The Digital Generation

I was walking through a bookstore a few weeks ago and saw a book titled The Dumbest Generation. Needless to say, the title immediately rubbed me the wrong way. If that was author Mark Bauerlein’s goal, I now give him my full respect, as I proceeded to pick it up and purchase it.

The Dumbest Generation can be summarized by its subtitle: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future. It was a great read and Bauerlein had some solid points, but it got me wondering if the Digital Age really is making millennials the “dumbest” generation. Or is it just making society view us that way?

In a time when we are becoming ever more reliant on technology, it doesn’t make sense to claim that the Digital Age is making our youth unintelligent. I was born in 1993. The World Wide Web was introduced shortly before that time. Today, I’m 22, and have learned to use computers primarily through trial and error, rather than through formal education.

For instance, in elementary school I vividly remember using the colorful Apple iBooks for various tasks in school. However, we were never properly taught how to use these large, clunky laptops. We knew how to open Microsoft Word and, if a student was lucky enough, figured out how to browse the Internet on their own time.

We should be changing the classroom curriculum as a whole to introduce digital resources to students at a young age. There’s no doubt that “technology in classrooms has experienced something of a bumpy rollout,” and millennials and later generations are the Guinea pigs for experimenting with the best approaches to using these resources for educational purposes.

The Digital Age is a transition in how we obtain information and communicate. There will be people that insist on honoring the learning practices of the past, but that simply will not suffice with how dependent jobs are becoming on technology and digital education.

We are undoubtedly still learning how to use these digital resources. In any transition in society, learning how we can best utilize these resources will not happen overnight, nor will it happen in a few years. The Digital Age is presenting us with the opportunity to learn more, and learn quicker than ever. The sooner we can learn how to utilize and navigate these new digital resources, the sooner we can all benefit from them.


Who Are The Millennials



Hi Nick, Interesting thoughts...

I have worked with several schools over the past 10 years, implementing technology into the classroom.  I believe the "bumpy road" is a combination of several things; funding challenges, teacher competency with technology, infrastructure, etc.  But the biggest challenge I have seen is the lack of a road map.  Not just a road map for the hardware and infrastructure, but a road map for integrating the technology into the curriculum.

As we all know, a road map is just a plan; and plans change.  But the road map points you in a direction, it points you to the ultimate goal.  A road map also provides you the vision needed to plan for hardware and infrastructure funding.  It is much easier to fund and build your infrastructure, adapt your curriculum, and teach the teachers; a little at a time, as long as you stick to the plan and head in the same direction.

The other observation I've made is that, while some of the basic RRR skills may be lost on some students, there is a much larger world of learning tools now available to many more students.  None as significant as for students that would previously been classified as "learning challenged". 

My last observation is more of a social issue (I think) that the digital age gets blamed for.  Kids are pushed into too many structured activities, at a young age, with such high expectations for great achievement that they are not comfortable in their own skin.  Be it a sports activity, music, digital games, etc.  Trial and error are good things!!  Failure is the greatest learning tool of all time, it breeds innovation.  I am beginning to see some schools going back to "a real recess", not just a break time, but actually going outside, running, playing on swing sets, playing in sandboxes, squishing bugs.  But the best thing I see happening is that "some schools" are going back to activities where some kids win and some kids lose.

Technology is just a tool in the tool box.  We have to be careful not to deprive children of a well balanced education that ultimately teaches them "how to learn".  The ultimate goal needs to be instilling a passion to "learn".  The other stuff - the kids will figure it out,  just like you did on the Apple.