When I was a teenager, I remember opening up the back of my PC to insert more RAM. I distinctly remember sifting through DOS files trying to find the corrupt file that was not letting me play my favorite video game. Maybe I was an exception, but it does not stop me from being shocked when in this day and age, students do not know how to send an email with a proper salutation and closer. The vast majority of kids do not know what a .doc file is and why it is different from a .pdf. I am becoming increasingly aware that the vast majority of kids do not know how to do more than update their Facespace and Tweetbook accounts. It is as if technology has gotten so good that it has been dumbed down enough that they do not need to problem solve when they cannot figure out to join a different wifi network. It is my belief that as educators, it is our responsibility to show students how to use the basic skills that they will be using in the real world, and today that means technology. It is irresponsible to turn a blind eye on this one.
Maybe it is just because I am getting older and bitter just as any generation before me, but I feel as though I can already see the cultural change in how students learn. Students want things done for them and have come to expect that there is a quick and easy fix and answer for everything. Enter the millennials.
Generation Y is what they call them. Somewhere in the early 1980’s to the present we have carefully manicured a generation that has expectations. Admitingly, I am personally at the cusp of this generation, having scored a 75 out of 100 on the PEW Research Millennial website. Being born in the 1980’s, I was of the first generation where it started to become standard that parents pay for their child’s college. And while I did not have the internet until age fourteen, a cell phone until I was twenty-one, or send my first text-message until I was twenty-four, I still do watch my fair share of TV, play the occasional video game, and have no shame in now owning 2 iPads, in iPhone, and an iMac.
But there are things that are beginning to bother me in the students that I teach. In my tenth year as a teacher, the changes seem to be happening faster and faster. Students expect that I am able to hold a conversation with them when one headphone is in one of their ears. Their cell phones are like extensions of their body, that when severed, their response would make someone think that they really did lose a limb. I have had instances where I reach for one of the school’s iPads off of a student’s desk to fix something, and their arms outreach for it as if you just took a toddler’s teddy bear away. I think it was that response that shocked me most.
I hear the older generation before me throwing out clichés; “When I was in school,” “We didn’t used to have these fancy machines,” “I had three jobs before the age of 20.” Now, I am finding my own clichés to give to kids, and only at the age of 32! “We had card catalogues at the library and we had to look for the book using the Dewey Decimal System,” We used to have to memorize all of those phone numbers,” “It was called an en-cy-clo-pe-dia.”
That last one gets me and I usually get a kid to laugh at the gentle sarcasm, because many students can’t be bothered to look past the first entry on a Google search before saying that they can not find the answer.
I’m nervous about what the future brings. I just hope that for the Millennial’s sake, Google’s servers never crash. It might be the darkest day in all of history.