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December 27, 2008
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Klawrojna 
An Independent Online Kurdish-English Newspaper

The Millennial Generation

Kurdishaspect.com - By Helene Sairany

“Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone.
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come writers and critics
Who prophesize with your pen
And keep your eyes wide
The chance won't come again
And don't speak too soon
For the wheel's still in spin
And there's no tellin' who
That it's namin'.
For the loser now
Will be later to win
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don't stand in the doorway
Don't block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There's a battle outside
And it is ragin'.
It'll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin'.

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'.
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin”1

Walt Mueller presents the words of his father, "I'm glad I'm not raising kids in this day and age." I'm sure my dad isn't the only grandparent who's uttered those words in recent years, says Walt. "It seems like it's so much harder for kids these days. So many pressures and choices are on your kids. I don't envy you at all Walt."

Richard DeBard talks about the Millennial in his book, Serving the Millennial Generation by saying, "Millennial students have grown up in a world that is fundamentally different from that of previous generations."

Mueller and Debard are right - this is a different world that our kids are growing up in. The choices, challenges, pressures and expectations they face are leaving a deep and lasting mark on who they are and who they will become. And to help them sort it all out, they need parents and teachers who understand them and their world better than they understand it themselves. Today's children and teens are part of a truly unique generation. This is the generation that is called, the millennial generation.

Since every generation can be skeptical of the values and abilities of other generations, and every generation attempts to “correct” the errors of those who came before them, the potential exists for “generation gaps.” 

Who are the millennials?  Millennials are those who were born after 1981 and began arriving on college campuses in 20002. Millennials are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in the whole world. One in four grew up in a single parent household. They saw new examples of family—many grew up with working mothers, blended families and homes impacted by a divorce4. For this group, cutting edge technology includes iPods/MP3s, camera phones, PDAs, digital cameras, DVD players, etc.  The need of the millennial generation is far different and it is very important that parents or teachers know what it means to be from the millennial generation to bridge the gap3. 

The book, Serving the Millennial Generation by Richard Debard and a presentation by Neil Howe list the following attributes of the millennial generation.  
  • The Millennial kids are  known as "Remote Control Kids" (they face unprecedented and constant change), the "Salad Bowl Generation" (marked by racial, experiential, and attitudinal diversity), and "Bridgers" (bridging the millennia).
  • The Millennial seem confident and comfortable because they've been born into a time of peace and economic prosperity. Consequently, they have been lulled into a false sense of security.
  • Family stability, support, and guidance are fading away as the majority of millennial grow up in families marked by divorce, fatherlessness, and/or brokenness. Fully 1/4 to 1/3 of the kids born between 1989 and 1994 were born to unmarried women. They have been left hungering for relationships
  • Without the support of loving and involved parents, many are being raised and nurtured on an expansive and growing media diet where options abound. Recent research indicates they are so media-savvy that they are able to process multiple streams of information concurrently
  • The pervasiveness of MTV and the Internet has shrunken their world. They are growing up in a global society and global youth culture where kids around the world increasing look, act, and think the same.
  • Unprecedented economic opportunity and wealth leaves them vulnerable to marketers who are aggressively targeting them with advertising. As with previous generations, they are materialistic.
  • They are deeply interested in spiritual things. While they are keenly aware of the spiritual void in their lives, they tend to avoid religion as an option while pursuing spiritual answers down a variety of strange and unusual avenues. Their "faith" is personal and syncretistic.
  • The Millennial is the first generation raised in the new "postmodern" world with the accompanying postmodern world view. For them, feelings take precedence over reason, truth is relative, and everyone believes what's "right" for them. Consequently, they are feeling-driven, pluralistic, spontaneous, and without a transcendent moral compass.
  • "Fair play" is important to millennial; they see policies that give preferences based on race as unjust. Racial diversity is appealing, but Millennial "believe more in a 'transracial' than a 'multi-racial' society"
  • Pressured - These students' greatest worries relate to grades and the college admission process. The authors suggest that college admission officers tell Millennials that their college will help them reach their goals while "offering a place of refuge”. Millennials seek challenge, but yearn for relief from pressure.
  • Achieving - These students are indeed better achievers than past undergraduates.
  • Millennials want a strong community life and that better student activity programs will lead to improved retention
  • They believe that becoming successful is up to them, and they are not depending on others for help. Finding a good job is a priority. They are the young navigators. They must chart their own course and captain their own ship: “It’s up to me to create my own well-being.” They value personal experience and are prone to seek out critical thinkers. They are independent and emotionally and intellectually open. They strongly value individual rights: the right to be left alone, the right to privacy, the right to have and express their own views. They want to be treated fairly2,3.

The millennial is well connected and we can put a lot of labels on them but at the end there is a need to connect all this to the learning college/university principles.  As educators, we need to communicate to the millennial to engage them in the learning process.  We also need to give them the tools that will asset them in the collaborative learning process. There are a number of articles out there that talks about the new millennial but the one that caught my attention the most is the article, Email is for old people.  Email is for old people indicates that a growing number of students are missing important messages about deadlines, class cancellations, and events sent to them by e-mail because, well, the messages are sent to them by e-mail. In response, some institutions require that students check their college e-mail accounts so they do not miss announcements, holding students responsible for official information that comes through that medium. Other institutions are attempting to figure out what technology students are using to try to reach them there4. 

A 2005 report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project called "Teens and Technology" found that teenagers preferred new technology, like instant messaging or text messaging, for talking to friends and use e-mail to communicate with "old people." Along the same lines, students interviewed for this article say they still depend on e-mail to communicate with their professors. But many of the students say they would rather send text messages to friends, to reach them wherever they are, than send e-mail messages that might not be seen until hours later.  Colleges need to branch out and find new ways to connect with students. It's not that they don't read e-mails, it's that the millennial have their own world, and you need to know how to reach them in that world5.

Some professors now make themselves available to students via instant-messaging software, especially during office hours. And some admissions counselors use it to answer questions from prospective students faster, and through a medium in which many students are most comfortable.  Some colleges have begun using the popular social-networking services to provide information to their students, including calendars of events, deadlines, and other announcements. College officials also use the services to present a lighter side of an institution something different from the stuffy main Web page3.

I often ask my younger siblings and their friends about their internet usage, they consider me “old”. I ask them about which websites they use, how they learn about new products, and what influences them. In my casual ethnographic research, my kid sister in college recently told me two things that still resonate in my head.“Out of my hundreds of friends, only ONE does not use facebook or myspace.” She also shared her email usage:“I only use email to get a hold of old people like you.”Great. Well from her perspective, I’m certainly older than her, nearly 4 years, but to the rest of my classmates, I’m considered young.

The millennial revert to other sources for communication.  Some say the future of email can be found in MySpace and Facebook, while others say its text message, but truth is it will always be changing.  Today its text, tomorrow its MySpace, next month its Virtual IM.  It’s difficult to keep up…but it shouldn’t be. Therefore, stop trying to catch up and instead figure out why things are changing so fast.  I admit, I use email just for work too, and revert to text messaging to contact friends.  1000 text messages isn’t enough for me, I need unlimited texts.  Why though? It’s because things today are FAST paced, I can’t take the time to open up my computer and send an email asking “what are we doing tonight?”  A simple text is easier, faster, and more efficient.

MySpace and Facebook take time too, but everyone is on it! It is therefore of no surprise that in college campuses you hear the statement, Facebook me or I’ll Facebook you.  Hence students are constantly using Facebook or Myspace as an easy source of communication.  Plus they both have handy mobile alerts letting the millennial know when someone has messaged them…does Yahoo?  Not sure, if they do, they haven’t done a good job marketing it. 

Millennial online habits can be very different from their parents'. As with any media choice, parents need to be informed and involved. We all know that Youtube grabs the attention of the millennial.  What is YouTub?  Here is what Wikipedia had to say, “YouTube is a video sharing website where users can upload, view and share video clips. In November 2006, YouTube, LLC was bought by Google Inc. for $1.65 billion, and is now operated as a subsidiary of Google. The company uses a wide variety of user-generated video content, including movie clips, TV clips and music videos, as well as amateur content such as video blogging and short original videos. Most of the content on YouTube has been uploaded by members of the public, although media organizations including CBS and the BBC offer some of their material via the site.6”

One reason adults might not spot a YouTube obsession is that they're unfamiliar with teens' general online habits. Sometimes we assume that the way we use the computer is the way the younger generation uses it. That's not accurate.  Adults use the Internet to fact-find, whereas teens use it to browse and build community. I know many people use YouTube to run campaigns, to bridge gaps or even spread messages. 

Professors might want to consider incorporating YouTube into their lecture presentation.  I am sorry but the millennial is not welling to set back and listen to you for two hours. Use the tools and the needs to connect to the millennial and if it takes you to use YouTube, why not?  Remember the millennial is the generation of mutli-tasking, which means you have to keep their hands busy, their mind busy, and your learning style rich of the nowadays tools that attracts their attention. 
It is therefore clear that school systems must develop strategies for meeting the needs of millennial students. Providing effective services for them will have implications for academic and co-curricular programs, communication strategies, technology and parental involvement. Keeping our ears open for what the millennial want in terms of communication needs is something that institutions need to work on.

References

1. Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are A-Changin',” (1964),
(accessed February 17, 2008).

2. Michael D. Coomes and Richard DeBard, eds., Serving the Millennial Generation: New Directions for Student Services (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2004), 87.

3. Neil Howe, “Understanding the millennial generation,” Independent, (2003), (accessed December 27, 2008).

4. Jeanna Mastrodicasa, The Millennial Generation: A New Type of Student Arrives on Campus, (2007),
http://www.indiana.edu/~oem/pages/retreat_material.html (accessed December 27, 2008).

5. Amanda Lenhart, Mary Madden, Hitlin Paul, eds., Teen and Technology: Youth are leading the transition to a fully wired and mobile nation (Washington: Pew Internet & American life project, 2005), 1-57.

6. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/YouTube



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