Friday, June 17, 2005

Those Wacky Kids...

So I'm reading this article that talks about how the 'net generation' are masters of technology. It perpetuates the idea that young people are inherently better at using technology than their older counterparts. While this may be true, I still think at the heart of the matter it's a self-fulfilling /prophecymyth.

There are several reasons often put forth as to why kids are so much better at technology than adults. They've lived with it all their lives, their brains are like a clean slate so they are quicker at learning, they have more free time, so they learn it better.

While there is probably merit to all of these, I also don't buy those as excuses as to why adults can't know technology just as well if not better than the kids.

After all, we've had technology just as long as they have. Even if they have been text messaging since they were 8, we have been doing it just as long. And wasn't the software written by adults, with adult schemas? Windows lets us create 'files' and put them in 'folders' or to the trash. We should understand that concept better than a child. And when it comes to free time, remember that kids are in school almost as long as adults are at work. And there are still all those other things the kids 'waste' their time on; video games, television, talking on their cell phones. If they are so busy doing these things, how do they become technology masters?

In my mind, the crux of the matter is not any of the above mentioned things, rather it comes down to social pressure. Let me explain using wild oversimplification and rampant speculation

Junior High and High School can be extremely cliquish. You're a Jock, or a Cowboy, or a Stoner, or a band nerd, or a cheerleader, or a dance squad member... You are often looking for ways to excel or stand out in your clique. You want to have the most tackles, or the biggest belt buckle, or play the three minute waltz in under 2:50, etc. etc. Well, if you happen to not be built like an OX, or care to hop on wild animals, or inject illegal substances into your bloodstream for kicks, what do you do? How do you stand out?

Some kids turn to those computers in the back of the library. They've seen some of those movies or read some of those books that make hackers look cool. Or they even just realize that if you know tech, the world, or at least a good paying job, will quite possibly beat a path to your door. So they begin to play.

There is a reward that comes when they do something that nobody else has done. They maintain the schools website. They do a crazy flash animation. Or better yet, they hack into something. Nothing says, “I'm a cool high schooler.” like an investigation by the feds.

Anyway, when we 'grow up', we don't receive the same level of social praise when we figure out how to fit a computer into a toaster. We receive praise for getting a high paying job, winning the Nobel prize, or being a nice member of society. When the rewards change, our actions change...

So, I argue that adults have the same ability as kids to figure out technology, they often have just as much time, they've just go to apply themselves. They need to work at it, not fear it, set goals, become more like... well, like the kids.


Kami said...

Ok, first Marion, what happened to the cute baby photo of your "0" year old. I logged on and posted to your podcasting commentary first and then went post under his picture and it disappeared. Hmm, did you loose him already. Maybe you need a leash on him as well as a label.

I think that you should be know as the man that coined the phrase "when the rewards change, the actions change...", this is a very perspicacious comment. I agree with you on this. The sad thing is that I am still progressing with technology because I am trying to be cooler than you, Shelley and Jim, a fruitless endeavor of which I am not worthy. Perhaps I will try a fed indictment instead.

Marion, you must link to my blog, I am feeling woefully inadequate that i have been taken off everyone's lists of links. I have some recent posts and will be posting more on the NMC conference. Look me up!

Matthew Buckley said...

Woah! Oversight that I didn't have you on there in the first place. It will be on there momentarily.