Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What Is At Stake For Millenials?

There are two sides to the Pew Research Center's results regarding whether or not millenials will benefit or suffer from their overconnected lives. Optimists say that "many of the young people growing up hyperconnected to each other and the mobile Web and counting on the internet as their external brain will be nimble, quick-acting multitaskers who will do well in key respects." Pessimists, however, "express concerns that trends are leading to a future in which most people are shallow consumers of information, and some mentioned George Orwell's 1984 or expressed their fears of control by powerful interests in an age of entertaining distractions." While I feel that ultimately it will be a balance (however precarious) of these two options, the latter seems more likely. As mentioned last week in the article regarding Google making us "stupid," the attention spans of even relatively smart people is shrinking rapidly. We aren't learning as much from the information we are getting, but rather looking for more and more of it, when we need time to process our thoughts. As mentioned in the results, some believe that "they lack deep-thinking capabilities; they lack face-to-face social skills; they depend in unhealthy ways on the internet and mobile devices to function," and this is very true to me. Students, and myself included, are almost too reliant on the internet for just about every task imaginable, and it is hard to disconnect when necessary. 

There were two points in particular that I agreed with. The first was media scholar Danah Boyd, who writes that "I suspect we're going to see an increased class division around labor and skills and attention." This is not only true, but equally terrifying. Again, I suspect I am not the only one who tends to procrastinate when I am online, so for this to be just another thing to separate us is disconcerting. Second, futurist Marcel Bullinga focuses on the educational reform aspect of it, saying "educators should teach the management of multiple information streams, emphasizing the skills of filtering, analyzing, and synthesizing information." I recently gave a WebQuest on A Christmas Carol to my students, and to see the amount of plagiarism is stunning, despite the fact that the directions were to put your answers "in your own words," believing that changing a few words would suffice. It is important to find the information, but it is equally important to show that you know it rather than do a simple copy/paste.

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