Expert to ask, ‘Do we understand our learners?’

One student walks across campus listening to an iPod; another is engrossed in text messaging on her cell phone. During class, they’re Googling, IMing and playing games—often at the same time. More likely to use the library as a gathering place than a resource, this is the “Net Generation,” co-existing beside older students who are juggling work, childcare and eldercare.

To help us understand what we are seeing—and how to respond—Diana Oblinger, vice president of EDUCAUSE, an organization promoting the intelligent use of information technology in education, will speak to the NAU campus about what the experiences, attitudes and expectations of today’s students mean to educational institutions.

Her presentation, “Educating the Net Generation,” begins at 3 p.m. Aug. 30 in Clifford White Theater, kicking off the 2006-07 President’s Speakers Series. The series brings education leaders to campus to address the changing landscape of higher education and offer a bird’s-eye view of the important issues facing today’s colleges and universities.

2006-07 President’s
Speakers Series

Diana Oblinger 
Vice President, EDUCAUSE
Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2006
3 p.m., Clifford White Theater

Rufus Glasper 
Chancellor, Maricopa County Community College District
Thursday, Nov. 2, 2006
3 p.m., Ashurst Auditorium

Robert Shelton
President, University of Arizona
February 2007

John Haeger 
President, Northern Arizona University
April 2007

“In higher education we say we do what we do because of the students,” Oblinger said. “But it is interesting that we so often talk about students in the third person. Listening to what they say and seeing the world through their eyes is a unique opportunity to be sure we really are serving their needs.”

Oblinger said higher education is seeing our culture shift due to the capabilities technology brings.

“When we observe students, we are often struck by the technology,” Oblinger said, listing cell phones, digital cameras, laptops, and MP3 players as just some of the high-tech gadgets that have become essential accessories for students. “There is no question that technology is a part of their lives. But technology isn’t the real story. It is what they are doing with it.

“We used to joke about kids being wired differently from us,” she added. “Turns out it just might be true. Growing up in a fast-paced, media-intensive, networked world means their expectations and experiences are different from ours. But a huge question remains. Do we adapt to learners? Do they adapt to us? Or do we find some sort of middle ground?”

As vice president at EDUCAUSE, Oblinger is responsible for the association’s teaching and learning activities, and serves as director of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative. She also serves as an adjunct professor of adult and higher education at North Carolina State University.

She served as vice president for Information Resources and the chief information officer for the 16-campus University of North Carolina system, where she was responsible for strategic planning and policy development for information technology as well as for collaborative programs in teaching and learning with technology, student services and IT procurement.

Oblinger also was on the faculty at the University of Missouri-Columbia and at Michigan State University.

Three other speakers will round out the President’s Speakers Series this year, including Rufus Glasper, chancellor of the Maricopa County Community College District, in November, and Robert Shelton, newly appointed president of the University of Arizona, in February. NAU President John Haeger will wrap up the series in April by taking a collective look at issues addressed by his guests to identify the implications they may have on NAU.