NetGen Teachers?

” . . . These employers know that for Net Geners, work should be fun.  Net Geners see no clear dividing line between the two . . . .”     Don Tapscott,  Grown Up Digital

“Our research suggests that they expect to choose where and when they work; they use technology to escape traditional office space and hours; and they integrate their home and social lives with work life.  More than half of the Net Geners we surveyed online in North America say they want to be able to work in places other than an office. . . .They prefer flexible hours and compensation that is based on their performance and market value–not based on face time in the office.”   Don Tapscott, Grown up Digital

I’ve been thinking a lot about Tapscott’s comments about this particular expectation of Net Gen workers, because I believe that not only are we seeing Net Gen students in our classrooms and libraries, we are seeing Net Gen employees in our new(and sometimes in our experienced) staff as well.

After a fascinating coffee discussion with a colleague(both of us older than a Net Gener but sharing the characteristics of one) about our struggle with the transition from summer to “work”/school time,  I realized that as I spend more time online working with colleagues and as I have more experience, I am both more interested in how work can be “play” and also in the flexibility issue.

I wonder if we are losing the “creative set” of teachers from the classroom, as young Net Geners, (or older ones of us) who thrive on this sort of play, creativity, flexibility–but are still intensely committed employees–seek other opportunities.

And it’s a sad thought to me, thinking of the energies and talents that slip  away from education because the system isn’t all that flexible or playful.

I wonder if within existing schools what can be done about that.  Can libraries play a role in providing a time/space for ‘playfulness?”  What we can do would only be a drop in the bucket, possibly, but at least it is a start.  Yet in most schools, teachers don’t necessarily feel like they have that “Google-time”–that creative time to play and innovate–in fact, if “forced to play” teachers somewhat resent not having that time to use in their classroom or grading papers.  So what do you do if you want to foster some of that inventiveness and creativity yet have it be a meaningful part of the workplace?

Wouldn’t it be fabulous to have a job as a “creativity consultant” where your role was to bring in those creative energies and opportunities into a district?   Or the “innovation agent?”

It’s something we should be thinking about–because not only are we teaching Net Gen students, who crave this kind of flexible, playful, time shifting environment in our schools/classrooms, but we are employing Net Geners who crave these same things.  And don’t we want them to stay?

How are we really supporting their true needs?  Because I think Net Geners bring a whole range of skill sets that we need to work with “Net Gen” students.

Are we creating flexible work times?  Are we allowing some work to be done online?  Are we time shifting the idea of traditional classroom schedules?  Are we holding meetings online sometimes?  Are we building in some opportunity for creative growth or play?  And what does “play” for a teacher even look like and is this even possible with job demands/time pressures?  Are we creating open internet policies (like access to sites?–Tapscott posits that ten minutes knocking around on Facebook is like the old “coffee breaks” or “smoke breaks” of yore–time for relaxing/recharging).  Are we creating playful/flexible environments for students and staff alike?  (because some day soon, our entire staff and student body will be “Net Gen”.

Maybe we can only change the little circle of our own world at first(our classroom, our library, our department meetings, our workshops, our own workday schedule)–but maybe we should start somewhere?

When we fail to utilize what we know about our own employees and our own students, the divide between what is, and what the customer wants grows.   How can we utilize what we know, think outside the proverbial “box” and reinvigorate the concept of school in a Net Gen future?

3 thoughts on “NetGen Teachers?

  1. In visiting your library, Carolyn I think you all offer some great “play times” for all. I like how you incorporate construction paper cutting with training for the teachers so they can make cards. Maybe section off a piece of that space to provide paper, scissors, coloring books, etc. so kids can “play” while chatting and opening up with each other.

    Maybe share a “fun” site that can be used for presentations like Wordle,, Blabberize, MashFace, etc. Exploratory use of sites – let the kids check these sites out and then write up a review of them. Ask them how they could use the site in a class project. Maybe they can or maybe they can’t. Discovery of web resources could be so interesting if students helped define how they could be used.

    But I don’t think play should be so well-planned that the fun is removed from it.

    Great post!

  2. Today’s Washington Post has a sadly relevant article by precisely the type of teacher that you describe here (Sarah Fine. She is a young teacher who feels compelled to leave our profession after only 4 years. What a shame.
    Article: Schools Need Teachers Like Me. I Just Can’t Stay

    What can we do to keep the innovative young people who really can help to improve our schools?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *