David Foot, the demographer whose book Boom, Bust and Echo became
a Canadian bestseller, predicts that university professors will be learning
more about new technology from their students than they will ever be able
to teach them.
The young are going to be the new champions of technology,
Foot told an audience of about 200 at the opening of the McGraw-Hill Ryerson
Educational Technology Conference on November 1, but population
aging is leaning against the growth of technology.
Using cartoons to illustrate his arguments, Foot, an economics professor
at University of Toronto, said the large echo generation
he also called it the ToysRUs generation already knows a lot more
about computers and new technology than their aging teachers.
Its going to be a major challenge to bring new technology
into an aging population, he said. Thats why every senior
manager working for General Electric has to have a 28-year-old mentor.
Although it will be challenging for professors to adapt to modern teaching
tools, Foot argued that it must be done in order to reach an incoming
population of students that is technologically-literate.
These tweens are already accustomed to communicating with
each other via e-mail and the World Wide Web. Most students coming out
of high school already know what a Powerpoint presentation is. But Foot
gave another reason why professors will have to make increasing use of
the new technology.
The echo generation in other words, the children of the boomers
are going to make university enrolment boom in the next few years.
There will be lots of students, but itll be hard to recruit new
faculty. That means we have no choice but to use technology, he
Baby boomers are now in their late 40s and early 50s, and there are simply
not enough 20-somethings to fill the boomers shoes. Therefore, Foot
argued, we need the most up-to-date teaching tools to address the incoming
mass of students. Chalk and talk wont cut it; universities will
have to offer more online courses as well as online libraries and cheaply-priced
e-books to keep up with the needs of a vast population that is as big
as the baby boom.
The 20-somethings who are now graduating from our universities can expect
to have many careers, as opposed to occupying a single job throughout
their life, Foot said.
They will change their occupation four, five or six times in their
lifetime, Foot said. They might study economics, but theyll
have to go work in a hospital. Then theyll switch to human resources,
and their parents will ask them, Why cant you settle down? Wheres
But this is the new world of work, Foot said. We ought to understand it,
and we had better adapt to it.