THIS article assesses the behaviour of a new generation of learners who are addicted to using the Internet as a mode of learning and communication.
By Tonderayi Chanakira
This generation is known as the millennial generation which further believes in the philosophy of action learning.
It is in this context, therefore, that the millennial generation is regarded as a puzzle that needs assistance from information professionals when it is in need of information especially when this very inquisitive generation visits libraries.
Further, the millennial generation has been perceived as a jigsaw puzzle to information professionals, particularly with regard to its information-seeking behaviour which is heavily reliant on the use of the Internet.
The millennial generation’s addiction to action learning has challenged information professionals to reconsider the way they deal with the information needs of this peculiar breed of clientele.
This is particularly the case when a millennial searches for information cloud computing using the Internet as a mode of information-seeking.
The millennial has challenged information professionals such as librarians to teach them new information literacy skills due to the proliferation of information on the Internet where one needs specific skills to get the exact information which one is looking for.
The millennial generation is a new breed of learners who are gifted and addicted in using various modes of communication which are available on the Internet such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and many other social channels that are synonymous with the Internet service provisions of today.
The millennial survives learning using the Internet on a trial and error basis with the aid of open source software tools which are available for purposes of information management.
The millennial generation has a peculiar addiction to learning using the Internet.
In the Zimbabwean context, the millennial generation is known as the “born frees” — those who were born after April 18, 1980, during the eve of Zimbabwe’s independence.
It is this generation that is credited for having revolutionised the modern library learning environment to accommodate their learning needs which has led to the emergence of what is now popularly referred to as millennial learning commons.
By way of definition, a learning commons is a modern learning environment used by the millennial generation which combines library services, technology, and other learning resources to create a learning atmosphere that supports the learning process from an individual and collaborative social atmosphere of action learning.
Learning commons are also known as information or knowledge commons with special needs for the millennial generation.
Learning commons are further guided by action-learning principles which embrace openness and feedback, shared decision making, diversity, social equity and sociability to benefit the millennial generation.
Social networking platforms like Flicker, Friendster and Facebook, therefore, give the millennial generation forums for meeting likeminded social groups by providing a medium for spreading their messages beyond the immediate community.
It is, therefore, common sense that the most dominant library patron of today is the millennial client whose learning styles have challenged the librarian to move with the times by adopting and embracing millennial learning needs.
The learning habits of this generation are Internet dominated addiction.
This generation has been discovered to frequent the Internet for learning purposes almost daily in which it targets social networks.
Research into the habits of the millennial generation has revealed that they have the highest volume of Internet traffic usage at 65%.
The millennial generation is accounting for 95% regarding communication using cellphone texting.
On e-mailing, the millennial generation is rated at 52% usage.
Most interestingly, 83% millennial sleep with their mobile phones.
It is interesting to also note that the millennial generation has had its share in shaping the information communication and technology revolution in Zimbabwe.
Politicians in Zimbabwe, in particular, have also targeted this generation for political mileage as they perceive the “born frees” as representing a sizeable population constituency in the country which can sway votes in their favour when it comes to winning an election in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabwe is a typical example in which politicians have sweated to buy votes from the millennial generation to gain political millage.
This is a tactic that has worked in favour of some political parties in Zimbabwe.
The millennial generation has, however, remained a puzzle despite being rated as smarter when using Information Communication Technologies such as Facebook. Some millennial generation critics view them as lazy learners whose addiction to using the Internet does not add any value to academic learning because of their habits of plagiarising ideas borrowed from the Internet through cut and paste methods!
As such the millennial generation is rated in some academic circles as a poor quality of learners who in most instances are failing to add value to academic learning, especially in universities!
What is factual, however, is that the millennial generation is a reality to modern learning and it is the duty of an information professional to assist this new breed of a generation.
The writer is a librarian with 25 years working experience in the field. He has worked for the National Archives of Zimbabwe, University of Zimbabwe, ZimTrade, Sadc in Botswana, Zimbabwe Open University, Centre for Peace Initiatives in Africa as a Director for Research & Documentation and for the Ministry of Education in Namibia as Head of the Education Library Services, where he is currently based.