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The More Things Change...

…the move they remain the same.  Maybe my generation isn’t that different from my parents and grandparents.  Or maybe my generation isn’t anything at all.

I just read this article:


Generational Myth

Not all young people are tech-savvy

Very interesting, and for those who work with students this is a tension that we feel and struggle with often.  There is undoubtedly a massive curve of technology and the demand, need and responsibility to provide technological responses to our students.  However, while they are often referred to as the Techno-Generation (Technology Generation, Media Generation, Digital Generation), that may not necessarily mean all that it implies.  Our desire to categorize or label or generalize the characteristics maybe de more detrimental than helpful, especially when our aim is to bring individual students into a cooperate relationship with Jesus. 

Just because we’ve defined them as technological we should not assume them to have the capabilities or tools, understanding the processes or terms, or even desire to use such resources. 

Here are some quick highlights from the post.  I definitely have some thinking and processing to do…


“Every class has a handful of people with amazing skills and a large number who can't deal with computers at all. A few lack mobile phones. Many can't afford any gizmos and resent assignments that demand digital work. Many use Facebook and MySpace because they are easy and fun, not because they are powerful (which, of course, they are not). And almost none know how to program or even code text with Hypertext Markup Language (HTML). Only a handful come to college with a sense of how the Internet fundamentally differs from the other major media platforms in daily life.

“College students in America are not as "digital" as we might wish to pretend.

“Talk of a "digital generation" or people who are "born digital" willfully ignores the vast range of skills, knowledge, and experience of many segments of society. It ignores the needs and perspectives of those young people who are not socially or financially privileged. It presumes a level playing field and equal access to time, knowledge, skills, and technologies. The ethnic, national, gender, and class biases of any sort of generation talk are troubling. And they could not be more obvious than when discussing assumptions about digital media.

“As Henry Jenkins, a media-studies professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, wrote on his blog last year, "Talking about youth as digital natives implies that there is a world which these young people all share and a body of knowledge they have all mastered, rather than seeing the online world as unfamiliar and uncertain for all of us." Such discussions, he said, also risk ignoring the different ways young people use digital tools, from listening to compact discs to blogging to posting clever videos on YouTube to buying stuff on eBay.

“In reaction to Jenkins's post, Leslie Johnston, now at the Library of Congress, wrote on her blog, ‘I have worked with faculty in their 60s who saw something in being digital decades ago and have worked in that realm for years. I have worked with colleagues — librarians and faculty — in my own age group (I'm 44) who hate all technology with a passion and others who embrace it in all ways. I have worked with students at three different research universities who could not care less about being digital.’

“Once we assume that all young people love certain forms of interaction and hate others, we forge policies and design systems and devices that match those presumptions. By doing so, we either pander to some marketing cliché or force an otherwise diverse group of potential users into a one-size-fits-all system that might not meet their needs. Then, lo and behold, young people rush to adapt to those changes that we assumed all along that they wanted. More precisely, we take actions like rushing to digitize entire state-university library systems with an emphasis on speed and size rather than on quality and utility.

“I realize that by puncturing the myth of generations, I am pitting myself against one of the giants of 20th-century social theory, Karl Mannheim. In his 1927 essay, "The Problem of Generations," Mannheim answered Hume by positing that generations are not dem-ographically determined, but historically. Big events forge common identities. And proximity to an experience matters more than birth year. In other words, a Mannheimian generation might exist among all people who breathed in the ash and dust of the Twin Towers in New York City in 2001. But it might exclude people of the same age who merely watched the event on television from a comfortable couch in Madison, Wis.

“The concept of ‘born digital’ flattens out the needs and experiences of young people into a uniform wish list of policies that conveniently matches the agenda of digital enthusiasts and entrepreneurs of all ages.

“We should drop our simplistic attachments to generations so we can generate an accurate and subtle account of the needs of young people — and all people, for that matter. A more responsible assessment would divorce itself from a pro- or anti-technology agenda and look at multiple causes for problems we note: state malfeasance or benign neglect of education, rampant consumerism in our culture, moral panics that lead us to scapegoat technology, and, yes, technology itself. Such work would reflect the fact that technologies do not emerge in a vacuum. They are subject to market forces, political ideologies, and policy incentives. More important, such work would not use young people as fodder for attacking wider social problems.”