Power Users Make Their Mark

New generation defined by tech savvy

THE BABY BOOMERS were famous for their counterculture; Generation X for its angst; and Generation Y for stealing from Generation X’s name. Now say hello to who’s next inline: the…power users?

In Brief Running out of clever labels, the Education Development Center (EDC) has chosen a plain but descriptive term by which to identify the new generation of technologically agile young adults born after 1982, and brought up in households with PCs, video recorders, and other technical devices. Power users adopt new technology early, manage their own Web sites, and use the Internet to its fullest capabilities. They are often described as “self-initiating,” “selfdirected,” and “self-paced.” As a result of their prolonged exposure to technology, power users process new information, solve problems, and interact with their peers differently than do non-power users.

A 2005 survey conducted by Salt Lake Citybased Certiport Inc.—in connection with the EDC’s Power Users Initiative and the recent United Nations World Summit on the Information Society—attempted to highlight the impact of power users on today’s classroom environment. The baseline survey asked teachers and instructors at high schools and post-secondary institutions a series of questions that dealt with three main areas.

The first segment of Certiport’s survey focused on the learning preferences of power users. Overall, respondents said that troubleshooting, peer consulting, and using online resources were power users’ preferred methods of learning.

The second part of the survey looked at whether power users influence teaching methods. A majority of respondents (69 percent) indicated that power users influence what is taught, and a similar number (66 percent) stated that they also influence how subject matter is taught.

The third area of questioning dealt with how the presence of power users affects the classroom dynamic. Forty-eight percent of respondents indicated that power users exhibit “helping behaviors” and work well in groups, often teaching their peers what they know. An overwhelming 84 percent of teachers said that their own knowledge had been enriched by this new generation.

Certiport’s survey affirms that power users are important members of the classroom. It also suggests that when technology is used in the classroom, power users are not the only ones who benefit. Rather, they share their knowledge with their classmates and may, in fact, effect better education.

Certiport will continue its research in the coming months and plans to expand its areas of study to include the long-term social, learning, and environmental needs and characteristics of power users.

This article originally appeared in the 04/01/2006 issue of THE Journal.