Random Thoughts

A generation gap?

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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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I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff, I’ve met you in person, so when I say I’m older than David W, I know you won’t be too shocked :). Your post here fascinates me in many ways, on many levels… Why, only yesterday I was running around with my third graders, troubleshooting “disk error” messages they were getting on our Sony Mavica – yes, it takes a 3.5 floppy – and observing where they went with that message. Floppy disks are so incredibly slow, and it is interesting to watch my kids this year take pictures, save on a floppy, and WAIT for the floppy to display in PowerPoint. My (limited) experience tells me my 8 and 9 year olds have more of a “fix it” mentality than you suggest. I hope so… I will try and write some on this. David Warlick had some interesting observations in Mature.

  2. I absolutely resonate with this one. At my young age, I have such the terrible tendency to be impatient. Just this morning (it’s just after 6Am here) I posted a help topic to a forum for a piece of open source software I am working with and within minutes got irritated that no one had responded. I had to really check that within myself.

    I think teachers work harder than ever to keep students occupied to prevent idle hands. Does maturity indicate patience? Gee, I hope not. I should work on that…;)

  3. “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.”

    I would completely disagree with this – if you have ever used MySpace you will know it produces errors almost all the time. The problem comes down to knowing why they should bother using a system, not the quality of the system’s programming or design – again, check out MySpace for interface design, it would not get past one single interface design group. However, users don’t care if they see a reason to use it.

    Students, for that fact anyone, have no patience for anything that doesn’t interest them. Therefore, this is not a software issue but rather a challenge for educators to actually do something interesting, all we do is provide the tools.

  4. Funny…I must be older than David. I just yesterday gave up on Flock… ;0) I don’t know if it’s more patience or if it’s that us older folks (is 48 old?) might think the technology is supposed to work and galdarnit, if it doesn’t it must be us. I have to say, however, that when it comes to looking at new tools, if I don’t get some goodness back quickly, I let them go. Flock had enough to get that initial buy in…

    Happy Holidays! Sure wish I was getting ready for a trip to Shanghai… ;0(


  5. Hey Mr. U, that was an interesting post. When you say that our generation wants things to work and has no patience with them, you’re generally right. When my computer slows down or an error pops up I scream at it for a few seconds. And then I try to fix it. I think most people my age would scream at it period, but thats mainly because they probably wouldn’t know how to fix it. Like when my USB breaks (I think I broke like 10 USBs in the last year) I have this urge to snap the case open, and then drop it in my drawer, since there’s no way to fix a USB with a shorted out board. But for software its easier because sometimes the people who make the software provide the source code for it, then you can play around with it to your content. Personally though, I like screaming.

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