We Know This – Kids are Digital

Running through the feeds this morning I came across a post over at GigaOm related to a tech panel the author, Liz Gannes, moderated recently. What makes it an interesting post is that the panel was made up of teens. We’ve been telling folks on campus and beyond about the habits of the net generation, but this post nails it. When people outside the academy begin discussing the traits of these kids I think we’ll see great acceptance that what we say about them is true. I get the feeling that most of the time people think we are inflating the characteristics of this population. But for what it is worth, I am more of a believer that the current group of young people in and getting set to enter college are a special bunch. To me it means we can offer more interesting technical opportunities that they will use to support their time in higher education — if we can gather some mind share from the place they all seem to love, the FaceBook.

6 thoughts on “We Know This – Kids are Digital

  1. Thanks for sharing this Cole. I know I’m always asking my niece (13) and my nephew (9) what they are into. With my niece we went from email, to IM, to texting, in record time. (I’ll bet she passed through all three of these in less than a year.)

    As I said in our staff meeting, we are spot on with what we’re doing. “Social” and “mobile” are two great buzzwords to work off of as we develop, explore, and introduce new technologies. With that in mind for what we’re doing now we should always be looking one and two generations ahead for what we she do next.

    We need to meet these folks at their level through their preferred medium (IMO)to maximize the learning experience and stay relevant as an institution.

  2. Jeff,
    not to be a stick in the mud, but you say:
    “We need to meet these folks at their level through their preferred medium (IMO)to maximize the learning experience and stay relevant as an institution.”

    How do we know this?! We DO know and see in much research that learner preferences do NOT always lead to better learning. They may lead to greater satisfaction, more fun, lower attrition/drop-out rates, but frequently no better learning outcomes! For our (technology dealers/pushers) own good, IMHO we ought to be a little more careful before we make such statements? While I do think preferred methods and learning strategies do change over time for both individuals and within society, I’m less convinced that *HOW* we learn changes all that fast.

    Don’t get me wrong, I want this to all be true as well, but History has taught us that there is (so far) no silver bullet for instruction, learning or technology’s role in the process. Social? and mobility may indeed be important, but let’s not forget context and meaning-making out of this info-smorgasbord we glut ourselves on.

    Our science and craft dictates that we (continue to) play with AND investigate this more thoroughly. Thanks for your and Cole’s comments. Readers, please weigh in.
    -Joel Galbraith

  3. I appreciate this post, and the one you reference, but I am afraid your title is a bit mis-leading. As I have written on my blog (and here in comments) the kids aren’t digital. They are (as you correctly point out) SOCIAL, and MOBILE. The most insightful bit I got out of Lee’s presentation at TLT, in fact the thing that really challenged my thinking on this and made me realize that they AREN’T digital, is when he himself said today’s youth are just doing what youth in past generations did. They are talking with their friends, they are meeting in open “social spaces” and sharing their lives. Ice Cream parlour, Soda Shop, shopping mall, AOL, or now facebook. Kids are social.

    If we view these sites in THIS way, I am not sure we are “hitting the mark” with education. It would be like saying to be effective educators we should teach class in the mall (it’s where the kids go!) or we should lecture in the Ice Cream parlour.

    Actually, this discussion goes way back in various other contexts as well. Should classes be taught outside, on the lawn? Should ALL classes be taught that way? The religious perspective is here as well–Is it important to reach people “where they are” and then stay there with them, or is it important to reach them there, and then bring them forward to something better?

    Perhaps what we really are forgetting in our rush to be relevant is that one of our responsibilities as educators is to teach that there is a time and a place for everything. One of the things we must learn is how to learn. How to conform to other ways of behaving. How to structure our lives as members of society.

    I guess this gets back to the discussion about coddling the youth. Perhaps we are abrogating our responsibilities in an effort to be “Relevant.”


  4. Both Joel’s and Steve’s points are well taken and should be factored in the discussion. At no point would I advocate doing it for doing its sake. In fact, part of what we’re molding ETS into is a shop where we review these technologies for their educational implications. Is meeting someone on their own terms coddling? Even if it helps them to grow?

    Being relevant means putting out something of value. Where would be be as a university if we did not adapt to the times? Why would a student want to come here if they can get better somewhere else?

  5. Steve, I agree with much of what you say, but I guess I see some of this from a slightly different perspective … I think the kids are digital — not in a literal sense, but in that they eat, drink, and breathe digital content, media, and opportunities. Most of them don’t exactly say they are digital — that is a characteristic of the generation … go back to an old Allan Kay quote “Technology is only technology to those born before technology” and you can see why they wouldn’t self select into a technical category. They just are.

    I don’t think I am in a rush to move technology into teaching for technocentric purposes — I am interested in the appropriate use of it all to enhance the experience (for both faculty and students). Kids are social and at the moment they are connecting in ever-increasing numbers via technology enabled social environments — via their phones, in the FB, in games, and over IM. My point is that they are there — in the digital space — and it might be in our best interest to understand these behaviors. Good teaching is always the best practice — no matter where it occurs.

  6. Pingback: The Professor’s Notes - Where my thoughts and your eyes (and now ears!) collide » Digital? Social? Are today’s Youth Different?

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