Generation Me

May 2, 2007

genme.jpgI just don’t know. I’m always a little skeptical of the headlines about the differences in generations and learning – the digital natives vs. the digital immigrants. I understand the change in thinking patterns and recognize the need to change the way we teach. Shame on those who haven’t recognized that yet. My skepticism comes from my dislike of painting groups with large paint rollers. I know a lot of immigrants that trump the technical skills of natives and have seen it in the training room – someone can text message in the dark but can’t resize and move a window on their desktop. I know there are an equal amount of stories on the immigrants…desktop? there’s nothing on top of my desk! Hence, my dislike of broad labels.

But what about non-technology stuff associated with those under 25? I’ve always wanted to research the generation topic in depth – you know, get at the empirical stuff. So when Danah Boyd at aphonenia described Jean Twenge’s book Generation Me as having a “shitload of data” I felt the need to read it and so I’ve just bought it and look forward to reading it. I wanted to get at the ‘changes in the brains’ vs. the ‘changes in technology.’ Danah’s comments on the book, and narcissism in particular, are something we should all recognize as educators.

Twenge does an amazing job at outlining how our schools have become completely useless at educating because it’s more important to make students feel good than to be critical of their work.

What options does this leave us in the workplace? I’m sure most of us build safe environments for our learners – places where mistakes are OK and encouraged. But what about critical feedback? How’s that working for the under-25 crowd? In my experience many left their job within 2-3 years. They had become educational sponges – taking all the online classes, attending all the webinars, getting professional certificates, going off to boot camp training. Did they leave because they couldn’t get what they wanted – what they felt they deserved?

I am a mid-40s digital immigrant with three kids – a teen, a tween, and a pre-tween (this makes me a queen I think : ). They are classified as “Gen Y” or “Net Gen” – a real petri dish for observing generational differences.

My kids are narcissistic I’m sure but I tell them they haven’t done their best (when they haven’t) and they survive. I guess this is something not all parents would say and I think that’s unfortunate. I know I’m making mistakes – my best child-raising advice was given out before I was a parent – but I think I’m raising kids that might just be able to take criticism and use it constructively. At least that’s my story today. Hopefully whoever trains them at their first job won’t  face tears or hostility when their work is criticized.

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com/ Karyn Romeis

    “it’s more important to make students feel good than to be critical of their work.”

    Recently, an initiative has been introduced in the UK to address behavioural problems by praising recidivists 5 times more often than scholding them. I’m glad I don’t have to try to meet that challenge! It was tough enough with my two sons – how it would be trying to keep track of the praise/scold balance for every child with whom a teacher comes into contact, I dread to think.

  • http://karynromeis.blogspot.com Karyn Romeis

    “it’s more important to make students feel good than to be critical of their work.”

    Recently, an initiative has been introduced in the UK to address behavioural problems by praising recidivists 5 times more often than scholding them. I’m glad I don’t have to try to meet that challenge! It was tough enough with my two sons – how it would be trying to keep track of the praise/scold balance for every child with whom a teacher comes into contact, I dread to think.

  • http://www.artichoke.typepad.com Artichoke

    The “culture of niceness” rather than the “culture of challenge” may well be where we go wrong in classrooms – I have been encouraging some of the schools I work with in New Zealand to think about Po Bronson’s article on Dweck’s research in New York Magazine How Not to Talk to Your Kids The Inverse Power of Praise. Frightening stuff.

    I am similarily sceptical re “painting groups with large paint rollers” and love your expression …

    I last thought about this in the context of learning styles in a post on Learning Styles: Seduction and Gullibility

    Why am I troubled when I read, hear and think about Learning Styles …?

    QUESTIONS #1 Simplified to the point of absurdity:
    How can we capture the infinite complexities of human identity and interaction through a reduced and simplified set of statistical personality profiles? And What are the consequences of simplifying human behaviour into limited profiles and continuums?

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com/ Janet Clarey

    Thanks for the links. So much great information to read…that I’ll have to read it, sleep on it, and then act on it. I’m so happy to have been pointed to your blog. Started reading several posts and said holy sh*t this is good.

    I did read through Dweck’s stuff…yes it is frightening and it made me sigh a lot. Stuff I see everyday. The implications are enormous.

  • http://www.brandon-hall.com Janet Clarey

    Thanks for the links. So much great information to read…that I’ll have to read it, sleep on it, and then act on it. I’m so happy to have been pointed to your blog. Started reading several posts and said holy sh*t this is good.

    I did read through Dweck’s stuff…yes it is frightening and it made me sigh a lot. Stuff I see everyday. The implications are enormous.

  • http://www.artichoke.typepad.com/ Artichoke

    The “culture of niceness” rather than the “culture of challenge” may well be where we go wrong in classrooms – I have been encouraging some of the schools I work with in New Zealand to think about Po Bronson's article on Dweck's research in New York Magazine How Not to Talk to Your Kids The Inverse Power of Praise. Frightening stuff.

    I am similarily sceptical re “painting groups with large paint rollers” and love your expression …

    I last thought about this in the context of learning styles in a post on Learning Styles: Seduction and Gullibility
    Why am I troubled when I read, hear and think about Learning Styles …?

    QUESTIONS #1 Simplified to the point of absurdity:
    How can we capture the infinite complexities of human identity and interaction through a reduced and simplified set of statistical personality profiles? And What are the consequences of simplifying human behaviour into limited profiles and continuums?

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