Thursday, June 27, 2013

Digital generation.

Tapscott, Don. (1998). Growing Up Digital: The Rise of the Net Generation. New York: McGraw Hill. 

That's so early! So much has changed so fast since 1998.

My husband and I joke that we're from the "mechanical generation," where Newton's laws still applied, no action without a reaction, etc.  And you could, without much effort, figure out what action caused the reaction, because they were similar-- the piston turns the axle which turns the wheel. Simple. The gasoline burns and the energy makes the piston turn. Etc.

I was just in Wells (UK) where in the cathedral there's the oldest still-working clock in Europe. (Very cute--

That's 14th Century. The little knights you see above the face? When the quarter hour strikes, they came out and clash their swords. 

Anyway, even I can figure out how the clock works, with the weights in the casement under the face gradually shifting and all that. Very mechanical. Everything's got a cause that can be determined.

But the electronic generation-- my kids don't have that need to have a cause that fits the effects. I want to know why my MP-3 player makes me press four buttons (not one of them saying "start"-- you know, they're "menu" and "select" and anyway, none of the names are on the MP-3 player... I have to look up the manual online to see what they are!) in a certain order to get the song I want. They don't mind. They just give in and do it the way they're told. Or they push buttons until something happens. "Everything doesn't have to make sense, Mom!" my younger son said the other day. "That's such a Boomer thing."
But this might account for the deficit I've seen the last decade in students who have an automatic understanding of cause and effect. Maybe now that's something they really have to be taught.
(Then again, this is a very good reason for all children to learn how to cook-- that'll teach 'em cause and effect.)

Anyway, in DE, we're dealing with the electronics, where cause doesn't necessarily lead logically to effect. (You know, the old "control alt delete" thing? That's how you get a computer to reset? Because there's no reset button?)

It means that we can't fix our cars ourselves anymore. (Not that I ever did, but my brother did.) What does it mean for the classroom? We have about 100 times more access and apps to help learning. Are we changed cognitively? Have we gained and/or lost? What?

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