Teaching the 'Net Generation



The 'Net Generation are our current students. They have grown up with the internet and are accustomed to all that it has to offer. 'Net Generationers learn differently and have new digital literacies to acquire than generations of the past. There are many knowledgeable educators sharing their expertise on the topic of "Teaching the 'Net Generation" that we can all learn from.


Anderson, S., Bellow, A., Bryne, R., Couros, G., Perlazzo, L., Larkin, P., ... Rosenthal Tolisano, S. (n.d.). The super book of web tools for educators: a comprehensive introduction to using technology in all K-12 classrooms. Retrieved from http://www.leekolbert.com/p/free-downloads.html

This downloadable book is from Lee Kolbert's A Geeky Momma's Blog. The introduction to the book touches upon the prevalence of technology in the `net generation (although not referred to by that name) student’s life and the need to bring the internet into the school system. The rest of the book is contains annotated lists of web tools and suggestions for use, including detailed sections on using Skype in the classroom and on social media for educators.

Pletka, B (2007). Educating the net generation: How to engage students in the 21st century. Santa Monika, CA: Santa Monika Press.

Concerned with the growing issue of student disengagement, Pletka addresses generational differences and how to best deal with the needs of the Net Generation. Throughout the easy to read book, Pletka details his concerns with aspects of the current school system and why it fails to engage our students. He offers practical suggestions for administrators, educators, and parents including relevant and personal learning, community connections, rigorous education (rich learning that includes consuming and producing information), and how to address the related financial issues.

Tapscott, D. (2009). Grown up digital. New York, NY: NcGraw-Hill.

Tapscott refers to the fact that in 2008 the first members of the `net generation were turning 30, which placed them fully in adulthood. Tapscott reviews the average `net generationer's childhood and how it differs from previous generations. He then outlines how this generation has transitioned into adulthood, paying close attention to topics such as post-secondary education, employment, consumerism, family time and politics, carefully looking at the issues of the 'net generation, but also dispelling some common assumptions.

Blog Posts

Cofino, K. (2012, June 3). Setting the standard [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://kimcofino.com/blog/2012/06/03/setting-the-standard/

This blog post presents learning standards for teaching technology in the international classroom. The standards take into account standards presented by ISTE (The International Society for Technology in Education) and by the AASL (American Association of School Librarians), but are also reflective of standards presented in the Canadian book Achieving Information Literacy by Asselin, Branch & Oberg. The standards try to address skills students will need to develop to become information literate.

Warlick, D. (2012, February 3). The purpose of education is... [Web log post]. Retrieved from http://davidwarlick.com/2cents/?p=3477

This blog post is a reflection on David Warlick's experience at an Educon session intended to introduce teachers to a program called Hackasaurus which allows students to 'hack' any web content and change it to their liking. While the Hackasaurus program is interesting, most notable was Warlick's epiphany; "The purpose of school is to prepare our children to own their future!" Instead of preparing students to fit into an unknown future, educators should prepare students to have an active part in creating their own future.


Carlson, S. (2005). The net generation goes to college. The chronicle of higher education, 52(7), 34-37. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/education/docview/214672037/13750E446C713E7CEBD/2?accountid=14474

This article follows the comments and observations of Richard T. Sweeney, university librarian at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Sweeny notes the differences in the learning styles of the students at his post secondary institution over the last few years. This prompted him to study this new generation of students and to develop theories on their learning and on how best to teach them. The article outlines his research and recommendations, but also includes the counter-argument that suggests changing to the system to fit the `net generation is an erosion of the post secondary environment.

Geck, C. (2006). The generation z connection: Teaching information literacy to the newest net generation. Teacher librarian, 33(3), 19-23. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/education/docview/224890321/137C3AF9C97658301BA/1?accountid=14474

This article claims that at information literacy skills among teenagers are lacking, especially in relation to the use of non-Google related search methods, time management and critical selections of sources. It suggests that teacher-librarians can and should play a central role in teaching information literacy skills and offers suggestions on how this could be managed.

Leblanc, P.R. & Lacey, C.H. (2009). Teaching the net generation: Strategies and skills. SEEN: SouthEast Education Network. Retrieved from http://www.seenmagazine.us/articles/article-detail/articleid/225/teaching-the-net-generation-strategies-and-skills.aspx

This short article presents a review of some of the characteristics of the `net generation as learners and suggests two strategies for teaching `net generation students: the webquest and the technology-based simulation. Both tools use technology in a manner that compliments 'net generationers learning styles.


Children and Nature Network (n.d.). Research and resources: Studies, reports and publications. Santa Fe, MN: Author. Retrieved from http://www.childrenandnature.org/research/

For more information, research, and ideas on connecting children and nature. The Children & Nature Network conducts original surveys, compiles research, and provides a variety of resources for educators and community members helping to connect children with nature in their everyday lives.

Coombs, B. (2009). Digital natives or digital refugees? Why we have failed gen y? International Association of School Librarianship. Selected Papers from the Annual Conference. 1-12. Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com.login.ezproxy.library.ualberta.ca/education/docview/236051593/137B850E55D7C026831/1?accountid=14474

This research article challenges the assumption that Generation Y or the `Net Generation are completely competent in the use of internet related technologies due to exposure to the internet all their lives. In general, the research revealed that while almost all the participants used the internet extensively for a myriad of uses, their information seeking skills were lacking. Further, most participants reported experiential learning of internet related information seeking skills rather than any formal guidance by teachers or teacher-librarians. Coombs concludes that current education methods are failing Generation Y students by assuming proficiency in information literacy skills instead of directly teaching these skills.

Ladbrook, J. (2010) Our emerging net generation: Are they information literate? New Zealand Journal of Educational Studies, 45 (1), 67-75. Retrieved from

Researchers discovered that Year 10 (14 year old students) English teachers believed that their students were proficient users of technology but that information literacy skills, such as critically evaluating a source or synthesizing material, were lacking. Student responses confirmed these beliefs. Interestingly, the researchers discovered that while both teachers and students recognized the lack of information literacy skills, no formal plan to teach these skills within the context of online text usage was in place. The researchers conclude by recommending that information literacy skills be taught in schools so that students can be prepared for their future demands.


CClark1963. (2009, March 1). Net generation: Learning styles [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rzX21oQx94w

This video is an overview of the learning styles of the `net generation, as well as some examples of teaching strategies that can be used to reach these students.

New Learning Institute (2012). Technology and 21st century learning. Retrieved from http://newlearninginstitute.org/film-series/a-21st-century-education/technology-and-21st-century-learning

This site, developed by the New Learning Institute, has a series of videos about mobile devices and learning. Featuring Stephen Heppell, Alan November, Yong Zhao, Elliot Soloway and Cathie Norris.

ThinkSharp. (2008, February 24). Teaching gen y [Video]. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9CRi8Wgug-s

This Youtube video is a compilation of interviews about the changes some educators have made in an effort to motivate `net generation or generation Y students. Included is an interesting debate on cheating.

People to follow

Kim Cofino - Alway's Learning: Teaching Technology Abroad @mscofino

Doug Johnson - Blue Skunk Blog @BlueSkunkBlog

Liz Kolb - From Toy to Tool: Cell Phones in Learning @lkolb

Lee Kolbert - A Geeky Momma's Blog @TeachaKidd

Chris Lehmann - Practical Theory: A view from the classroom @chrislehmann

Scott McLeod - Dangerously Irrelevant: Technology, Leadership, & the Future of Schools @mcleod

Cathy Nelson - Cathy Nelson's Professional Thoughts @cathyjo

Lisa Nielsen - Innovative Educator Blog @InnovativeEdu

Dean Shareski - Ideas and Thoughts: Learning Stuff Since 1964 @shareski

Don Tapscott - http://dontapscott.com/ @dtapscott

Joyce Valenza - Never Ending Search @joycevalenza

David Warlick - 2 Cents Worth @dwarlick

Kristie, Lisa and Niki

This resource page was created as part of an assignment for EDES 545 through the University of Alberta, July 2012. It is a component of our professional development presentation on Teaching the 'Net Generation.