Here come the geeks, should we worry?

Straddling the cusp between Generation X and Generation Y I found the MacAthur Foundation white paper on Living and Learning with New Media: Summary of Findings from the Digital Youth Project  an interesting take on the state of play regarding the interaction between young people and technology. Something I found refreshing was that the report was overwhelmingly positive about this interaction, rather than the usual cyber bullying and stranger danger discussions, it focused on real life examples of young peoples development and growth based on the use of tech.

Given that I have been teaching teenagers for a few years now I was not surprised by the fact that young people are more than ever embracing tech and incorporating it in all aspects of their daily interactions, what did surprise me, was the level of connection that applications like gaming and YouTube have created.   It is interesting to think that teachers and parents may be oblivious to the fact that their children and students could be world experts in their chosen ‘geek’ pursuits and share and contribute to an almost underground community.

One of the findings that took my interest in the reading was that young people are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults.  I have always tried to integrate peer assessment and collaborative learning into my teaching with varying success, so was thinking if the online environment makes young people more open to peer-peer learning as it is completed in an setting where they are free from judgment of their classmates or even teachers.

At the heart of Web 2.0 technology is connection, does it matter that young people are connecting through sharing knowledge about Lady Gaga or the latest cheat codes for Halo?  No, because in the future these Generation Z’s interests and passions will have grown and moved on over time. They will be active nodes for their chosen careers and interests.  The information that they will be sharing, creating and discussing will cover aspects around politics, economics and social and environmental issues.  They will be joining a job market the same time as many baby boomers are retiring and might well overtake the generation X and Y groups because of the skills they have honed in their bedrooms during their teens.  Maybe a scary thought for some of us.    Check out this blog by janderson99 for more about this topic, Motivating, Managing, Retaining Generation X and Generation Y, Employees.

A final thought which resonated with me and has been a bit of a recurring theme in some of the reading I have done recently was this line:

Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.

We have long known that giving student ownership over their learning is vital to successful outcomes. The key, particularly in teaching, is how we find the balance between preparing our students for exams and the best practice pedagogue.  See my earlier blog “its not what’s in the pipeline” which touches on this.

One thought on “Here come the geeks, should we worry?

  1. The angle of this report in being one that acknowledges what this generation is doing and can do with technology instead of focusing on what does not work is refreshing. People have always learned more from their peers rather than their ‘elders’ but now its interesting to see how a child can go online and google an area of interest, and have way more information at their fingertips than an adult could ever hope to know. This is intimidating for parents and teachers. As this white paper shows the shift has happened. As educators its up to us to make sure that we can motivate our students despite the fact that their learning is driven by standards and benchmarks, and not necessarily student interests. Or perhaps that is what makes a teachers’ job challenging -to figure out exactly how to meet the standards and benchmarks WHILE honoring student interests. Your post has me thinking.

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