Monday, December 6, 2010

Driven to Digital Distraction

Recently, Matt Rictel, wrote a long feature in the New York Times called Growing up Digital, Wired for Distraction.  Essentially it is about the current generation of kids who are "wired for distraction."  It focused on one young chap who goes through his day addicted to texting and distracted by the internet.  One would conclude from the article that the net effect of consumer technology is that it has set up our youngsters for failure.

I Evernoted the document, thinking I would blog some kind of response For one thing, I questioned whether or not the young man was actually setting himself up for life-long failure with his "distractions."  I wondered if in fact he might not end up parlaying his video talents, for example, into a lucrative career.  Maybe some of his classmates doing their worksheets and taking their scantron quizzes weren't getting such a leg up.   I'm glad that a colleague forwarded Dan Tapscott's rebuttal before I wrote that post.  He blew up Rictel with facts.  Tapscott points out that .....

There is no actual evidence to support the view that this generation is distracted, performing poorly or otherwise less capable than previous generations. . . . Furthermore, volunteering amongst high school and university students is at an all time high and in the US the percentage of kids that are clean in high school -- i.e. they don't do drugs or alcohol -- is up year over year for 15 years. 
When it comes to the poor performance of the bottom tier, blaming the Internet is like blaming the library for illiteracy. . . .Proportionately, more Net Geners are failing to graduate from high school than any previous generation and test results for many young people are so awful that it has become cliché to say that the educational system in the United States is in crisis. . . .Nearly half who dropped out said classes were either not interesting or just plain boring. So perhaps the real issue is the gap between how Net Geners think and how most teachers teach.
Back in the late 1960s, the teenage Baby Boomer in the United States watched an average of over 22 hours of television each week. They were passive viewers; they took what they were given, and when the commercials came, they might even have watched them. Net Geners watch less television than their parents do, and they watch it differently. A Net Gener is more likely to turn on the computer and simultaneously interact in several different windows, talk on the telephone, listen to music, do homework, read a magazine, and watch television. TV has become like background Muzak for them. 

Not as many folks will read Don Tapscott's response as the Rictel article in the Times.  If you've read the Times article, please check out Tapscott if you get a chance. His take on the Net Gen rings much truer to me.

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