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We Need a Compass, Not a Map

Whenever I have to travel to a new city, I want to have a map or better yet, a Global Positioning System in my car. These tools can keep me from getting lost and get me to my destination. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a new territory and that GPS saved me. There was a time, however, when I found myself in a place where neither a map nor the GPS could help. I was in a remote part of Canada where there were no signs and not even any roads. No maps were available for this territory, and if I had had a GPS device — which I didn’t — it would have had to furnish directions using landmarks like trees or hills. I was, quite literally, in deep weeds. What I needed was a compass.

No matter where you are, a compass can tell you where your true north is. It can direct you when all else fails. And that’s what you and I need as we interact with Generation iY today, because we are now in uncharted territory. We must diagnose the challenges, and give them a compass as they move into their future. We’ve never faced challenges quite like those in this generation, nor have we faced so many baffling questions — including the ones rolling around inside of me as I write this blog:

• Has constant exposure to technology lowered the emotional intelligence of a generation?

• Does our kids’ premature launch into school (at ages four or five) foster a postponed launch into adulthood (at ages twenty-six or later)?

• Is the early affirmation kids receive from adults causing narcissism and depression for them later on?

• Has the increased time playing video games lowered the grades that boys make in school?

• Does the heavy access to social media (Facebook, Twitter and so on) impede the development of mature relational skills?

• Have antiquated teaching methods caused a disconnect between adult and student generations?

• Do the lies we adults (especially parents) tell our kids actually return to haunt them in the form of anger and disillusionment?

• Will the expanded population of Generation iY in a challenged worldwide economy spark violence and antisocial behavior?

Then there’s the $64,000 question: What do we do to steer Generation iY back on course and keep them there? How do we prevent ourselves from being overwhelmed by the challenges? Where do we begin to address the issues?

In the next few days, I plan to offer a list of five essentials we must pass on to this emerging generation of kids.

What are your chief concerns?

Tim

1 Comment

  1. Beth Davies-Stofka on October 23, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    I’ve been teaching undergraduates since 1995, and in 2004 I started teaching exclusively online. These years of research and experience have taught me these things:

    Has constant exposure to technology lowered the emotional intelligence of a generation?
    Absolutely not. I’m constantly impressed at the emotional maturity of my students. They are empathetic, compassionate, respectful, excellent listeners, tolerant, and deeply encouraging of each other, when put in an environment that nurtures such behavior, i.e. one that empowers them. Online education is very freeing, compared to the psychiatric prison ward set-up that public schools so often mimic.

    Is the early affirmation kids receive from adults causing narcissism and depression for them later on?
    I don’t see any evidence of that. I see very little narcissism, and while I’m unclear about the causes of it, it seems to be proportionally prevalent among men, and unfortunately in our culture, narcissism in men is often rewarded.

    I see a lot of depression among males and females alike. A whole lot of it. I think depression is more likely caused by a combination of unrealistic expectations placed on them by the culture — if you’re not beautiful, strong, intelligent, and successful all at once, then you have failed. I also see how a lack of positive drive and constructive discussion in the “adult world” translates into a failure for them — they don’t see enough of an energetic, upbeat attitude modeled in the adult world, and they really, really need that. I think we can affirm our children or students all we want, but even better, we can address our modern problems in an affirmative, optimistic way.

    Has the increased time playing video games lowered the grades that boys make in school?
    Yes, absolutely, and this is intimately related to another of your questions:

    Have antiquated teaching methods caused a disconnect between adult and student generations?
    This is a huge problem, and some of our best people are deeply engaged in trying to address this. When boys play video games, they are challenged, drawn into that oh-so-rare “flow state,” empowered in myriad ways, strongly in control of the platform and application, and configuration of both. They are networked, allowed great freedom of self-expression, and they have fun. That fun is the conduit for learning. They know everything about the games they play. Everything!

    Then they go to school where they are bored to death, and worse, alienated, if not flat-out angered. While video games present an astonishingly exciting potential for new models for pedagogy, they are demeaned, if not pathologized, by the dinosaurs holding teaching positions and the administration that decides curriculum, hiring, and budget. You should read this: “Engage Me or Enrage Me: What Today’s Learners Demand.” http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/erm0553.pdf

    My chief concern is that teachers, and their pay and benefits, are being attacked as the problem, when the much greater problem is that the entire cohort of institutions — school boards, city councils, state legislatures, textbook publishers, federal institutions like the Office of the Secretary of Education, teacher’s unions, etc. — is stubbornly, and I would say dangerously, opposed to moving forward with the changes that technological innovation is demanding, not to mention getting ahead of the curve.

    Why not just ask this generation what it takes? After getting over the shock of meeting an adult who actually believes they already know what they need, they will tell you more than you ever dreamed possible.

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We Need a Compass, Not a Map

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