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Understanding the Millenial Generation

What is the Millenial Generation?

The Millenial generation is that group of young people born between 1980 and 2000, sometimes called the Internet Generation, N-Geners, Generation Y, the Nintendo Generation, the Digital Generation, and, in Canada, the Sunshine Generation. They're the first generation to grow up surrounded by digital media. (Raines, 2002)

In general, Millenials (Oblinger, 2003):

* gravitate toward group activity

* identify with their parents' values and feel close to their parents

* are fascinated by new technologies

* are racially and ethically diverse

* believe it's cool to be smart

* spend more time doing homework and housework and less time watching TV

* often (at least one in five) have at least one immigrant parent

Why is this important?

Ensuring we are providing our young people with the education most suited to their lives and futures, rather than that of our past1, demands that we consider closely the lives of our kids today and the society in which they live and learn.

Today's education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap between how students live and how they learn. -Partnership for 21st Century Skills, 2003

What does the research tell us?

Today's digital kids think of information and communications technology (ICT) as something akin to oxygen: they expect it, it's what they breathe, and it's how they live. They use ICT to meet, play, date, and learn. It's an integral part of their social life; it's how they acknowledge each other and form their personal identities. (Seely-Brown, 2004, 6)

The data on Millenials' access to and use of technology provides us with a picture of kids who use that technology within their daily routine. For example, Teens Online (Kaiser Family Foundation, 2002) found that in US 12-17 year olds with home Internet access typically spent almost as much time online each day (46 minutes) as reading books (49 minutes), playing video games (55 minutes) or talking on the telephone (60 minutes). Among older teens (15-17), a third used the Internet for 6 hours a week or more, 24% for 3-5 hours, 23% for 1-2 hours a week, and 20% for one hour a week or less.

The 2005 Kaiser Foundation Report, Generation M: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-olds- Report, suggests that the increase in household media has necessitated re-labeling 'media rich' environments to 'media-saturated' and the picture of a typical 8 to 18 year old looks like this:

A typical 8 to 18-year-old lives in a home containing three TV sets, three CD/tape players, three radios, three VCR/DVD players, two video game consoles, and a computer. The TV is likely to receive cable or satellite signals, and there is a better than 50% chance that it receives premium channels. The computer probably has Internet access, and there is a better than 30% chance that it is high-speed access. In addition, substantial numbers of kids have most of these media in their own bedrooms. More than two-thirds (68%) have their own TV and more than half have their own VCR/DVD player (54%); 95% have a personal music source (i.e., a radio, tape, or CD player in the bedroom, and/or a portable device such as an MP3 player); almost half say they have their own video game console and almost one-third report their own personal computer (31%).

The implications of this media experience on our kids' perceptions of schools is not insignificant. According to Peter Senge:

Children know more about what's going on in the world today than their teachers, often because of the media environment they grow up in. They're immersed in a media environment of all kinds of stuff that was unheard of 150 years ago, and yet if you look at school today versus 100 years ago, they are more similar than dissimilar.

Key Questions

1. How does this picture of the Millenials resonate with you?

2. If we take the statements regarding Millenials values and attitudes as given, what are the implications of this for classroom practice and, indeed, school design?


Raines, C. (2002). Managing Millenials, http://www.generationsatwork.com/articles/millenials.htmaccessed 02/20/06

Oblinger, D. (2003). Boomers, Gen-Xers and Millenials. Understanding the New Students, www.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0342.pdf accessed 02/20/06

Seely-Brown, J. (2004). Learning in the Digital Age, http://www.johnseelybrown.com/learning_in_digital_age-aspen.pdf accessed 01/10/2005

1. At the end of the 1950s, seven of eight U.S. homes (87%) had a TV set and personal computers and video game consoles had not been invented. As the century came to a close, 99% of children 2- to 18-years-old lived in homes with a TV set (60% lived with three or more TVs, and over half had a TV in their bedroom), 70% had video game consoles, and 69% lived in homes with a personal computer (Roberts, Foehr, Rideout & Brodie, 1999; also see Roberts & Foehr, 2004).