The ADD Generation. That’s one of the names Millennials, those people born between 1982 and 1999 have been christened with. Obsessed with our phones and the newest piece of technology, incapable of paying attention to anything for an extended period, and then only if it flatters our egos. Are there some grains of truth in the stereotypes? Probably. But whether or not there are grains of truth in them as they apply to a whole generation of people, the truth of the matter is that we all learn like Millennials now.
When was the last time you sat in a class? Unless you are currently in k-12 or college I would be highly surprised if you had sat in a class in the last year. And for those few of you who actually did sit in a traditional classroom, how many of you just listened to a lecture? I would be willing to bet good money that most of your classes involved some sort of activity or interactive component, even if it was just a question and answer session proposed by the professor.
What this all boils down to is that there is no one who cherishes monotony in their learning. Everyone craves excitement, the thrill of doing something interesting, not the staid and tired drone of a traditional lecture. We all learn like Millennials, and the secret is… we always have learned this way.
Think back to when you were a kid. Maybe you hated learning anything. But I think what you probably hated was school. Almost every kid goes through a stage where they are fascinated by dinosaurs, where they will memorize their names and facts about their biology until the velociraptors come home. We are natural learners. We have to be. It’s how we end up being able to speak, walk, and operate those smartphones the Millennials seem to love so much. From the very beginning we are attracted to those topics we find fascinating and away from those we do not enjoy. Every small child learns like a Millennial, in fits and starts, as they discover what they are interested in that day or just that moment. It is only as we are introduced to school and a rigorous training schema that we learn to learn in any other way.
What Millennials have done with modern technology is preserved their ability to learn in the manner in which they have always learned. When they have a question they ask Google or Youtube, and come away with an answer. If a subject no longer interests them, they will move on to something that does. Is such a learning methodology childish? Absolutely. But it is childish in the best possible way. It is childish in the same way that wonder and innocence are childish.
In the end we have always been Millennials. We’ve always loved learning exactly what we want to learn, and learning it in the most exciting and engaging manner, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of. There is nothing inherently better about learning in a sub-optimal way. If you want to argue that there is something to be gain from learning through a less than perfectly fun manner, you are more than capable of making such an argument. But just because there is something to be gained from learning in a sub-optimal manner does not mean we must disparage the quest for optimal learning.