ACPA/NASPA Joint Meeting: Reaching the Net Generation

The first educational session I’ve attended at the ACPA/NASPA 2007 Joint Conference was this morning’s half-day “Reaching the Net Generation” session presented by Dr. Rey Junco of Lock Haven University and Dr, Jeanna Mastrodicasa of the University of Florida. Much of the session was focused or at least derived from their 2006-2007 Net Generation research and the subsequent (and just released) book.

In general, the content and the discussion were both informative, helpful, and heartening. The topic was pretty broad but there were some common and interesting themes. Without transcribing my notes or giving you too much information from their book, some of the highlights of the discussion included:

  • A brief discussion of the shifting culture of students and the necessity for us “old people” to also shift our own culture and perspectives. To me, this is summed in one of the quotes in the recent New York Magazine article “Say Everything“: “The future belongs to the uninhibited.” It’s not just that we need to educate students to think about what they say and do online since most of it is archived and very widely available, we also need to shift our own expectations of what we find online. When someone mentioned Brandeis University’s motto of “Share only what you be comfortable sharing with your grandmother,” someone else added, “and your grandkids.”
  • Based on his own experiences and the existing research, Junco opined that students who use the Internet for communicative purposes are less likely to suffer negative consequences than those who use it for non-communicative uses. Men use the Internet more for non-communicative uses and thus are more likely to suffer negative consequences. At this point I don’t offer any further opinions or commentary on this proposed hypothesis other than to say that it does sound plausible.
  • A brief discussion ensued about Instant Messaging and its beneficial uses by students who are normally socially inhibited. I related that discussion to some of our earlier discussions about the perceived-negative effects of online communication. The tie between the two discussions and the positive and negative effects seems to be the concept of disinhibition (Warning: pdf document). Both the positive and negative effects seem to be two sides of the same coin: the same things that allow people to express feelings and commit acts that we perceive as negative are the things that allow more introverted people to easily communicate with others online.
  • A brief discussion also related to the use of web use statistics and the need to continually improve websites based on those usage stats in an iterative fashion.
  • Junco repeated several times that they are open to collaboration with other researchers in further analysis of their survey results. He also extended an invitation to add institutions to the survey. I hope others will take him up on those invitations as Junco and Mastrodicasa are engaged in important and interesting research.

There were many other smaller discussions and pieces of data presented in the discussion. I hope that much of it is in the book.

The presenters and attendees both were awesome and if the rest of the conference is half as good as this first session then it’s going to be one hell of a conference!