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Book Recommendation

Friday, November 06, 2009

Me, MySpace, and I
(and the creation of Acronym Kids)


By Anna Grahame

Here is a passage from Me, MySpace, and I: Parenting the Net Generation, by Larry D. Rosen: 

    "[W]ith all their technology, Gen Xers quickly learned how to multitask.It is no accident that in 1980 the American Psychiatric Association identified a new disorder called Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (or ADHD) based on a person's inability to attend to a single task in a constructive way. Because of their multitasking behavior, millions of Gen Xers were (mis)labeled by their parents, schools, and occasionally psychiatrists as having ADHD and were given medication to help them focus on a single task, rather than simultaneously working on many tasks. The response to ADHD was to prescribe drugs (e.g., Ritalin) that helped reduce multitasking...Years later psychiatrists realized that many of the children did not have ADHD; they were simply excellent multitaskers.
 
    "The oldest Gen Xers, now in their late thirties and early forties, have been in the workforce for many years.Their entry into business was quite a shock to their Baby Boomer bosses... GenXers have felt compelled to seek new jobs, sometimes changing employment yearly. It is hardly surprising that 70 % of the dot-com companies were started by Gen Xers who preferred to be their own bosses and set their own rules. Gen Xers want to live life on their own terms.
 
    "While Gen Xers ... became expert multitaskers, the MySpace generation perfected the art and took it to new heights using a variety of technologies.Toting laptops, cell phones, and iPods, they are rarely seen without technology. MySpacers are much more experienced with the internet than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers, and they use it in entirely different ways. It is not a tool for them; it is a mainstay in their lives."

In this book the author points out the cultural differences across the three latest generations, differences that can result in miscommunication. We can often see the effects of this miscommunication in the classrooms today.

Volunteering in the classroom of a Baby Boomer

Imagine the scenario where a Baby Boomer teaches children who at the age of two could already use a mouse, play simple computer games, and had learned basic reading skills to maneuver through educational sites. I volunteer in such a classroom, my son’s, helping out the overwhelmed teacher with her 19 kids. I lead a reading group of several children once a week.

In each session each kid reads about a page. The first fifteen minutes are more or less OK. The story is simple and so is the language. (Children's literature exists, but not in this classroom.) The story we read is a predictable one – Zoe, a girl who's father is a writer, rolls her eyes and says "They will get the garden and live happily ever after..."

We continue reading. After a tedious few rounds it is time to discuss the story.

The six kids and I all have different opinions on what kind of police officer talked to the main character in the story – or was it a fireman? I must confess I spaced out during the story myself and missed some details. One girl, an avid reader, who was the only one who was paying full attention to the story, sets us straight. She says that there were two officers and one of them was a woman.

At the parent/teacher conference, the teacher tells me that my boy spaces out in class. I think of my reading group. During our reading session, five out of the six kids and one grown up, myself, all spaced out. I think that somehow this teaching method doesn't work well.

In my own classroom

I am a teacher of German. In my classes there is a relatively low spacing-out percentile. To me, German grammar is the most exciting thing and I manage to captivate my group. Luckily we are equipped with smart boards, and frequently use YouTube and many other sites. We do our regular exercises, have discussions, and if a question comes up we quickly look it up online.

Maybe my class works because it is held in the language of the youth. Often I stumble on technical problems and the students help me and show greater competence than me, the teacher. And I don't mind – on the contrary, this is my view of a functioning democracy.

There is also great suspense in our classroom. Sometimes in the middle of a key scene in a documentary the computer dies – or the battery is low, or the cable is left at home, etc.

Maybe we should be more aware of our own unawareness regarding this new generation who is growing up so differently. Maybe we should be more aware of the gap in time (computer years are fast, as we know) and refrain from getting into acronym hyperventilation, labeling our children with acronyms of various disorders.

In Sweden there is a new sociological term – "Bokstavsbarn" – which means something like "letter child" or "acronym kid." Perhaps we should use the expression in English too.

Check out this small film: 
Shift Happens


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