Effects of IT on Teachers and Learners: Speed and Innovation

Related to the digital generations’ interest in and desire to customize technologies is the rate at which the digital generations adopt new technologies. Members of these generations are willing to buy new devices as soon as they arrive on the market and they are enthusiastic consumers of innovative new devices. They both become users of new technology quickly and they find new uses of technologies quickly.

As I was drafting this paragraph, I observed a situation in my classroom that illustrates the generational differences in the rate at which innovative technologies are adopted. I happened to be introducing, to a group of students and a group of teachers, an online tool for creating presentations; for both groups I introduced the session as “an interesting alternative to PowerPoint.” Each group had similar introductions to the same system (a 10-minute show-and-tell watching me use the tools on a projected screen and then about 30 minutes to work with the tools themselves). Whereas the teachers expressed an interest in a more detailed training session and a discussion of how this was more effective than what they were already using (the precautionary principle manifest), the students began using the tools immediately (most stopped watching my demonstration well before I had finished and started their own explorations). By the end of the week (the introductions were given to both groups on the same Tuesday), several students had used the new system to complete assignments for other classes (some of which were taught by the same teachers who had been in the training session), but none of the teachers had even logged on to the system for a second time.

Don Tapscott (2009) suggested members of the digital generations expect responses to communication far quicker than members of previous generations, and this can be seen in several differences between members of the digital generations and members of pre-digital generations. Whereas previous generations ordered products from mail-order retailers and expected to wait several weeks as their order was delivered to the retailer via postal service, was processed and filled, and then shipped back; digital generations expect to place an order on a web site and receive the product within a day or two. Whereas previous generations expected to take a test in class and have it returned graded within a day or two, the digital generations expect to take a test online and see the results immediately. Whereas previous generations called friends on the telephone and expected them to call back within a few hours if they were not available, members of the digital generations expect their friends to carry cell phones and answer their messages (phone calls or text messages) within seconds.


Tapscott, Don. 2009. Grown Up Digital: How the ‘Net Generation is Changing Our World. New York: McGraw-Hill.