Can School Survive Facebook?
August 24th 2012
Hyper stimulated, digitally distracted, Facebook obsessed and wasting their time. For many adults this is pretty much the take on the new media generation. And while “Kids these days” sentiments can probably be found chiseled into the walls of ancient caves, what’s new here is how linked the generational identity is to the technology.
And in that equation, according to a recent report by the Macarthur Foundation, we miss some subtle yet consequential realities, and thereby the important implications for what it means to interact with an increasingly networked youth. The report, “Living and Learning with New Media,” is the summary of findings from the Digital Youth Project, a five year, $50 million study on how digital media are changing the way young people learn, play, socialize, and participate in civic life.
The findings, not surprisingly, are complex. The report, not surprisingly, is long. Apparently $50 million purchases a lot of data – and paper. But for anyone with an interest in youth and some spare time, it is a fascinating read. In short, the triple revolution of social network, personal internet and constant connectivity, has indeed had a profound impact on the way young people interact and learn, but has not turned them into the twitching, digital drones that some believe.
Online spaces, it turns out, enable youth to extend friendships and interests, developing social skills in diverse, exciting and even challenging environments. They provide opportunities for self directed and peer-based learning, and the acquisition of technical and media literacy through experimentation and problem solving. And they make possible, the seemingly simple act of “hanging out,” a vital and surprisingly restricted part of building healthy relationships.
With so much hope and apprehension around the effect of new media on how young people live and learn, there is surprisingly little research to help us answer the questions. How do we make sure they are safe out on the digital frontier? How can the traditional classroom environment keep pace? What will it even mean for our notions of authoritative knowledge?
Do you have thoughts, questions, or first hand experiences with youth in the digital age? If you can put your phone down for long enough, we want to hear from you.