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Millennials and the Ethos of New Literacies


Chapter 3 Reflection

New Literacies: Everyday Practices and Social Learning

by Colin Lankshear & Michele Knobel

In the last couple of years, I have frequently come across articles and publications discussing the "Millennial" generation (born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s). Some authors have criticized their work ethic and personal habits, and others say that Millennials are changing the workplace in a radical way. Is the critique of the Millennial generation really any different than the same critiques of youth that were passed down generations before? Youth have historically challenged the assumptions and conventional practices embedded into society by their parent's generation. What comes as a consequence to these challenges is the evolution of theories, practices, and thus conventional norms.

But not everyone is critiquing the Millennial generation. Forbes magazine outlined the 10 Ways Millenials Are Creating the Future of Work, and reflect on how youth are transforming the workplace. "By 2025, millenials will account for 75% of the global workforce and by next year, they will account for 36% of the American workforce...millenials have a different view of how work should get done and come into the workforce with a different set of expectations."

1. They will force companies to be transparent.

2. They will choose corporate culture and meaninful work above everything else.

3. They willl build a collaborative organization.

4. They will make working from home the norm.

5. They will recruit based on results over degrees.

6. They will change the meaning of "face-time".

7. They will encourage generosity and community support.

8. They will eliminate the annual performance review..

9. They will turn work into a game instead of a chore.

10. The will level corporate hierarchies.

Many of these 10 ways support the concept of the evolution of theory and practice of new literacies in post-modern society presented by Lankshear & Knobel in chapter 3. Summarizing this change in how work is organized, Lankshear and Knobel say that "these (new technologies) are not just shifts in ideas and beliefs; they entail changes in practices. Life gets organized differently." In addition to the growth and development of new digital-electronic technologies, a change in the ethos or values and practices is also present. This movement away from conventionally established pathways has become more and more relevant to the discussions we are having about education and learning in general.

Aligning with Lankshear & Knobel's ideas about "mobilizing collective intelligence by encouraging free and open participation" is Clay Shirkey's TED Talk Institutions vs Collaboration. Shirkey outlines how traditional institutions are giving way to more open networks of collaborative production, and how even the smallest contributor can have a very important role. So, perhaps as educators and thought leaders we have much to learn from the up and coming generations. Let's step away from the generalizations and the need to put everything in neat little boxes and give up some of the rigidity that is present in our professional and academic worlds.


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