2. Who are the Net Gen?

From the child’s perspective,
the classroom is
an extremely poor information environment.

Veen and Vrakking (2007: 63)



  1. To examine the social characteristics of ‘Net Gen’ students
  2. To identify some of the issues that confront these students in the online environment
  3. To identify some of the issues that confront you in the online environment


Your objectives

What are you hoping to learn from this module? Your objectives can be the same as mine, but is there anything else you are expecting to learn? Write down your thoughts, discuss with a partner or small group in the class, or blog it!



Who are the ‘Net Gen’ and what assumptions can we make about their social and learning habits? There has been a degree of controversy over what makes up this generation. This module will introduce you to the research and will demonstrate that there are certain things we can say about the way that Net Geners learn, and about the things they are not doing so well. But we will also discover a good deal about ourselves as learners.


Focus questions: What makes a Net Gen?

Who do you think the Net Gen are? Are they the same as the ‘Y’ generation? What age group are they? Are ‘their’ learning styles different from ‘ours’? Is this is all just a load of old baloney and a moral panic over nothing?

What characterises their attitudes towards

  • Information?
  • Community?
  • Collaboration?
  • Communication?
  • Choice?
  • Complexity?

What makes a ‘net’ generation? Is it age or ways of behaving online, regardless of age? Does actually growing up with Web 2.0 technologies actually make any difference? Write down your thoughts, discuss with a partner or small group in the class, or blog it!

Check out Mike Wesch’s YouTube video, A Vision of Students Today:


The Net Gen world

Below are some things that characterise the Net Gen world.


Their information environment is information-rich, non-linear and associative. multimedia, visual and graphical, immediate and instantaneous, immersive and abundant, relevant and meaningful (Pletka 2007).

They actively process information; filter info all the time; control information flows; are used to getting info immediately; get bored if the information flow is poor or two slow; use non-linear resources; don’t complain of information overload (Veen and Vrakking 2006)!

Community, collaboration, communication

They enjoy community-oriented, team-based activities, collaboration, participation, co-operation, and competition (Pletka 2007). They also use their networks and are used to controlling information (Veen and Vrakking 2006). Net Gen communication is multimodal, interactive, creative and interpretive, and comes easily to them (Johnson 2006: 73).

Choice, complexity and values

Net Geners want customisation, personalisation and individualisation (Pletka 2007). They absorb discontinuous information and make meaning of it; cope with complexity; increase and decrease their attention levels depending on need; work with sub-optimal knowledge; make sense of bits; accept uncertainty (Veen and Vrakking 2006). They value (as do we!) trust, openness and access (Veen and Vrakking 2006: 47).

Work styles and learning environments

Parallel processing and multi-tasking characterise Net Gen workstyles, they have ‘hypertext minds’ and little patience for step-by-step logic — or reasoning (Prensky 2001). Their learning environments (think, ‘gaming environments’!) are personalised, visual, rigorous, have links to the community and use individualised feedback (Pletka 2007).


Issues confronting Net Gen learners and their teachers

Net Geners’ learning needs are dynamic and experiential, and they learn by doing and by problem-solving (Pletka 2007). They want to engage and be engaged and often think their teachers are slow in their explanations (Veen and Vrakking 2006).

Veronica Diaz and Laura Blankenship discuss instructional technologies in an Educause podcast — have a listen.

Run time: 22 minutes


Focus questions: The response of education

How might we respond to these trends and needs as teachers? What sorts of learning environments might these students need? Write down your thoughts, discuss with a partner or small group in the class, or blog it!

Blog it here


Focus questions: Are we Net Gen, too?

What elements of Net Gen behaviour do you see in yourself? Do you find yourself switching more and more between tasks rather than focusing on just one? Are you less tolerant of lack of information? Poor information? Sloooooooow information? Are you searching less for one type of format (e.g., journals) and more for ‘the answer’ regardless of format? (i.e., a legitimate-looking website will do …) If you want to know more, check out the CIBER report that examines the Information behaviour of the researcher of the future (pdf).


Exercise: Your attitude to ICTs

Do this multiple-choice quiz to test your attitudes to ICTs. What are your fears? That you’ll lose stuff? Can’t do it? Look like an idiot in front of the students? Write down your thoughts, discuss with a partner or small group in the class, or blog it!



Write down your thoughts, discuss with a partner or small group in the class, or blog it!

  • What have I learnt?
  • What is still unclear?
  • What do I need to follow up on?
  • Where to from here?
  • What other stuff I have read or accessed to help me make sense of it all?


Links and resources

A vision of students today, You Tube video, Mike Wesch

Information behaviour of the researcher of the future (pdf)

Using ICTs to support higher order thinking (DECS SA, pdf)

Digital imagination, podcast interview with Gardner Campbell

2 Responses to “2. Who are the Net Gen?”

  1. lynmernagh Says:

    Teachers need to teach the way that students learn. Today’s students are no longer able to learn as well as we did using traditional styles of “teaching”. They are used to multi-tasking, and using digital equipment ALL day.

  2. natshoobie Says:

    Who do you think the Net Gen are?
    I would say they are those who have been immersed in the technological world. They have the skills needed to navigate and utilise the net and other technologies, not only to find information but to communicate their own information to others. Constant communication is central and this is highlighted by the mobile phone.

    What age group are they?
    Predominately they are gen Y or now gen Z. This does not mean that the net gen is exclusively theirs, but they are most likely to inhabit this realm. Anyone can join, just get out their and get in to it!!

    Are ‘their’ learning styles different from ‘ours’?
    Sure. It seems they need constant stimulation, entertainment even. Life seems to be in fast forward, need it now, want it now, HAVE it now. ICT can offer this “NOW lifestyle” to the net gen.

    The net offers a range of stimulus for a range of learners, chalk and talk is gone, clicking is the new writing, get amongst it.

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