IT Directors: The Gap Btwn Adults and Kids on Technology

The IT Director at my school asked me to speak at a meeting of Bay Area private school tech directors on the topic of the growing disconnect between young people and adults (specifically educators) when it comes to technology. I spent 20 minutes there this morning and didn’t have much profound to say. In fact, I was so exhausted from this past week (tests, games, meetings, calls…repeat 3 times) that I went into “rhetoric” mode. I’m fortunate to be able to sound articulate. I’m fortunate to be able to mask any nervousness and deliver a speech or presentation without fidgeting or stumbling (for the most part). The upside to this is obvious. This morning for example I didn’t prepare really at all and can’t remember much. But words came out, they sounded ok, and people were impressed I think. “Rhetoric mode” is rare and a sign that I need to recharge my batteries.

A couple interesting points discussed – one person said how kids of today don’t realize how public they live their lives when they have blogs or photos online etc. I said “BS. Kids know.” After a little elaboration I added that through my blog I am striving for a lot of transparency and honesty with the outside world. The guy responded “Ben, you’ve chosen to live your life like that. None of us in this room ever did that when we were young.”

Another asked if blogs, IM, email, etc. has contributed to the decline in writing skills. Again, for the sake of argument, I disagreed (discussions like this go nowhere when everyone agrees) and said that the more writing you do, the better it gets. Period. (I actually don’t agree with this. I think IM and email has contributed to a decline in writing and grammar at all ages. But I’m sick of kids saying “I don’t know how to spell anymore because of computers. Come on, that’s a personal choice.”)

Overall, my key point was that everybody (adults) seems to be throwing their hands up and declaring that the “understanding gap” btwn adults and Millenials on technology is huge and, thus, unsolvable. It’s not that hard of a problem. It would be great if an entrepreneur set out to solve it.

6 comments on “IT Directors: The Gap Btwn Adults and Kids on Technology
  • The world is changing pretty quickly…I’ve told my wife several times that if I had the time, I’d love to shadow a high school student and a college student for a day, just to see what their lives are like.

    I have a computer in my house where I have set AOL as the homepage, simply so that my mom can check her email when she visits (she doesn’t understand URLs or bookmarks). That’s going to be me in 30 years–or less–if I don’t find a way to stay current.

  • I think the last part of your comment Chris is the most important – “if I don’t find a way to stay current.” I’m sure you WILL find a way to stay current. It seems that with the internet so many older people have been taken by storm and thus throw their hands up. For me, I know, seeing the adults of now, that as I hit 50, 60, 70, 80 I’m going to need to work extra hard to take advantage of the technologies available to me.

  • Hi Ben-

    I was in that group of IT folk at SFDay. I’m not sure the impression I walked away with was of an insurmountable understanding gap. Rather, most of the folk in that room were people who live and breathe the same tech you do. While there are certainly adults in education who are out-of-step (like your email scheduling prof), those folk weren’t them.
    One of our main functions as tech people in schools is to interface between the teacher/admin layer and tech, as well as between the students and tech. This means that we hear a lot about the tech-gap from the adult perspective. What was most useful about that talk was hearing students like yourself describe the disconnect in your own words, so we could go back to the conversation with the teacher/admin folk with new data.
    Thanks again for taking time out of your day to come talk to us.

  • I left the meeting today with a strong desire to see a web blog created specifically for the under 18 crowd to share ideas as to how we educators can improve our curriculum using new technologies. They live this everyday, have the time to think about it and are living out of the box. (Perhaps Ben could create a blog that we could share with our students… Would this avoid the liability issue?)

    I had a student share a free web blogging site with me this year that improved an outdated system I was using for our on-line Current Events Bulletin. He set it up in less than a half an hour. In comparison, the number of hours I spent setting up the Yahoo groups I was previously using is slightly embarrassing.

    I know I would get other interesting ideas from my students at St. Matt’s. I must say I agree with Ben’s blog where he says that the difference between adults and millenials, (I’d never heard that term before), is not that huge. The real difference is that these kids have a lot more time on their hands to use the technology and are not hindered by the boxes that life imposes on us as we try to function in the so called “real” world, which is not real at all but a shell superimposed on reality…a little web rant is good for the soul every once in a while..

    So let’s make good use of this wonderful unfettered resource–our students; and create a blog for them to share their visions.

    Have a great weekend everyone.

  • I’m not sure you can have it both ways — that is, can “poor spelling” encouraged by e-mail and IMs be “personal choice,” while a loss in writing skills overall gets attributed to the medium?

    If anything, say instead that IMs are replacing personal conversation. That’s a bit less of a stretch. We can’t learn everything we need to know about conversation through a sequential private message board.

    If writers improve by writing, why can we not improve through writing our e-mails? If e-mail is actually making us worse at writing, why won’t blogs do the same thing? Don’t most young people who blog cut the same corners in language that many of us cut in the IM window?

  • Ron:

    Good points. Writers CAN improve by writing, but you don’t have to. If someone wants to cut corners in their writing – regardless of the medium – then they’re not becoming a better writer. I think of blogs as vastly different than an IM window. I see blogs as a piece of published work, albeit sometimes a quick or stream-of-conciousness one. Anyone and everyone can view a blog, so in this sense it is open to the public for lots of scrutiny. When a piece of work is publicly published, my guess is one will put more time and thought into it versus just a one-off conversation with a friend on IM.

    That said, someone else may look at their blog entirely differently, in which case they very well COULD treat their blog like IM. Again: personal choice.

    Let me conclude with this: as I read the other day on, “fifty years ago, comic books were blamed for the decline of literacy among American youth. They were also blamed for a corresponding rise in juvenile delinquency and teenaged promiscuity. Now, in the wake of Art Spiegelman’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Maus, comic books are being taught in schools: Maryland has just become the first state in the nation to institute a statewide comics curriculum.” Go figure.

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