse, Connected, and Committed to Sexual Health and Rights, 2008).
This generation is defined by several distinct characteristics. These seem to really set the Millennials apart from previous generations and is what makes them unique. The Millennials are a very diverse generation both racially and ethically (Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change, 2010). The majority of the people in this generation are non-white at 39%, Hispanic at 20%, African American at 14%, and Asian American at 5% (Millennials: Diverse, Connected and Committed to Sexual Health and Rights, 2008). Another characteristic of their diversity is that at least 20% of these young adults have one immigrant parent and they come from all over the world (Howe, 2007).
This generation also puts a strong emphasis on family. This is likely due to the surge of social consciousness and importance of children that developed during the time of the Millennials’ birth in the 1980’s (Howe, 2007). The young adults of the Millennial generation feel close and more apt to adapt the values of their parents (Oblinger, 2003). Several of them rank parenthood and marriage within the highest and most important values, but plan to hold off on pursuing both until later in life (Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change, 2010). This generation has also grown up in a very sheltered environment compared to its predecessors. This is likely due to the amount of school violence and national tragedies that have happened during the Millennials’ lifetime (Howe, 2007). This generation is used to being secure and accepts protection easily since they have been surrounded by it the majority of their lives.
Perhaps one of the largest characteristics of the Millennial generation is its access to technology. Because there is so much technology and tools available to this generation, they are very connected to one another and constantly plugged-in to what is happening around them (Who are the Millennials, n.d.). Due to the access to this technology since birth, they have grown up using it and are very technologically savvy. The Millennials are able to use a large number of devices with very little assistance and are all used to sharing their information with one another. They have multiiple modes of expression via social networking and the way they can express themselves on their physical being as well (Milllennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change, 2010).
Because of the instant and easy access Millennials have had to information, they tend to be great academic overachievers. Stiff competition has been a characteristic for this generation throughout the duration of their lives, so they are used to having to consistently perform to earn a space into college programs, the job market, and any other desired team (Meister, J & Willyerd, K, 2010). These young adults are typically on the quickest path to success and want a clear vision of where their careers will lead them (Meister, J & Willyerd, K, 2010). They have high expectation of their employers as well as themselves.
Other characteristics of the Millennial generation are that they are very politically involved and tend to lean the majority towards a liberal stance (Millennials: Diverse, Connected, and Committed to Sexual Health and Rights, 2008). Because this generation is less overtly religious and are less skeptical of the government than previous generations, they take a more open-minded stance on political issues (Milliennials: Confident. Connected. Open to Change, 2010). They are also much more socially conscious and really have a positive outlook on the impact they can have on their generations as well as future ones, therefore leaving the world as a better place than it was before (Howe, 2007).
The Millennial generation differs greatly from previous generations in many ways. Some of those include the life experiences they have had, their more non-traditional characteristics, and the fact that they grew up with technology from birth. The life experiences of previous generations included great wars (WWI & WWII, Vietnam, etc), major social and political uproar (nuclear weapons, political scandals, and stock market crashes), and the very beginnings of major technological advances (tv, radio, cell phones, the first computers). This generation, however, has experienced a large number of terrorist attacks, school violence, economic upheaval, and the sudden burst of very advanced technology. The non-traditional characteristics of this generation also set them apart from previous generations. The Millennials do not show as strong a sense of rebellion and need for creativity as the Generation X’ers proved, but are more content to recycle old material and make it fresh or repeat previous art and music as long as they enjoy it (Howe, 2007). They seem to lack the set of standard moral values and common sense that was shared among previous generations as well (Payment, 2008). Also, since the Millennials grew up with technology, it is an integrated part of their lives in a way it could never be for previous generations. The instantaneous gratification and access to information has caused them to be less patient as well.
The Millennial generation is defined as a group of risk-takers that are not afraid of failure (Carter, T & Simmons, B, 2007). This group has learned that trial and error methods can lead to success and since they have easier access to fix problems, they are not as concerned with getting it right the first time. Their generation also needs structure to operate. They are very used to the details of where and when to go being ironed out for them, so they function more properly with set plans in place (Howe, 2007). They also demand immediate and constant feedback (Loguercio, 2009). They are always looking for ways to improve and get ahead of the curve, so they view this feedback as necessary to continue to grow and succeed.
Millennials prefer a more informal instruction environment since they are constantly learning outside of the classroom as well. Many participate in e-learning or online courses in order to give them a less formal classroom experience (Oblinger, 2003). This is also heavily influenced by their desire to collaborate and work together as a team (Oblinger, 2003). This is due in part to the rise in social media and the convenience with which the Millennial generation can share ideas with one another. Because of this ease of communication, they tend to prefer working in groups rather in individually and are very social learners. They are also very optimistic about the future whether socially, economically, or financially (Howe, 2007). The majority of these young adults expect to have several careers throughout their lifetime and do not expect a long delay in getting hired post college (Loguercio, 2009).
Utilizing smart phones in the classroom can be very beneficial for learning for Millennials. The vast majority of these young adults have access to a smart phone 24/7. Allowing them to be used in the classroom for learning purposes helps students engage in the learning process and use what they have available to them. Some uses for smart phones in the formal learning setting include taking pictures of the white board for visual learners to come back to or when they are running out of time to ensure they don’t miss information in their notes, to utilize them as response clickers to polling questions, recording lectures, and have instant access to email (Clark, 2012). Other options include documenting lab information as well as providing feedback on student progress via texts and emails (Higgins, 2013). Finally, applications that send reminders about upcoming assignments and and classroom surveying allow students to use the tools they have to boost learning opportunities (Graham, 2013).
Tablets in the classroom are a great opportunity for Millennials as well. These devices typically carry the most up-to-date software and allow for lots of multi-tasking capabilities. These types of characteristics are what make them perfect and appealing for Millennial students. Some great features of these are that they are capable of holding a wealth of information and software and are very light and portable (Madan, 2011). They offer great resources through e-textbooks that regular print papers could never do such as video and audio features (Madan, 2011). Some can even come pre-loaded with all of the lesson plans, tests, and e-books a student might need for a given class (Toppo, 2013). They are much more efficient and personalized than some computers and fit into a student’s lifestyle since they are so convenient and readily connectable (Madan, 2011). These devices are also becoming more affordable, adaptable, powerful and interactive, allowing Millennials to flourish when utilizing them in formal learning (Wooding, 2013).
Gaming in a formal environment for the Millennial generation is just now starting to really make an impact. As more research is done, there is proof of the positive outcomes students can experience when learning through a gaming process. Colleges in many states across the country are beginning to tap into this resource to attempt to make learning more fun and engaging (Bengfort, 2013). This allows students to learn by engaging with several different problems as they encounter them, failing, and learning that the process will eventually lead to a solution (Bengfort, 2013).This type of learning environment really engages the Millenial student because it allows for a “collective intelligence” and the group learning and collaboration that these students enjoy so much (Mackay, 2013). This also teaches patience and discipline as students learn to make their own choices and then experience the consequences of those choices (Mackay, 2013).
Social networking is a huge part of the life of a Millennial student. Because these tools have become such a mainstream part of life, it’s essential to utilize them in the classroom in order to really engage the Millennial learner. In a formal learning setting, social networks can be used to help break the barriers between students and teachers as well as increase the level of communication (Iancu, 2013). Teachers can work to adapt Facebook, Youtube, and Twitter to the classroom setting, Wikispaces can allow them to share thoughts, images, texts and discussions, and Edmodo allows for personalization and communication with parents to keep them updated on student progress (Iancu, 2013). Social networks allow students to have a voice outside of their classroom to more of a global audience and empower them to speak their minds (Casey, G & Evans, T, 2011). This allows for learning to be a shared experience and be literal in the networks they will use to participate in the economy globally in the workforce (Casey, G & Evans, T, 2011). Since these networks are becoming the fabric of how professionals communicate in today’s society, it’s important for students to learn how to use them (Falls, 2011).
Blogging is a powerful tool for the Millennials who like to stay connected and share their experiences with one another. Tools such as Edublogs are specifically designed for education and allows students the opportunity to develop their writing skills and encourage their creativity (Iancu, 2013). This, like social media, allows students to have a global audience. This also allows for writing improvement since students are practicing so often (a characteristic Millennials love) and they also learn to give constructive feedback to their peers (Lampinen, 2013). Introverted individuals have an open forum in which they can blossom and share their thoughts and students tend to learn it is important to hear many different opinions and points-of-view which fits with a Millennials idea of better social improvement (Lampinen, 2013).
Millennials use smart phones for just about everything. With capabilities ranging from texting, email, and alarm clocks to the ability to set reminders, surf the Internet, or connect with social media, these devices offer a world of informal learning at the user’s fingertips. This generation is having to learn to navigate through new technologies and applications constantly, so this gives them the ability to learn to problem solve and research. So many new educational applications are available for free or at low costs that the chance to connect to learning on smart phones is available to anyone with access to them (Clark, 2012). Young adults are able to instantly learn about any topic they may encounter with the tap of a few different screens. This gives them the chance to learn more about Monet when wondering through an art museum or to find answers to questions they may encounter throughout their day. This constant stream of information makes learning easy and convenient.
Tablets can be a great tool for informal learning for Millennial students because of their easy compatibility with e-books. The availability of most books through the electronic form allows access to many different resources at one time. A student could have an application for a dictionary or encyclopedia loaded on their tablet to utilize while learning about a new topic (Toppo, 2013). There are a great number of applications that make learning accessible and easy. These tablets can be used to connect students to others as well as for blogging, photography, taking piano or guitar lessons, or to learn to cook different meals. The options are endless!
Gaming is a great tool for Millennial students to use since it gives them the chance to do something fun while building valuable skills. Many gaming websites can be fun as well as educational for students. A few of these types of websites that allow for educational gaming include Funbrain (with a variety of subjects and teacher resources), GameClassroom (with information aligned with state standards), and BrainNook (virtual math and English games that allow students to interact with classmates) and allow students the chance to strengthen their skill sets through an enjoyable learning experience (Kapuler, 2011).
MostMillennials use social networking to keep up with friends and family, but also as a major source of news and information (Casey, G. & Evans, T, 2011). With so many followers on social networks, major news outlets have created Facebook pages and Twitter accounts to keep followers informed of the latest and most breaking news and issues. This allows students to stay plugged into current events just by checking their news feed. Allowing these young adults to stay up-to-date and connected to the global environment is an invaluable part of informal learning.
Blogging is a great chance for Millennials to have their voice heard. This tool is invaluable for informal learning as students consistently practice their writing skills and learn to communicate with the world around them (Lampienen, 2013). Typically, those students that participate in blogging are more likely to read others and expand their communication and social network. This allows students the opportunity to learn from people who are different from them and see many different perspectives.
The characteristics of Millennial students and their use of technology have a significant effect on what the learning environment should look like for this generation. The needs of this generation show that the classroom should be interactive and give students the chance to work collaboratively. It is very important to give these students the chance to work as a team and utilize a variety of technological tools. Students expect and prefer to work with the latest and greatest technology available, so it is also important to have an environment that is rich with these tools. Students need to have the opportunity to be socially connected to others in a global setting as well as with classmates and their teachers. Whether it is through using social media, connecting with personal devices, or sharing information through online forums and classroom blogs, it is vital for these students to be able to stay connected and up-to-date on the latest information. Finally, making learning fun through interactive games is a great tool to let students experience and practice the skills they are needing to develop for core subject areas.
Range from age 18-30 years old (currently)
Make up roughly 81 million people
Children of the Baby Boomers and Generation X’rs
Majority non-white, highest minority Hispanic
Grew up with
Not afraid of
Optimistic about future
More community involvement
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