Post Millennial Learner Characteristics

Today’s guest blogger is Kevin Bolinger, Ph.D.  Dr. Bolinger is an associate professor of education and the Curriculum Instruction and Media Technology dept interim chair at Bayh College of Education, Indiana State University.  Dr. Bolinger has written extensively on strategies to promote critical thinking and learner characteristics.  He teaches social studies education courses and graduate courses along with an honors college ethics course based on the twilight zone television series.

Post Millennial Learner Characteristics

Each generation of children in America bring unique talents and perspectives to the classroom as well as unique learning styles.  The formative experiences of baby boomers, gen Xers, and millennials led to shifting classroom practices to better align pedagogy with early experiences, but often these shifts occur at the tail end of the education cycle for that generation. Often times the generational differences are rather stark polar shifts.  Baby boomers, for instance had formative experiences that were highly structured, while gen x children, often called latch key kids, were highly independent.  The next generation, millennials, conversely experienced a highly programmed and over-structured childhood.  It was this generation that saw the introduction of the “play date” a scheduled time for play, and the “helicopter parent” monitoring every activity.  As the post millennial generation enters the classroom they will bring with them collective formative experiences which can both hinder or enhance their learning.  Teacher preparation can be proactive in identifying these formative experiences and the unique learning characteristics of the post millennial learner.

Generational characteristics are good indicators of shared formative experiences but are limited indicators of learning style preference by unique personality differences.  Nonetheless, there are some broad characterizations which can be made from these shared experiences.  For the purpose of classifying generations we tend to use rather artificial points to punctuate the beginning and end points of generations; The first millennial born could not be reasonably differentiated from the last Generation X child.  Those limitations aside, there are some general experiences which might guide our understanding of learning preferences for the newest generation to enter public education.  According to Stauss and Howe, the pre-eminent authors of generational theory, generational archetypes are cyclical and follow a similar cyclical path of historical periods.  Baby Boomers for instance came of age during a post crisis high period following World War II and were overindulged and somewhat self-absorbed.  Generation X children grew up as under-protected children of the boomers who were focused on personal success and attaining status. Millennials grew up as optimistic increasingly protected children, and post millennials rise during a crisis period and share an overprotected childhood leading to a conformist young adulthood.  The post millennial generation, sometimes called the homeland generation, begins in 2002, in the post 9-11 world dominated by fear of terrorism.

As an overprotected generation, post millennials, are less likely to be independent learners and more likely to develop into conformist young adults.  Unlike generation x they are adept at group work and thrive in a highly structured environment.  Some key learning indicators of this generation are: (1) impatience and short attention span, (2) high reliance on technology for access to information and learning, (3) diminished verbal communication skills, and (4) skilled multi-taskers.  Adaptations to these learning styles, and in some way deficits, can help this generation of students gain a greater amount of success in the classroom.  The argument can also be made that developing skills outside of their comfort zone would serve them better in the long term, so that balance may be a wiser approach.  Whatever the cause for the diminished attention span, post millennials do better with short structured lessons with “payouts” in ten minute increments.  In other words, some learning objective is met within the short span of ten minutes.  Like millennials before them, post millennials have a high reliance on technology for both learning and accessing knowledge.  This has a two-fold effect.  On the one hand they rely solely on technological sources for information, on the other, they do not value knowledge as a commodity.  Knowing any particular thing whether it is the sum of two numbers or the Gettysburg Address only has value in its relevance to the learner as information can readily be gathered from a mobile device.  Establishing relevance is key to engaging post millennials.  Due to the rise of texting and written (if badly written) communication through phones and laptops, students spend less time in their formative years communicating verbally with their peers.  Finding ways to engage them in learning small groups discussions can help offset this deficit, but it is also true that their adept use of technology to express thoughts and “status updates” might be used to develop their writing skills if proper editing of grammar and spelling is reinforced.  Using  a skill that is already relevant to the post millennial can help to reinforce their engagement.  On the last point, there is some argument as to whether multi-tasking really exists or whether we are simply quick switching from one task to another, but regardless of the mechanics of the process, post millennials are accustomed to concurrently engaging in more than one task.  Creating integrated units which allows for connection building between disciplines and concepts will take advantage of their multitasking abilities and help to develop a deeper level of thinking.

Guest Blog: An Exhibititor’s Response to “No Place Like Home”

Today’s guest blogger is Rick Riccio. Rick is the owner of Riccio Exhibit Services and is now in his 18th year of teaching History Museum Exhibits to graduate students in the Historical Administration (HA) Program at Eastern Illinois University. He has worked on museum exhibitions in one manner or another since 1974. Each of the exhibitions with which he has been involved has had its unique challenges and problems to solve. Rick has guest blogged for us before.  You can read his previous posts regarding the process he guides his students through so they understand what is involved when creating exhibits here and here.

After just reading “No Place like Home” by Dan Erickson in the Jan./Feb. 2013 issue of Museum, I feel compelled to respond. Having been on exhibit staffs of museums myself, I agree with him that museums should not eliminate exhibit staff positions. But his reasons pit for-profit companies against in-house staff, which I think misrepresents both. His main argument for producing exhibits in-house instead of outsourcing is the issue of “quality.” In-house staff, he argues, can produce better quality exhibits than commercial firms for two reasons; one, exhibit companies need to make a profit and two, museums (and their staff) have better access to specimens and information. Erickson has worked for both commercial firms and a university museum. When tasked with making a small prehistoric shark model with the commercial firm, he was given basic book illustrations and two weeks to complete the project. Asked to produce a similar model as the university museum employee, he accessed fossil references at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History (CMNH), consulted with the vertebrate fossil curator there, and invested a couple hundred hours on the project. The problem with this comparison is that same information at the CMNH is available to anyone with a serious research project. You don’t have to be a member of a university museum staff. Furthermore, if a design company were only interested in the profit margin, they wouldn’t stay in business for long. There are good reasons for choosing to produce exhibits or some exhibit components in-house, but the main reasons lie with the particular skill sets of your staff, and any exhibit manager should know what her staff is capable of accomplishing in-house and what tasks need to be out-sourced. Even commercial firms are more qualified for certain exhibit services than others. If a shark model is needed, go to those firms skilled in that kind of exhibit fabrication. There may be exhibit firms out there that don’t work closely with museum staff, but that is not typical of the industry. Most museum staff would feel insulted at the least, if they were not closely involved in the exhibit development process.

Museum staff should, as Erickson points out, share their expertise with other institutions, but this arena of cooperative engagement is not limited to museum staff. Just look at posts on listservs like the one NAME hosts, and you will see that solutions to problems come from exhibitors in both the non-profit and for-profit worlds. Exhibit firms want to develop long-term relationships with their clients. My firm created epoxy resin Indian house models for a state historical society so they could distribute them to their historic sites. We then gave the molds to the museum and instructed their exhibit staff how to make additional casts if they desired.

I agree with the author that museum exhibit staff are underutilized at many museums, and he offers creative ways that other departments can tap their varied skills. But the in-house vs. outsource issue is not an either/or proposition. They are two sides of the same coin, and museums are better served when the option for either choice is kept open.

Growing Your Donor Pool – Part 2

Improve Your Success Rate with Outcomes-based Appeals
By far and away the most vital part of fundraising is the ask. The simple act of asking for what you want is a powerful, essential, and – some would say – scary activity. But the old saying is true – ask for what you want and you will receive (at least some of the time). Asking is risky – someone might say ‘no’. And most things worth doing do involve some risk. If you ask enough, you are guaranteed to be turned down some of the time. So how can you improve your success rate?

First, think of fundraising as any other kind of business venture. All businesses, whether B2B or B2C, have to ask their customers for their business or risk losing ground. Of course, the charitable donor isn’t expecting a product or service in return for their donation. But, donors do view their gifts as investments. Their ROI is the change that your organization makes in the world: think impact, outcomes, and lives transformed.

In nonprofit fundraising one of the keys to greater success is framing your ask as an opportunity. Many organizations rely on ‘needs based’ approaches, and those can work, but what really energizes donors is the opportunity, the flip side of the need. So instead of helping fulfill a need, you’re creating an opportunity to save lives and change lives for the better. People love to help other people and donors are no different. If you can frame your work and the outcomes of your programs in terms of transforming the lives of people who would otherwise not be so served, you will raise more money for your cause.

The nonprofit economy is just as competitive as the for profit world. Donors aren’t thinking ‘how can I get the greatest ROI?’ but instead, they ask ‘what is the best investment for my resources to achieve my goals?’ Offer your donors amazing outcomes and you will inspire them to choose your cause.

Tim Montague is a marketing and fundraising consultant based in Central Illinois. Find out more about his work to inspire Growth for the Greater Good! at

Growing Your Donor and Prospects Pool – Part 1

Reaching a larger pool of prospects and donors is always a great way to expand your fundraising program. I caution all my clients that securing new donors is not cheap. On average it takes about ten times the resources to acquire new donors than it does to retain or upgrade an existing donor. That’s why upgrading donors is so important and must also be a priority. But growing your base is a must-do for any organization that wants to grow. It counters turnover, creates new opportunities for volunteer and board involvement, and generally breathes life into your organization.

Because donor acquisition is expensive, you have to be smart about it: a) Leverage your existing relationships as much as possible – seek referrals from your most loyal constituents; b) Be strategic, target certain demographics; c) Expand outreach thru events; and d) Develop outcomes based appeals.

Fundraising in all of its stages is relationship building. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking of it as scoring a goal. You point, aim, and shoot, right? Wrong. Developing donors is like making friends. You have visit, play (relax, be entertained), and bond. People (donors) are highly social animals and it takes us time to like and trust one another. Donors are investing in your future. They will do so only if they like and trust your organization.

Referrals – the warm network
Asking for referrals from your most loyal friends, volunteers and board members is a great way to grow your network of contacts (prospects) in a way that has built in advantages (greater ROI). If I’m a donor and I refer a business colleague, friend or neighbor to your organization, I’ve just made an even greater investment, I’ve put my reputation at stake, and I’ve introduced you to someone who shares my values and perhaps my philanthropic interests. This is the simplest yet often overlooked pathway for developing new donors. This is a great way to engage your donors and volunteers.

Target specific demographics while expanding outreach
All people are not created equal. We have personalities, interests, histories, careers and networks that set us apart from or connect us to one another. Decide who your best constituents are and figure out how to reach a bigger group of people with those characteristics (wealth, affinity, influence). If I’m raising money for a museum or cultural institution, I might want to target families with children in a certain geographic area or I could pursue prospects that belong to organizations that have similar educational or cultural themes (the arts, science/technology, or education).

Not everyone is a prospect. Once you know the demographic you are after you will find ways to meet them through their interests or circles of influence (service clubs, business organizations, schools/PTA, zip code, title, etc.). You can target new prospects by mail, by email and social media, and by hosting live events.

Hosting live events is the most fun of all these methods, but requires the most planning, preparation, and budget. A museum I worked for in Chicago hosted a series of ‘open doors’ events that were intimate affairs with an exclusive list of invitees hand selected by their best donors and volunteers. The events were designed as a first point of contact between new prospective donors and the museum leadership. They were a great way to showcase the museum in a highly social (networked) way that built instant trust and loyalty.

As one of my mentors likes to say, it’s amazing what you won’t get by not asking for it. In my next installment I’ll discuss developing ‘outcomes based’ appeals and how you can improve your response rate by framing your ‘pitch’ as an opportunity to save lives and change lives (the outcome). What you ask for matters! Thanks, and until next time – growth for the greater good! -Tim Montague, M.S., CFRE