Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
March 13, 200811:58 PM

Marketers - I Believe The Children Are Not Our Future

There is a common belief in Marketing circles that for the Digital Marketing industry to grow, we need to be spending more time on college and university campuses educating young people on the opportunities available within the Digital Marketing sector. Students in University are Digital Natives - meaning they grew up with a computer (and probably Internet access) in the home. There's this whole, "they get it" mentality.

I'm not so sure.

I've had enough experiences speaking to University students to know that two forces have come together that may well cause that theory to fly out the window.

Point one: Digital Natives don't understand the power of technology. Technology to them is like electricity to the generation before them. It's always there. No one marvels about how cool it is and, it's not an industry many of us thought about going into. Honestly, how many electricians do you know?

Point two: All Universities are challenged when it comes to teaching about new media. There is a lack of vetted publications to serve as information, a severe lack in Teachers with the knowledge to teach the topics, the industry, in and of itself, is young, and the entire structure of Universities, grading, etc... is very much based on individual performance, which is very counter to a mass collaboration wiki world.

Last week I spoke at Ryerson University in Toronto, and then I saw this posting on the Open Mode Blog by Malcolm Bastien entitled, Taking A First Look At Digital Marketing:

"Following the reactions at the Ryerson Business Forum (Mitch Note: this is the conference I presented at), it seems like the majority of people at my university are not even familiar with what some of the tools of Web 2.0 are, never mind knowing how to answer questions like 'How do these tools let us participate in these?'

A few days ago one of the heads of my program said that our program (primarily Business Technology focused) doesn’t have a role to play in introducing students to the world of Digital Marketing because Digital Marketing’s isn’t about the technology. Which it isn’t so much. But while marketing may not revolve around technology, IT management doesn’t event exist without things like Digital Marketing. Without these sorts of opportunities to use technology to improve these conversations, the relevance of a program like mine diminishes.

One of the biggest opportunities that exists for my program, for now and for the next decade, is to take advantage of the lack of topics like Digital Marketing in the university environment, and to change that. One of the sub points that Mitch Joel touched on twice at last Wednesday’s event was of the opportunities in the Digital Marketing field, which dollar wise was upwards of billions of dollars. Trying to argue that Digital Marketing doesn’t fit into the scope of what a IT Management student should be actively learning to me is short sighted and closed minded."

For the Digital Marketing industry to really flourish and take advantage of the growth that is currently happening, we need to do a much better job of helping people like Malcolm - and his classmates - understand what these jobs are, and how their talents are needed. At the same time, we need to help traditional institutions (whether they are schools or corporations) understand that these young people are coming into the workforce expecting to collaborate, and not be blocked out of using stuff like wikis, YouTube and Facebook.

Just this week Ryerson was in the news because a student was accused of using a Facebook Group to enable cheating in a chemistry class. You can follow that story here: Globe And Mail - Ryerson Student Cheered At Expulsion Hearing. There was also a great Podcast about it (with many different perspectives) from the CBC here: The Current - Education, Cheating and Facebook.

I believe the children are not our future, unless we forgo our previous generation's assumptions about education, human resources, privacy and collaboration. The changes are coming at us - fast and furious - and decisions need to be made. The challenge is that these decisions are not easy and they may well change our perception of what we think reality "is."

By the way, If you don't think everything we know about education and creativity is changing, just watch this TED Talk with Sir Ken Robinson:

By Mitch Joel