Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself. ~ John Dewey

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“We have a choice, They don’t”

I’m stealing this quote directly from Ben Sheridan. Not sure if he’s the one that came up with it however that’s who I heard say it so he gets the credit.

flickr photo by Zach Frailey (Uprooted Photographer) https://flickr.com/photos/zrfraileyphotography/15712427278 shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license
flickr photo by Zach Frailey (Uprooted Photographer)  shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license

It’s a good way to frame and point out where we are in these generation gaps. We (those of use over the age of 34) have a choice of how much of this new technology we want to adopt. Well, some choice. Nobody asked me if I wanted a chipped Credit Card.

But in the grand scheme of how we live our lives, we get to chose how much of this new connected world we want to be a part of. In almost every session I do there is at least one if not three or four teachers who either do not have a cell phone or have a non-smart phone and are completely happy with their lives. That’s great. There is nothing wrong with how you want to live your life. You are an adult that knew a different way before technology became part of what it means to live and work today. You get to chose.

Here’s the thing….a student today in our schools doesn’t get a choice. They don’t get to chose. There are very few trades that will exist by the time they hit the workforce that will not require some technology skill. There is not one university today that does not expect a student to know how to use a laptop and at a minimum know how to access work online and turn in assignments online. That’s the minimum expectation.

See in their lives…their future, not having a cell phone is not a choice. It’s the only phone that will exist. Cars will drive themselves, things will be shipped to your door in under 24 hours and all your bills will be paid online using your phone.

“They’re just so connected”

Yes they are! And so are you! Do not put the connected world we find ourselves in on this generation. If you have a cell phone, if you use that cell phone as an alarm clock, then the first thing you touch in the morning and the last thing you touch before going to bed is a connected device. You are just as connected as they are. The only difference is you remember a non-connected world. They don’t.

flickr photo by francisco_osorio https://flickr.com/photos/francisco_osorio/8424402083 shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license
flickr photo by francisco_osorio  shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

Recently I had a teacher tell me how happy her students were to read a book. A real, paper book. They enjoyed being able to focus on reading without notifications going off on their screen, or that feeling of being distracted because you have a connection. Of course they enjoyed it….the same reason I enjoy camping at the beach with my wife with no internet connection. We enjoy being disconnected. So where are you having that experience in your classroom as well? The experience of being hyper connected and the experience of being disconnected and, here’s the important part, talking about the different “feelings” we have in those two places.

There’s a reason why the new Kindle Paperwhites are still selling. Who would buy a device that only allowed you to read? Why would you do that? Why do people buy a device that in today’s world doesn’t do 100 other things? Who would buy a device that allows you to “just read a book.”

Not only do I want students to read hyper connected text and content, I also want them to read disconnected content in books as well. But more than that, I want every teacher to have a reflective session with students on WHY we need both. On when do you use one over the other? This is the conversation we need to be having with students.

Last weekend I gave a TEDx Talk at the TEDxKrungthep conference here in Thailand. The YouTube video should be out next week and I’ll post it here so you can all rip it apart and tell me how off the mark I am. 🙂

As I was preparing for the talk somewhere over Vietnam about 34,000 feet in the air, I started thinking about Marc Prensky’s Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants paper, and how it helps to define different generations. We do this as humans, define generations by the things around them. My generation for some reason got labeled Generation X. Based on social events happening before we were born.

If we think of Digitla Natives and Digital Immigrants as generations I think it makes more sense.

Digital Immigrant Generation: Born before 1977

Digital Natives Generation: Born After 1977

Technology GenerationsThat is the date that Prensky uses in his paper based on when the personal computer first came out. I do think my experiences growing up were different than my parents based on this technological revolution that was the PC. Just like my parents growing up with a TV was a technological revolution to their parents that had a radio.

Technology can define generations…I believe…and I do think it’s an interesting way to look at global generations. Why do 30 somethings still play a lot of video games? Because we grew up in a video game era. I had an Atari and the orignall Nintendo. I also grew up with VCRs and at one point had a corded remote (what were they thinking?).

There are technologies that define a generation and I believe there are two other technological advances that have defined two other generations already.

The Web Generation:

The web generation are those born after 1991 who have always grown up with the World Wide Web. This is the generation that has always had and expected access to the Internet. To put this into prespective. Seniors in High School today where born in 1992 meaning that our schools are filled with students who never lived without the Internet. As a 9th grader told me the other day, “Music has always been free and downloadable.” This generation grew up with the web, they rely on the web for communication and have always written more e-mails than letters. TV commercials have always had a web site where you could find out more information. Everything has always been able to be found on a search engine, and Flash has always been a plugin.

The Mobile Generation:

The mobile generation are those born after 2007, or so I’m predicting. The release of the iPhone in 2007 marked the beginning of true mobile computing. Yes we had laptops and even WiFi before this, but since that time mobile computing has sky rocketed. BlackBerries, Android, and iPhones continue to grow in sells and popularity. The iPad, Google Chrome OS, and the future of tablets will all define the way this generation expects to interact with information.

This generation will just grow up in a time where you asked your phone for directions to the store, where you could access the Internet virtually anywhere, and when laptop computers have always out sold desktop computers.

I was talking to our kindergarden teachers (blogs here and here) last weekend who said that their kids are having a hard time using a mouse. That the students would much rather and are more comfortable with a touch pad of some kind. Our 1st grade teachers two years ago were worried that their students woudn’t be able to use the trackpad on a laptop and found out they were completely wrong, the kids took to it like water.

I put this out there because I think it’s important to understand the culture our students have grown up in. Of course this is just one aspect of these generations. They’ve also the generation that has always had Global Warming hanging over their heads, there has always been tension or war in the Middle East, and the Cold War is in history books. I think it’s important to understand the history our students don’t have as much as it is to understand the world they are grown up in know.

I think these seperations of the generations around technology can help us better understand them in that aspect of culture and their life. It seems to make sense to those I have discussed this with so far. What do you think? How do you see these generations?

Funny how you never know where you mind will go. I meant to leave a short comment on Warlick’s post about Leaving Flock and ended up writing a  three paragraph comment.

It just kind of happened. Here’s part of the comment that I want to expand on:

I know a lot of people who tried using Flock, me included, who have switched back over to the Fox. What fascinates me though is that (I’m trying not to sound ageist here) my generation seems to have given up on it before your generation. I know a lot of people my age who used it for a week, maybe two, got frustrated and went back to the Fox. I tried it twice because people were talking about how great it was and little things just frustrated me. You are the 3 person in your generation this week that have given up/moved back to the Fox.

What does that say? My generation doesn’t have the patience to work through/stay with a developing program? That we become frustrated with web tools that aren’t perfect the first time we use them. I then think about my students and when I compare myself to them, I have loads of patience with computers and software compared to their one click, didn’t work, forget about it attitude. I think about the software that is big with this generation. Myspace and youtube were great sites when they launched not very buggy and easy to use…is that what made them popular? When you have grown up with this technology, when it’s what you know do you have less tolerance when it doesn’t work? I think of my generation with TV. It’s always been color and I can barely remember it without a remote…so if the remote is missing, yes the TV is broken.

Is this a generation gap? As I was writing this I was thinking to myself how many times we say that today’s kids have no patience. I was thinking about all the trouble I was having with Elgg in our classes and how the students hated it when the program had an error. Of course they didn’t understand it, but they didn’t need to…things are just suppose to work and if they don’t, then you don’t use them. That’s the way they view the Internet and the programs they use on it. If I was designing a program today, I think I would keep it in beta a little longer before releasing it to the public, because once they are turned off of it, they don’t want to go back. I think of my generation and the TV. We had a black and white TV growing up…it was the one my parents gave us for our Atari. We had to go buy a special adapter to get it to work, but we did. By the time I was 10 we had the old living room TV that was color, and the sound quality out of that one little speaker was great! I’m trying to remember though how old I was when we got our first TV with a remote (My mom reads this sometimes…maybe she’ll remember) I’m pretty sure I was still in grade school, so it’s a safe bet to say for over half my life I haven’t known a TV without a remote. I think about our students today…about that 1st grader that will always have flat screen monitors, Flatscreen HD TVs. I have more patience with software/hardware, I think, because I’ve grown up with it, I’ve seen it evolve and I can marvel at how far we’ve come. Our students don’t know that, they don’t know computers before Windows 98. The Internet has always been there and software and sites should just work. Just like I expect a TV to work, and how my father expects the telephone to work.

Do we have patience when the phone breaks? Do we try and fix it? I’d bet most of us don’t we just go buy a new one. How about your TV? If it breaks, do you open it up, look inside and see if it works? Or do you buy a new one? My generation (as a generality) probably just goes and buys a new one. We don’t want to fuss with it, we don’t really understand how it works, we just want it to work! How is that different than our student today on the Internet? Is that what makes or breaks a web site. A website that ‘Just Works’ is bound to be popular? I think del.icio.us is a perfect example. There is nothing fancy about del.icio.us. In fact the web site itself is pretty plain, but it works, and because of that it’s popular. Myspace? YouTube? FaceBook? Google?

What do our students have patience for?

  • Waiting for a game to load
  • Waiting for a web site to load
  • Waiting for a computer to start up
  • Waiting for a text message to send
  • Waiting for the wireless to connect
  • Waiting for an iPod to update

David Warlick spent months working with Flock, I spent about two weeks, how long would a student wait?

[tags]patience, generations[/tags]

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