At the conference last week there was a session about how we should meet the demands of generation Y in terms of using the latest net-based tools. There's a tendency, I think, for people to overestimate the capabilities of the so-called digital natives and play down the abilities of the older generations. We get the impression that everyone under 30 is completely in touch with the latest advances on the net and have developed an almost instinctive understanding of the tools they use.
As the debate developed we could see that we simply can't package generations so conveniently as different letters of the alphabet. There are young people who are not very net-aware and are not even interested in learning about it just as there are many over 60 who are highly talented in using the full range of net-based tools.
I have just learned about an interesting blog that tries to counterbalance all the generation XYZ hype. It's called Net Gen Nonsense and features just now a new survey on students' attitudes to IT from Strathclyde University and Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland. This shows many students to be rather conservative in their use of IT, often restricted to Google, cellphone texting and using social networks in their spare time at most. They seem to favour traditional teaching methods and see little use for social software in their studies. Not quite the image we're often fed.
This is not the whole truth either but it is nice to see someone trying to balance the popular stereotype. There are of course an awful lot of highly skilled young people using the net in extremely creative ways but there is also a digital divide in that generation just as there is in older generations. Let's forget stereotypes and see people instead.