Friday, June 29, 2012

Am I a Net Gen Kid?

This week in EDUC 597, we read this chapter from a book called Educating the Net Generation. It was the first chapter and it's basically explaining what that "Net Generation" looks like. I believe we were asked to read this because, in reality, what good is an 'education through technology' course going to do me if I don't understand the importance of technology in the average child's life today? I'll tell's a big deal. Kids these days, the chapter says, spend about 2 hours every day in front of some kind of screen and that's just about the same amount of time the average kid spends playing outside every day too. No wonder we have bigger kids...they don't play enough...that's a different subject though. But that's just one way you can see the average childhood experience changing in drastic ways thanks to, or at least due to, technology. Of course, I must take into consideration that this article places me at the edge of this "Net Generation" and "Generation X".

The cool part about this tech-savvy generation, though, is that it is changing the way kids think about stuff. Now, my first thought is usually "of course...the kids just want to have everything done for them...they can't focus because all they want to do is play video games..." etc. but this chapter actually put some things into focus for me that I recognized but could never really explain on my own. The Net Generation is a group of people who apparently have a much better understanding of the balance between real life and the virtual world. Not to mention that their way of learning has become much more discovery-based. They'd rather figure problems out on their own. It's like that emphasis on problem solving I've always professed as being the golden standard is actually sort of a reality. The chapter talks about the Net Generation being active in community, being very structured, they often like working in groups or teams, are fast-paced, and can multi-task pretty well as a general rule. All of a sudden, this seems to be describing me in a much more accurate light than I'd first realized. 

So the chapter gives criteria for the reader to kind of gauge where he or she is on the tech generation scale. This is largely based on age, but there are exceptions to every rule. For this reason, they do have a chart that marks you by your age, but there is also a set of questions to be answered that place you too. Here they are:
  • Are you more comfortable composing documents online than longhand?             
  • Have you turned your "remembering" (phone numbers, meetings, and so on) over to a technology device?
  • Do you go to meetings with your laptop or PDA?
  • Are you constantly connected? Is the Internet always on whether you are at home or work? Is your cell phone always with you?
How many different activities can you effectively engage in at one time?
Do you play video or computer games?       
So where do I fall? Well, I'll just answer the questions and see where I am. 

1) Yes. I will say that I do have quite an affinity for writing longhand and keep a journal regularly but when it comes to composing a document, I do feel much more comfortable on a computer. It's easy to change something and I definitely type much faster than I write with a pen. So that one is a yes.

2) Yes. Again, I must admit that I used to remember things much more often than I do now. At least with phone numbers, it's a definite yes. I honestly think that if I could afford some kind of smart phone or something like that, I would be a full yes on that question too.

3) Not really. I do not go to meetings with my laptop, though I do converse with people over programs like maybe that counts as a half and half?

4) No. My cell phone is always with me but, just as I said before, my lack of a smart phone is most likely the only reason why I am not always connected in some way.

5) Yes. I will say I am a fantastic multi-tasker.

6) Not really. I don't really play video or computer games, though I have tried my hand at them socially. (Sounds kind of like its a drug when I say it like if I'd tried cigarettes..."I don't smoke but I have tried doing it." haha.

So there it is...I am about half and half. And I think once I do end up with an iPhone or iPad, it'll be all over. I'll be totally connected. 

And so, if I am here as a borderline Net Gen kid, maybe it's more personal than I'd previously thought. Perhaps this is even more of a big deal than I thought. And so it does make sense to incorporate technology...and that theory I always had about invention and discovery and exploration in learning makes even more sense now! Any qualms I had about it I think are gone now. 

As far as changes, I think keeping kids engaged through the whole process of learning is a bigger challenge than it used to be. Keeping students focused is key and I think part of that is the teacher being focused and excited about what's going on. I think another part is just keeping them busy. Engage their minds as they enter the classroom and then move on from there. No down distractions. If there's no time for distraction, there's no time for poor behavior choices. 

However, that leaves me with one question. Have the people in this Net Generation become so discovery oriented and so fast-paced that the way they should be taught needs to become more of a show? Do they need more color, more spice, more cryptic but fun looking? Maybe so...that's my new quandary.


Chris said...

The other problem with the net I've experienced, especially with young children, is trying to keep them interested in the "healthy net" rather than the "junk food net." So many kids are so interested in just jumping from one shallow video and game to the next, and they have little interest in actually exploring, discovering, and digging for true gems. It's much like C.S. Lewis's mud-puddle analogy. As humans, we for some reason seem to be awfully content with playing in the mud when right over the dune there's a whole beach to play on.

Sure, kids are more connected and they're faster than ever; but thinking and exploring and the patience required to do both of those is a discipline that has to be taught. And it's not an easy lesson. Learning is and should be fun, but it's not always easy, and if we teach our children to only pay attention to flashy things, they'll never find the gold hidden in the dirt.

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