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

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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?

Robert Scoble started a Friendfeed discussion with the following:

How generations change: my son, tonight, after seeing something new
from Google told the team “I’m not like my dad, I don’t have a web
site.”

It’s a statement from a 15 year old that I think captures how this generation sees the web. It’s not a place of static webpages or information, but  rather a place to communicate, keep in touch, play, and create for your own. The discussion has some pretty good take aways.

Making websites is time consuming and, in my opinion, not necessary if
you simply need a place to publish to the web, talk with friends and
get yourself out there.
Brandon Titus

It is time consuming and no longer serves the needs for most of the Internet generation. Sure there are still webpages out there, but blogs or blog like sites are becoming the norm. I left my first comment on The Seattle Times website the other day. Think about that….a newspaper where you can interact with others reading the same article. This is nothing new of course as my dad does the same thing. Every morning during the summer harvest he starts every day at 4am at the local coffee shop. My dad and the rest of the “the boys” talk about the news, the neighborhood, politics, and their lives. We’ve always talked about what’s happening…now we can just do it from places like Bangkok, Thailand.

It took me back to how I found my doctor. She’s #1 on Yelp but yet had
never been there. The world is changing and it no longer is only about
having a website.
Robert Scoble

I would agree….today it’s about having a facebook page, it’s about having a Twitter account, it’s about having places that allows others to connect with you, find you, communicate with you. The static web is slowly fading away.

Sounds like the teenager asked by Don Tapscott (“Wikinomics”) about why
she was not using email to communicate with friends. Reply: “Hmm …
email. That would be the sort of thing you’d use to send a thank you
letter … to your friend’s … parents!”
John W Lewis

What is e-mail used for? How is its use changing? Our generation (first web generation) cling to e-mail as our communication vehicle. We ask “What’s your e-mail address?” while this generation just says “I’ll look you up on Facebook.”

They use e-mail differently, if they use it at all. You have an e-mail address because you need one to register for sites. I find it interesting that our generation talks about and hates e-mail spam, yet I have yet to hear a student ever complain about the spam they recieve. Why is that? Why does it not bother them and yet bothers use?

I think that domains will become mostly for business and the like while
personal profiles will be controlled by social networks, profile sites
(Google profiles) etc.
Brandon Titus

@Robert maybe – or maybe it’s about owning an identity you control
which may indeed look like a website but function as an identity broker
owned by the user
Chris Saad

I agree…I think this is where the internet is heading. I own the domain jeffutecht.com but it’s becoming more of a profile site. I’m working on an update that I should have finished in a week or so, it will focus more on my “Lifestream” and less on the static content. It will be a place that pulls my web profiles all into one place to give an overview of what I’m about and where I’m at, and what I’m doing. It will become my identity control.

Are we helping students understand this? Students have their identities out there how do we leverage their facebook, twitter, friendfeed identities in our schools to help them create and control a positive identity? Is it our job? Who’s job is it?

It was never about having a website. It never will be. It will always
will be using the right tools to reach the right people. People that
you care about and people that care about you.
Akshay Dodeja

And that’s the ah-ha moment. I started my first website when I moved overseas. I had built one for my school my first year of teaching (for people who care about the school), but it wasn’t until I needed a way to communicate and share with those that cared about me that I created a website. That website no longer exists but in its place is a Facebook profile, a Flickr account, a youtube channel, and this blog. Places for people who care about me to know what I’m up to, and is a way for me to communicated out to them. The tools have always been about reaching people. Whether it’s reaching the person looking for your product or reaching that friend you’ve lost touch with. The interent has always been about making connections.

Websites are so 1990s

Stephen Pickering

Very few websites are being created anymore that do not have a blog tied to them or some way to easily update information and communicate with users and those who care about the product. Google has a blog for each of it’s products, not a website. Newspapers are folding and building large blogging networks, not static web pages for their articles. Just as my dad wants to be able to talk about what’s going on, so does this next generation. They’re still going to go to the coffee shop, but it will be one with wifi where they can not only talk to “the boys” in person but also communicate with others around the world that care about the same subjects. This is the world we live in and it’s the only world our students know. Are we preparing them for it?