Wired Pursuits

Posts Tagged ‘younger generation

The impact of technology on our lives.

When we think about technology, we often think about all the new things that it brings to our lives. But, Brendan, a student at Chattanooga State Community College, thinks about technology differently. Brendan started wondering about what we may be losing. And in doing so came up with the great idea of archiving sounds that are “endangered” because of new technology.

Dubbed the Museum of Endangered Sounds, Brendan has a set of 18 photos that can be clicked to play the corresponding sound. Depending on your age you may or may not have even heard of some of these sounds. Think about the sound of a modem connecting, the sound of a rotary dial phone, or even…”We’re sorry, your call cannot be completed as dialed” (I never liked that lady).

You can almost see the game show now, “Name that Endangered Sound.” The cheesy game show host invites the next two contestants up to the podium, he signals for the sound to play while the two contestants hover their hand over the red plunger button in anticipation. The sound begins…a hand slaps the button…the contestant says…”A busy signal.” Woohoo, 100 points for your team.

Or, how about adding sounds to the oh so popular trivia nights at all the local bars (something us older folks would kill at).

Saving a piece of technological history.

I never though about how if we fail to capture these sounds they may disappear forever. Would loosing the sound of a modem connecting be a horrible thing, probably not. But, these sounds, or lack thereof, tell the story of the digital age; how quickly technology is advancing and with it changing the very noises we encounter in our daily lives.

Think about all the sounds we could collect by crowdsourcing the whole site. What might we learn? Do the sounds that are disappearing differ by countries? What sounds have disappears that we here in the U.S. don’t even know about? Have any sounds come back?

It’s not just sounds that are endangered (and even extinct). It’s things too.

Maybe Brendan needs to create a companion site, “Name that Endangered Thing.” After all, it’s not just sounds that we may be loosing forever, it’s also things. Think about some of the “things” that are disappearing. For example, do you know what this red thing is? We certainly have little use for it anymore now that we listen to digital music.

How about the plastic folding photo holder thingy that you used to add to your wallet? Heck I couldn’t even find a photo of one on the Internet. Which made me think that not only are sounds/things being endangered, depending on how long ago they existed (and we’re talking decades not centuries), they might not even have a presence on the web. And for many younger folks that means they probably never existed anyway.

Think about what other sounds Brendan might add to his site? What other “things” are endangered or even extinct?

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SPOLIER: It’s a spindle for a 45 RPM record (which have pretty much also disappeared).

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How do you know spring has arrived? In most places the trees start to bud, flowers start to pop up, the weather warms, and the days get longer. Well here in Happy Valley (a.k.a. State College) we have our own unique way of recognizing the arrival of spring.

Here are the top 10 ways you know it’s spring in State College.

1. Red chairs pop up outside at Cafe 210.

2. Gaggles of college kids in matching t-shirts wondering around town (the annual bar tour).

3. The fragrant scent of cheap beer everywhere.

4. Blue Natty Light cans scattered across the lawn.

5. Red solo cups impaled on unsuspecting bushes.

6. Skin everywhere (guys in shorts, girls in sundresses) even when it’s 50 degrees and raining.

7. The slap-slap sound of flip-flops.

8. A sudden increase in desperate emails from students trying to figure out how to make up for missed assignments.

9. Mattresses, broken bookcases, and the odd papasan chair without a cushion left on the curb.

10. And finally, an eerie quite hush blankets the valley as the students leave for the summer.

I’ve been mulling this around in my mind for a while and the more I think about it, the more I come to believe that all the anxiety and excitement centered around social media is about control – gaining it, and losing it.

Social media, user-generated content, and an expanding set of social tools have shifted control to consumers.

Today, consumers have a voice. And because of that voice, they have gained control. They are no longer satisfied with the information organizations push at them. Instead, they are talking with each other, becoming better-educated consumers, and often banning together to demand better service or products. We’ve heard stories where they promote brands and where they bring brands to their knees.

Consumers have more control. Businesses have less.

Businesses along with PR and marketing companies have less control.

Because consumers have more of a voice, hence more control, it is forever changing the way marketing and PR companies generate awareness, drive sales, and position companies. I’ve seen the reluctance and resistance to give up control first hand. PR companies want to control the message, releasing only what they want when and where they want. A model that, in the past, has been very successful. Marketing companies are reluctant to bring customers into the conversation – “what if they say something negative?” “How do we control the conversation?”

But social media allows consumers to impact and shift the PR message and customers are already talking about companies and their brands.

Control is shifting at schools and at home.

But this shift in control doesn’t seem to be limited to business. It’s happening within school and at home.

I’ve come across much debate about the negative effects the Internet, social networks, IM and other such online social channels are having on this younger generation. I’ve also run across much debate about the role of social media in the classroom.

Is this debate fueled by issues of control? Do parents feel they are losing control in terms of monitoring whom their children interact with? Do they feel a loss of control because they don’t understand how to navigate the new wired landscape (something their kids know more about than they do)?

Some educators feel they are losing control of their classrooms because of all the distractions social media brings. Are they losing the battle for their students’ attention?

As with consumers, students and children now have more of a voice. They can post their thoughts on professors, journal about their parents, and broadcast their opinions to more people than ever before on Facebook and MySpace. They are experiencing more control and having more of a voice than ever before. It that threatening to the older generation?

Is it about control or something else?

So what do you think? Is it all about control? Is social media shifting more traditional relationships and turning things on their heads? Are consumers and the Net Generation more vocal because of this newfound control?

Holy academic turmoil, Batman. What’s all this I’m hearing about the state of education today?

Some say students don’t care.

Professors, researchers, parents, and even the kids themselves say students today just don’t care. They’re not interested in education. They would rather be Facebooking, IMing, or otherwise engaged even during class.

Check out this video made by students at Kansas State University. It’s not a pretty picture.

Some say higher ed refuses to change.

There’s another vocal group that say it’s not the students but the teachers who are the problem. Don Tapscott talks about this in his book Grown up Digital. Academic Commons also explores the issue in a series they published earlier this year.

They suggest that today’s teachers are stuck in the old “I know more than you, so I’ll talk at you for an hour, and you listen” approach to teaching. They refuse to cater to their students’ latest whims (i.e., social media). Teaching isn’t about entertaining but learning.

It’s starting to freak me out a bit.

I’m going back to get my PhD for many reasons, but one of the biggest is because I love teaching and I want to get back into the classroom. I imagined myself teaching at a university, engaging students in great discussions, opening them up to new ways of thinking, and having them do the same for me. (Insert heart warming, inspirational music here.)

But there appears to be a lot of negative energy out there especially in regards to today’s youth, their commitment to education, and the future of education as we know it.

Is this really the right time to go back to school and start a new teaching career?

Not knowing the answer is what makes it fun.

To me that’s what is so amazing and interesting about where we are today – we don’t know the answer. We get to experiment and play with new ideas. Some will work, others will fail. That’s the fun part. So, for me, this is exactly the time to get back into the educational system.

I want to be one of the ones that get to experiment. That get to try new things both as a student and as a teacher.

Come to think of it, that’s what excited me 11 years ago when I started designing web sites for businesses.  We had no idea what we were doing. There weren’t any accepted right and wrong ways of doing it. That’s what made it so exciting. We were breaking new ground.

Pockets of hope.

What’s interesting is if you read deeper and avoid the “sky is falling because social media has ruined the world” types, you see many examples of teachers and students who are revolutionizing learning.

There are many professors out there actively experimenting with new media in a sincere effort to connect with their students. There are universities that embrace new media and actively look for the best ways to leverage it.

I choose to listen and follow those forging a new path. Those excited about the potential of new technologies, and who fundamentally believe students do want to learn.

It’s an amazing time where students can learn form teachers, teachers from students, and teachers from teachers. I believe that social media is revolutionizing our world – business, personal, and education – and those who embrace the change and share their stories will help the rest of us get smarter about what makes sense and what doesn’t.

Title: Grown up Digital

Author: Don Tapscott

Pub Date: 2009

grownupdigitalThis is Tapscott’s update to Growing up Digital and it attempts to address how the Internet, social networking, and this new world of hyper-connected world is shaping and reshaping today’s “net generation” (i.e., those between 11-31 years old).

The book addresses 9 different “concerns and criticisms” that Tapscott says are often voiced by parents, journalists, employers, and academics.  Specifically:

  • They’re not as smart as previous generations were at their age (agree with Tapscott, this is not my experience).
  • They’re loosing their social skills (maybe, but isn’t that our job to teach them?).
  • They have no shame (did you when you were that age?).
  • They’re being “coddled” by their parents are unable to make commitments (not sure what that has to do with the Internet).
  • They steal (maybe – it is more anonymous online).
  • They bully their friends online (are there really more bullies or is this just a new approach?).
  • They’re violent (could be, suspect that’s directly related to playing violent games?).
  • They have no work ethic (have heard this from other business owners).
  • They are narcissistic (ahh, their mostly teenagers).
  • They don’t give a damn (not my experience).

He spends much of the book debunking each of these issues and uses many examples from research he and others have conducted to bolster his arguments.

There are 2 main themes that stood out for me:

1. Net Gener’s brains are wired different.

Tapscott claims we are seeing “the first case of a generation that is growing up with brains that are wired differently from those of the previous generation.”

While there’s been debate about whether this is true, I do see a difference in how the Net Geners process information.  They just think about information differently.  I believe that older generations tend to think of things in a more linear, hierarchical way, while today’s youth create more dynamic, multi-nodal maps of information. (If there are studies that look into this, let me know.)

I do agree with Tapscott that Net Geners appear to be able to more easily jump from one topic to another.  I also think they are better able to see interconnections between what we old folks might think of as disparate topics.

2. Education must change to accommodate this new way of thinking.

Tapscott spends a good deal of time bashing the current education system (especially higher ed) for their antiquated approach to teaching.

He spends quite a few pages talking about how teaching should be more interactive, a two-way dialog that takes into account individual’s learning styles. He urges educators to “step off the state and start listening and conversing instead of just lecturing.”

Tapscott suggests that this new interactive style is driven from Net Gener’s experiences with the Internet and how they learn.

I would humbly disagree.  What Tapscott describes is just good teaching techniques. It was good teaching 20 years ago when I taught school and I don’t believe it’s changed dramatically. What has changed is the tools that educators can use to make classrooms more dynamic and interactive, and I would add, maybe an expectation on the part of learners that it would be more fun.

I’ve always ascribed to the philosophy that learning must be fun and entertaining.  I would hope that all educators seek to create a more individualized, interactive approach to teaching such as Tapscott suggests.

A deeper look into the data would be helpful.

For me, some of Tapscott’s conclusions were too broad based.  I wanted to dive deeper into the data and take a more critical view of the conclusions that were drawn. Occasionally Tapscott focused only on the data that supported his conclusions, and overlooked data that might raise more questions.

For example, when discussing whether social media is creating a less social generation, he suggests kids today are more social because they are spending more time interacting with friends than their parents did.  He quotes a teenager as saying he prefers to use instant messaging rather than in person communications because “it allows you to think about your responses, motives, and overall reduces the awkwardness of conversations.”

The conclusion I drew from this statement was that while kids may be communicating with more people than ever before, they may be using social media to avoid more personal forms of communication. I don’t see how the amount of time online directly relates to an individual’s ability to “socialize.”  It could, in fact, impede it depending on what your definition of “being social” is.

Some kids may be using social media to avoid face-to-face interactions.  And if that is the case, the “awkwardness” will never go away resulting in an individual who is never able to practice and improve these skills.

Bottom line: Interesting read taken with a grain of salt.

In general I agreed with Tapscott’s positive assessment of Net Geners.  As with all technology, there are positive and negative effects.  Technology is shaping Net Geners, but Net Geners are also shaping technology, and often in positive ways.

The book is filled with many examples of new and innovative uses for social media/networks, however, I found that many of the points made in earlier chapters are often repeated unnecessarily.

It raised many more questions for me, so I’m thankful for that.  However, a more critical look at the research might have been more revealing and conclusive.

The Internet and the assortment of devices available to connect with it have opened up tons of ways to interact, share, and connect with others. Today’s youth are the first generation to grow up with this new way of sharing and many are not shy about what they share.

Their apparent disregard for the potential risks of all this sharing has created lots of anxiety for parents, teachers, and scholars.  Many are warning kids to be careful what they put online and predicting that what youth share today will become a problem for them in later years.

When I was your age. Not.

But here’s the problem that is unique to this issue – kids today don’t have anyone to learn from. Parents, teachers, and older relatives who would typically mentor or coach youth on the perils of certain activities can’t tell stories about their personal experiences in an effort to warn or teach youth what to watch out for.

Grandma can’t pull Junior aside and tell him how the beer pong photos she posted on Facebook were found by her boss putting her in bad light with him for years to come. Parents can try to reach their kids with “When I was your age…” stories.

I know from experience that the younger generation often don’t think their parents know or understand what their lives are like and this time they’re actually right. We’ve got no lessons learned to pass down and that give us even less credibility in their eyes.

Today’s youth are forging new territory.

Certainly we’ve all heard stories of people getting fired or not hired because of information they’ve posted, however, it’s not all that common. We’re also not likely to personally know someone who’s been negatively affected by sharing too much. This, combined with the common “it won’t happen to me” teenage mantra, means today’s youth are navigating this new territory all on their own.

Questions to ask yourself…

  1. Are today’s youth putting themselves at risk by sharing too much?
  2. If you think they are, what do you feel would be useful in helping them understand the risks?

Just had an experience that, for me, clearly illustrates the differences between the younger and older generation (and yes, I’m putting myself in the latter) when it comes to technology.

I’m sitting on the balcony of an oceanfront condo where my family and I are staying.  A huge storm started building and I looked up to see a tornado (or more correctly a water spout) about 20 yards off the shore over the water.  It snaked way up into the sky and was spitting water every which way over the ocean.

I immediately yelled to everyone to come see (this was a first for us).  I was content to sit and experience the moment, but both my college-age girls yelled, “Take a photo,” then reached for their ever present cell phones.  My oldest was immediately texting all her friends and sending images before the thing even left our sight.

The difference?  It never occurred to me to record the event, but it was like second nature to my kids who grew up with a “capture the moment” mindset.


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