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Slouching Towards Fogeyville

Last month I wrote about digital immigrants and digital natives.  The immigrants are the adults – teachers and administrators – who have had to learn technology piece by piece with each advancement.  The natives have never known a world without technology and are often far more proficient than the adults in their lives.

As an immigrant I have to admit to being a little discouraged trying to keep up with it all.  But it turns out that technology advances so swiftly that even the natives have generation gaps spanning just a few years.  Larry Rosen, a professor of psychology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, has written a book about these gaps.  It’s called, Rewired:  Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn.

The Net Generation, born in the 1980s, says Rosen, spends a couple of hours talking on the phone and still uses email frequently.  The iGeneration, born in the 90s and 2000s, spends more time texting than talking on the phone and communicates over instant messaging networks.

Smartphone There are other differences too, but of particular interest is that according to Rosen, the iGeneration expects instant responses and is impatient with anything less.  You have to wonder how this is going to play out in school.

Except at the elementary level, schools are not exactly “instant” responders.  That paper you wrote?  Back in three weeks.  Results from those state tests?  Maybe in a few months.  Application to college?  Some time late spring.  But imagine how much quicker kids could learn with faster feedback.  Instead of practicing errors, they could adjust and correct quickly before those errors are ingrained. 

Of course, some delays are inevitable and patience is a virtue.  But the simple lesson here is to give kids feedback in a timely fashion so they still recall the point of instruction.  The days of the teacher who collected homework, “seasoned it” for a few weeks, and then pitched it when kids had forgotten about it are long gone. The iGeneration isn’t the end of the line; just the latest iteration.


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