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Humor and the Net Generation

We need to get on our students' wave lengths

Ronald A. Berk, The Johns Hopkins University

Effective teaching is all about the students-their world, their characteristics, their multiple intelligences and learning styles.

Today’s (Inter)Net Generation of college students is so sophisticated with technology that they have been branded as digital natives. They are “native speakers” of “digital,” the language of computers, video games, and the Internet. They have wires coming out of every part of their bodies, attached to MP3 players, iPods, iPhones, PCs, and all the other tools of the digital age. Faculty are the ones without the wires.

What are students doing with all of this equipment? Yup, you guessed it—they’re selling them on eBay. WRONG! They’re listening to music, playing PC/video games, talking on iPhones, sending e-mails or text messages, and watching videos and/or TV—typically, all at the same time. They spend 6.5 to 11 hours per day multitasking.

Instructors, on the other hand, are digital immigrants. They have one foot in the past and “digital” is their second language, as they learn, fumble, and struggle with it on the fly. For example, immigrants may print out an e-mail or even phone someone to see if he or she received their e-mail. Do you know any colleagues like that?

What a challenge: Digital Immigrant meets Digital Natives! YIIIKES!! That’s scary? And this generational gap will widen with time. What’s an instructor to do? Stick around, read this article, and your teaching life, as you now know it, may change forever.

Meet Ronald A. Berk

Ronald A. Berk, Ph.D., is professor emeritus, of biostatistics and measurement, and former assistant dean for teaching at The Johns Hopkins University. He served 30 years of a life term there, 11 in the School of Education and 19 in the School of Nursing. He is a fellow in the Oxford Society of Scholars and has received several teaching awards. Ron has presented 80 keynotes and 200 workshops on the use of humor and multimedia in teaching and faculty evaluation to groups in the U.S., Canada, and Europe. He destroyed scores of trees and shrubbery by publishing 11 books and 130 journal articles/book chapters. For details, see

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Thriving in Academe

  • anc_dyn_linksHumor and the Net Generation
  • anc_dyn_linksTales from Real Life: Searching for Your Undergird
  • anc_dyn_linksTechniques that Connect with Net Geners
  • anc_dyn_linksBest Practices: Class Demonstrations Bring Broadway to Your Classroom
  • anc_dyn_linksIssues to Consider: Discovering Your “Undergird”
  • anc_dyn_linksReferences & Resources

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