Every year at this time, I go through a major cleanup of the website, starting with the Program Books and Information Page. One reason for starting there is that the Program Books and Information Page gets over twice the number of visits as any other page on the website. Our Granges want and need information. I encourage and remind state leaders (especially directors and committee chairs) to make certain the information there is current. As we move into a new Grange Year, it’s my hope that each section will have, at a minimum:
- 2016-2017 Annual Report (due by September 28, 2017) – a summary of committee activities and accomplishments for the Grange that Grange Year.
- 2017-2018 Information – obviously this will vary by committee but should include any contest information and resources for Subordinate and Pomona Granges, including a program book if appropriate.
I recently have had some interesting discussions with some colleagues in the field of education. A respected company involved in real estate education completed an “in-depth” study that showed (among many other things) over 60% of real estate educators say “decreasing attention spans” is a significant “challenge” for instructors. One colleague and I have concluded that data may be missing the boat.* (Stay with me because this is about communication.)
Look at that “fact.” It is really saying that there is something wrong with the students. When we dig below the obvious, here’s what my colleague and I think is actually happening. (I have the advantage of experience teaching five-year-olds as well as seniors.) Today’s adult students grew up learning very differently than previous generations. There is nothing “wrong” with them—they are just different. The real problem may be that instructors haven’t figured out how to adapt to their new learning habits and experience.
Well, ditto that when it comes to communication. I used to be a prolific letter writer. I now can count on one hand the number of letters I write every year. I am dealing with companies on the internet for whom I only have a phone number and email address; no readily apparent “snail mail” address.
But beyond that, I’m constantly learning that younger people are used to getting information differently—just like they are used to learning differently. There are a lot of people who no longer read newspapers and, as a result, there are many newspapers struggling to survive. Media moguls are increasingly turning to “sound bites” of information that can be digested in a relatively short period of time. When I coach people to prepare for interviews, I encourage them to think in “bites” that are only two or three sentences. I recently worked with some sixth graders at school who were being interviewed by a reporter. They were nervous, but I couldn’t help but notice when the reporter asked a question, they rarely rambled. The responded directly—sometimes bluntly—and succinctly. They have learned to communicate differently. (For example, a text message can only include 140 letters and spaces.) Conversely, I’ve watched reporters interview older folks for the same story. The reporter stops writing notes and I can tell he or she is thinking, “Will you please get to the point?”
As I work with the media, I find they are far more interested in the “hook” than a few years ago. While I don’t have hard data, it also seems to me that articles are generally shorter and tend to include less detail. The pattern is very parallel to what’s happening in the educational environment. People are learning differently; people are digesting information differently and people are communicating differently.
As I sometimes tell my adult learners when they react negatively to a concept, “You don’t have to like it, but you do have to learn and understand it.” I remember fondly picking up the two pound Sunday edition of the local newspaper and engaging in the ritual of a coffee and a leisurely read, sorting sections while nibbling on toast. I can’t, however, remember the last time I did that. I haven’t given up the coffee and toast, but I’m now reading the news on my iPad and completing the process in a lot less time.
As newspapers, educators and other communicators are learning “resistance is futile.” We need to adapt if we expect to be viable in the world as it exists.
*For those with additional interest, Stop Teaching Me is an article I wrote on the topic of how today’s learners differ and what it means to real estate educators.