The Next Tech Generations

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?

5 Comments

  1. Hi Jeff,

    I found your blog on The Next Tech generation to be most interesting. By reading your blog I now know I am a Digital Native Generation being born in 1977. I do remember nintendo being so popular and its what you wanted most for Christmas. All three of my children are in the Web Generation where google is a common household word. They are even more comfortable online and on the web at times more so than me. I am learning from my 5th grader. When my daughter was in the 1st grade I was introduced to the smart board. I love how my kids are excited to learn. You made such a great point that we need to understand the culture our students are from. Being an educator is more than just teaching its learning right along with your students. Thanks jeff…
    Jessica Hadaway
    University of South Alabama EDM 310

  2. Hi Jeff.

    I recently read the article by Marc Prensky and found it to be an interesting and different way of looking at the technology users all over the world today. I, personally, would fall into the technology immigrant catagory, since I was born in 1970 and my first computer was a commodore 64. One big difference, I feel, is the fact that in order to use the computer back then required a basic knowledge of computer programming, making the use of computers more of a task than a convenience. Nowadays, the computers have simply become point and click for most users, simplifying how the computer functions.

    Computers have become more and more user friendly and the new generation of users have embraced it’s ease of use. The speed at which we are now able to retrieve information makes reading newspapers and watching the news on TV “old news”. By the time we are done reading the newspaper, we can go on line to see the new developments in the story! This feeds into a society that needs to get things done as quickly as possible.

    Your continuation and elaboration of Marc Prensky’s ideas are well done. You took into consideration the ever changing face of technology. I wonder what my children will be using when they are my age. Anyway, thanks for the post!!

  3. Hi Jeff-
    I completely agree with the different technology generations. I’ve been putting it in my posts for weeks about how my parents and their parents grew up in a totally different educational world than we are. I actually saw something last night about the iSchool being designed for the iPod Touch! My two year old niece knows how to unlock my iPhone and find my pictures! The touch screen, which was once a phenomena is now so commonly used among people of all ages. It will be interesting to see where technology will take the educational field! I do believe that children today who are knowledgeable and comfortable with technology will have a great advantage over people who are not! Great post and as I am completeing my EDM310 course at the University of South Alabama, I am learning more and more each day about technology’s importance!

  4. Hi Mr. Utecht! My name is Leigh Setser. I am a student at the University of South Alabama and I am studying elementary education. I am reading your blog post as an assignment for my class EDM 310 with Dr. Strange. I really enjoyed reading your blog! I found the two “classes” of people to be very interesting. (The Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives) I would be considered a Digital Native as I was born in 1990! I know that things have changed even in the twenty years that I have been around so I know there is much more to be changed in my next sixty years as well. It seems as if everytime you turn the corner there is something new to learn and something new to keep up with. It was really crazy to ready that today’s high school students have never lived without the internet. It’s interesting to view facts like that. It also makes me think back to when I was younger and how I didn’t know what the internet was or how to use the internet until probably late elementary school into middle school. However, The Web Generation has been able to access the internet at a much younger age. After reading the Mobile Generation of your post really made my head spin. I think back again to when I was younger and the cell phones my parents used to have and even my first cell phone when I got it in middle school. To think back then that we would rely on our phones for everything from directions to answering any questions is unbelievable to me. It is even more astounding to think that this is how the children born after 2007 will live their lives. I really liked how you grouped the generations into specific technology groups. It puts a total spin on our technology and where it has been and where it is going. I enjoyed reading your post and I think I have learned a lot from it! Thank You :) I will be commenting on another post of yours next week and will summarize what I read about in your posts on my blog by October 10 so feel free to check it out! link to setserleighedm310.blogspot.com

    Leigh Setser

  5. Jeff,

    I find it interesting that you have delineated yet another group…now the mobile generation after 2007. After I have read many of the same articles I find myself watching students and adults of all ages and how they use technology. The differences can be very subtle as you have suggested. My 22 year old now wears a cast-off sport watch of mine which he has never done because he doesn’t want to dig his phone out out of his pocket. My 15 year old drowned his BB a couple of weeks ago and after the loss decided he need to downgrade his expenses and purchased a much cheaper product…realizing that he did not need the status symbol nor 3G connections as much as he had originally thought. The majority of my 7th grade students, 11 and 12 year olds could not imagine survival without a cell phone and check in with mom several times a day…which astounds me as I thought middle school was a time to pull away from mom. Many of them have a better understanding of technology and use it effortlessly. It does not occur to them that some of this technology is as old as they are…a micro-second in the big scheme of life!

    Obviously technology is usage is different from one generation to the next. As I travel I see people in their 60’s and 70’s with all kinds of devices. They use them confidently and with ease. But in general the differences are pretty significant.. From the 75 year old women shouting on her cell phone to the 7 and 8 year olds plugged in for the entire trip. (We’re where?) My 80 year old mom uses her computer for emails and solitare. Basically she uses email to write family and friends that live a distance and soitare so she doesn’t have to deal the cards. Her use of technology is very limited, but it meets her needs.

    Obviously some people are more plugged in than others. Those people that have access to global services have a much different view than those that don’t. I often wonder about the people that don’t have any access to internet. How are their lives different from ours? It has become fairly obvious that the younger the exposure to internet, the more adapted the person becomes. But around the world, the gaps are becoming larger and larger. How will that usage differentiate us as technology steams full speed ahead?

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