Chris Dede on Planning for Neomillenial Learning Styles: Implications for Investments in Technology and Faculty

NOTE: After I contacted him about my research, Dr. Dede, the Timothy E. Wirth Professor of Learning Technologies at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, was kind enough to send me this chapter himself. There was much of relevance to my studies at Walden – and much of relevance to my work at the OCDE.

Perhaps my only criticism is his choice of acronyms… MUVE for multiuser virtual environments (we already have movies, and I think this would be confusing for an audience of educators) and MWD for mobile wireless device (which makes me thing of weapons of mass destruction, WMDs, every time.) :)

Dede (2005) began his discussion of neomellenial learning styles by cautioning that “generational learning styles can be oversimplified” (p. 15.1), and in his conclusion he stated that “students in any age cohort will present a mixture of neomillenial, millenial, and traditional learning styles” (p. 15.19). Whith this qualification in mind he said out to explore “how emegring media foster neomillennial learning styles” (p. 15.1). He was particularly interested in “the growing prevalence of interfaces to virtual environments and augmented realities” (p. 15.2), which can “induce a psychological sense of sensory and physical immersion” (p. 15.3), and which can provide learners with exocentric and bicentric frames of reference (FORs) in addition to a wider variety of egocentric FORs (pp. 15.3-15.4). Ultimately, he found situated learning “important in part because of the crucial issue of transfer… the application of knowledge learned in one situation to another situation” (emphasis in the original, p. 15.5).

Like James Paul Gee (2003), Dede also found that “the evolution of an individual’s or group’s identity is an important type of learning for which simulated experiences situated in virtual environments or augmented realities are well suited” (p. 15.5). And like many others who are concerned about issues of race and gender in video games, Dede found “immersion is important in [the] process of identity exploration because virtual identity is unfettered by physical attributes such as gender, race, and disabilities (p. 15.5). He explicitly mentions Whyville, Quest Atlantis, and the commercial MMORG Everquest in his discussion. He also cited Steinkuehler’s research into the social spaces of MMORPGs (p. 15.6). A concept that may be difficult for traditional educators to accept is his conclusion that “while the content of these games and activities [may] not lead to knowledge useful in the real world, rich types of learning and identity formation do take place in these environments” (p. 15.7).

Dede’s article contained examples from his own research into the applications of MUVEs (multiuser virtual environments) in education, and his results were promising:

  • “All learners are motivated, including students typically unengaged in classroom settings.
  • All students build fluency in distributed modes of communication and expression and value using multiple media because each empowers different types of communication, activities, experiences, and expressions.
  • Even typically low-performing students can amster complex inquiry skills and sophisticated content.
  • Shifts in the pedagogy wihin the MUVE alr the pattern of student performance.” (p. 15.9)

The following section of the chapter was devoted to mobile wireless devices, but the final section returned to a discussion of learning styles and immersion. He included a table displaying “the benefits of learning styles enhanced by mediated immersion in distributed learning communities” (p. 15.14) and a table presenting “speculations about how the emergence of neomillenial learning styles may influence higher education” (p. 15.15). Among his recommendations for schools faced with these changes, he advocates the development of “guided social constuctivist and situated learning pedagogies” (p. 15.16) and “assessments beyond tests and papers” (p. 15.16).

Like Klopfer and Yoon (see previous post), Dede pointed out that professional development will be needed, and that “professional development that requires unlearning [unconscious beliefs, assumptions, and values about the nature of teaching, learning, and the academy] necessitates high levels of emotional/social support in addition to mastering the intellectual/technical dimensions involved” (p. 15.16).


Dede, C. (2005). Planning for neomillenial learning styles: implications for investments in technology and faculty. Educating the Net Generation Educause. Available: