by Kelly Beischel PhD, RN, CNE

I love the millennial generation.

Their enthusiasm for life energizes me.

Unfortunately, what we typically hear about the millennial generation are horror stories about helicopter parents and students who ooze with entitlement issues.

What we don’t often hear about this generation of learners
are the very things I love most about them.

I love their passion for our earth, their willingness to embrace diversity, their desire to connect, their desire for meaningful learning, and their love of technology.

Yes, we can stomp our feet and demand that our students conform to our teaching style.

We can complain that they are dependent on technology, that they resist a strict diet of lectures, and that they embrace instant gratification. In other words, we can resist what is.

Or we can meet millennial students where they are, demonstrating that we are the transformational leaders our students need.

Meeting students where they are includes becoming culturally current.

Christy Price tells us that millennial students express frustration when professors don’t know how to use the technology in their classrooms.
They perceive professors as “lacking connection to Millennial culture” when they use old shows that were relevant 15 years ago but are no longer “practical references that the average college student can relate to.”

I don’t blame them for being frustrated.

You see, failing to learn how to use the technology that exists in the classroom is similar to students failing to do their homework when they “don’t understand their assignment.” 

And we know how well we appreciate that maneuver. Right?

Becoming Culturally Current

The most recent means of becoming culturally current with technology is learning to play Pokemon Go!

Please hear me out. I too thought it was a silly game played by people who “need a life.” I mean come on, people are accidently walking off cliffs while playing the game. How does that even happen? I admit though my curiosity about the Pokemon Go phenomenon peaked when I heard about the cliff trippers.

Accordingly, during a recent family vacation, I asked our 24-year-old son, Will, to teach me how to play Pokemon Go. He is quite adept at it. (And to answer your skepticism, he isn’t a video playing hermit living in my basement.)

He is a fun, loving, intelligent, graduate student at the University of Michigan.

I learned that there are no “rules” or directions that come with the app.

It’s true learning by trial and error.  

There are landmarks called Pokestops where players learn about the surrounding area and gain items needed to play the game.

Pokemon are captured with Pokeballs. Various Pokemon are worth different CP (critical powers). There are Pokemon that evolve and Pokemon eggs that hatch when the player has walked a required distance. There are also Gyms where Pokemon battle the trainers. 

The gift of this game is that to play the game the player must be moving.

In other words, a person cannot sit at home to play.

Pure genius!

What other app has increased the activity of adolescents and young adults like Pokemon Go?

Players must choose a team when they arise to a certain level. It’s fascinating to listen to folks discuss the characteristics of the team with which they most associate.  

Due to the heavy usage, the game’s server locks up a lot.

I mean A LOT! I find it extremely frustrating.

I told Will, “I don’t think I will continue if the game continues having such connection issues.” When I asked him if he was frustrated by it Will told me, “I’d give up but I like being part of something bigger. I like being connected to people all over the world doing the same thing.

Fascinating, right?

It’s also a game that connects multiple generations

My husband could tell a young girl was playing Pokemon Go when she excitedly said “Gotcha” while looking at her phone. He asked, “Did you catch the Pokemon?”
She looked at him. Laughed sheepishly, and said, “yes.” I watched my son converse with strangers who were also playing the game. He taught them a few tricks.

Again, connection.

Rather than tossing it away as a fad with no merit, give this some thought.

How might you use Pokemon Go or the premises of the game in your classroom?

You could simply reference Pokemon. Use Pokemon Go as an analogy about competition, advertising, or global connection. Or discuss how nurses might use it as a means to get adolescents moving.
Discuss what it means that some Pokemon have more critical power than others. Compare that to the world outside your classroom.

If Pokemon Go holds no allure for you,

consider other ways to become culturally current in the use of technology. Use current film clips. Debate contemporary music lyrics. Discuss the merits of social media. Assign students to create a fictitious social media app.

And if nothing else, take a step forward and please learn how to use the technology available in your classroom. Your students will be thankful that you did. And so will you.

What are your thoughts? How might you demonstrate that you are culturally current?