Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Deb's Summary Post

After reading “The Dumbest Generation-How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future” by Mark Bauerlein, I have a new opinion concerning technology and this generation. I don’t agree with everything that Bauerlein wrote about, but agree he does make some good points. The digital age was supposed to make gaining information easier and thus increase student achievement. Bauerlein repeatedly states facts that go against this statement. He said, “The enhancements and prosperities claimed to turn young Americans into astute global citizens and liberated consumers sometimes actually conspire against intellectual growth.” (Pg. 36) The example he used to describe this statement was, “A middle-class teenager may attend a decent high school and keep a B+ average, pack an iPod and a handheld, volunteer through his church, save for a car, and aim for college, and still not know what the Soviet Union was or how to compute a percentage.” (Pg. 36)
Unfortunately, I see this happening with my own children. They have learned how to use the technology available to them to socialize with friends, watch movies, and listen to music. What they haven’t learned it how to use it correctly for gathering information. My oldest son is in his first year of college and graduated from a high school that was involved with the laptop program. He has had to submit his assignments electronically for 4 years. Now in a college situation, he is unable to write a rough draft for his English class. He struggles with expanding his thoughts and getting them on paper, but he can download any type of program needed to stay in touch with his peers.
Bauerlein goes on to explain the 2006 report called “How Well Are Students Learning” on page 195. The basic summary of this report states, “Countries with more confident students who enjoy the subject matter—and with teachers who strive to make mathematics relevant to students ‘daily lives—do not do as well as countries that rank lower on indices of confidence, enjoyment, and relevance.“(Pg. 195) What this tells me is that everything that we are asking our public education teachers to do to increase student success and promote that connection to real world aspects, is lowering this group of young adults chance to be a great addition to society, compared to other countries. That’s sad. Students need to learn independence and work habits in order to succeed. We need to step back and reevaluate whether the digital age technology is being an assistive device or a threat to the education of our students.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Peggy's Summary Post

My assignment was to reflect on a key concept shared in the book The Dumbest Generation: How the Digital Age Stupefies Young Americans and Jeopardizes Our Future* *Or, Don’t Trust Anyone Under 30. The concept I chose to focus on is that today’s digital education is failing students. Bauerlein states over and over in the book the disdain students’ hold for learning traditions or history. “If the guardians of tradition claim that the young, though ignorant, have a special perspective on the past, or if teachers prize the impulses of tenth-graders more than the thoughts of the wise and the works of the masters, learning loses its point. (Page 186)
When I first started to read this book, like most everyone else in our blog, I was depressed and that has not changed with the conclusion of the book. Bauerlein has made it clear that the younger generation, “may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.” (Page 236). While watching the nightly news I hear how American students are falling behind in reading, math, and science. I wonder what is it going to take to make administrators, teachers, and parents understand that we have to hold students accountable to the effort they put into their education?
How can American students be falling behind with as much information digital or otherwise at their fingertips then any other country in the world? Is Bauerlein correct; are we teaching our students to only think and care about their own little social worlds? Are computers really stupefying American students? I can’t really answer these questions. As an educator who has read this book these are the questions that come to my mind.
Bauerlein makes it clear that today schools are not helping today’s students. I have heard from administrators that we need to make learning “fun”. If we do this then students will want to learn…. Clearly that is not the case. I tell my students that learning can be fun but not always. That we also learn from our mistakes and it is ok to make mistakes but you have to figure out what you did wrong. Students don’t like to hear this. They want everything to be easy. Why do I have to work so hard on and on… For some reason students feel they should not have to think or work so hard. They should get things right the first time. I am not sure where this philosophy came from but it is rampant among students. I now tell students you will get out of your learning what you put into it. If you work hard and try you will do well. If you don’t you will not do well. Simple common sense seems to have left education.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Summary Post

When I first started reading “The Dumbest Generation,” I was expecting to read about how technology has changed kids and how they can access anything they need to know with the touch of a button. While this proved to be partly true, I was surprised to read about the level of apathy that our kids exhibit today. Kids no longer just don’t know the basics, they also don’t care that they don’t know. At the beginning of the book, on page 13, Bauerlein states, “It isn’t enough to say that these young people are uninterested in world realities. They are actively cut off from them.” Their realities are based on immediate friends, facebook and social networking. Anything else means little. Kids today enjoy more access and more information than previous generations, yet they don’t capitalize on it. That frustrates me as a teacher. Educators tend to take the blame for lack of student achievement, but as Bauerlein points out on page 37, “The unique failings of the Dumbest Generation don't originate in the classroom, then, which amounts to only one-eleventh of their daily lives. They stem from home, social and leisure lives of young Americans, and if changes in their out of school habits entail a progressive disengagement from intellectual matters, then we should expect their minds to exhibit some consequences in spite of what goes on in school.”
One would assume that as technology improves, so would the basic skills of our students, but as the author points out, that’s not the case. Based on the popular belief that today’s students are struggling immensely in their education, and possibly technology is to blame, one piece of information really caught my attention. Bauerlein says that if we normalized scores, students from 1932 would appear to be deficient in today’s terms. Or, going the other way, today’s students would have ten times as many students “very superior” as the 1932 students did back in 1932. (Study information on page 92-92) I believe that part of this is due to the expectation that as we advance in the technological world, so should the educational outcomes of our changing educational system. “Enough years have passed for us to expect the intellectual payoff promised by digital enthusiasts to have happened. Blogs aren’t new anymore, and neither is MySpace, The Sims, or text messaging. Students consult Wikipedia all the time. If the Web did constitute such a rich learning encounter, we would have seen its effects by now.” (Page 108).
In response to this class being based on technology useage in the classroom, and making it real for the students, I fully expected this book to support that philosophy. It doesn’t. The lack of academic gains made by digital natives does not support using technology to teach. Students are using technology, yes, but they are not connecting that to the classroom or their learning experiences. In fact, some kids would rather not have the technology in the schools, and some schools that piloted the one-to-one initiative are now phasing out the laptops for their students. Kids are expected to improve academically as technology makes the world more readily available, and the money being spent in schools to ensure that is being wasted. Bauerlein moves once again to word exposure. Kids today do not engage in enough exposure to what he calls rare words. This type of exposure helps students read in context, to expand their vocabulary and even speech. I was surprised to see that cartoons ranked highest among rare word exposure for the screen, even more so that educational shows.
Bauerlein comes back to the idea that kids don’t much care about the classics, and he backs that up with a video documentary entitled, “The Artshow.” Through this the author points out that today’s kids don’t want to learn anything about those wiser than they are from the past. He states, “It doesn’t occur to him that absorbing the former might actually inspire and enhance the latter.” (Page 167) He continues on the next page, “It is the nature of adolescents to believe that authentic reality begins with themselves, and that what long preceded them is irrelevant.” The ruler of maturity no longer stems from formal learning. The attitude of today’s youth is focused on generational correctness, and has no concerns for politics or history. Bauerlein admits it takes several people to create out of our youth great policy makers and intellectuals, but he worries that with the “Dumbest Generation,” society is headed for a breakdown.
Bauerlein discovered that while some people believe that teacher centered instruction bores kids, and that student centered instruction will motivate kids, the opposite is actually true with lower level learners. (Page 189) We tend to overpraise kids and they want something for everything these days. What happened to hard work being the reward for hard work? “Few things are worse for adolescent minds than overblown appraisals of their merits. They rob them of constructive self-criticism and obscure the lessons of tradition. I can’t help but think here about the schools that don’t cut kids from sports. They create a second team so as to not hurt anyone’s feelings, which in the end deprives the kids who should have made the only team from playing as games are now split between the two teams. Those talented kids miss out on playing time which could advance their skills as a ballplayer and as a result, we end up with a bunch of mediocre kids and a lack of enthusiasm for the game.
The book concludes with a summary of “Rip Van Winkle” and a discussion of how today’s kids, “The Dumbest Generation,” are sleeping through the changes that are taking place. Rip had slept for 20 years not having a clue what was going on. Today’s youth as well have no clue about happenings outside of their immediate social circles. They have slept through movements of culture and historical events because they only concern themselves with their peers and events of the moment. Bauerlein argues that “if you ignore the traditions that ground and ennoble our society, you are an incomplete person and a negligent citizen.” (Page 233)
I very much want my students to be successful contributors to society. I worry that my students really will, as Bauerlein suggests, be “recalled as the generation that lost the great American heritage, forever.” (Page 236) I wonder as a teacher how I can prevent that title from becoming a reality, or if I even can.
While Bauerlein does not appear to approve of technology, he understands that it is here to stay, and as a result, the burden of learning to think differently lies not with the youth, the digital natives, but with the adults who must educate and work with the next generation in order to prevent societal demise.

This is important for me to realize as a classroom teacher. It is my job to prepare kids for the future, and now, not only do I have the challenges of a more rigorous curriculum, and parents who seldom anymore support their children’s education, but I also have to deal with the difficulties of teaching responsible digital citizenship as my students learn to be productive online and technological learners. I have decided that teaching technology to a generation that is familiar with about every gadget invented, even if they don’t know how to apply it to their education, is a partnership. If they can teach me how to use the technology, then I will teach them how to use it responsibly in an educational setting.

Reflection Post

Before reading this book, I would never have characterized the current generation as "The Dumbest Generation." As an educator, I would have said that this generation is much better educated and well-rounded than generations ten years ago. However, the author of this book brings up many many good points that are backed up with facts. It seems as though this generation isn't doing anything better, or smarter. They are doing more. Multitasking, without doing any one thing well. They are exposed to so much and have a lot of information at their fingertips. And after reading this book, I believe that they are spreading themselves too thin. I don't agree, however, with the doom and gloom upon which this author dwells. He tends to speak so negatively about youth, generalizing constantly. The picture he paints of the "dumbest generation" may be his experience with the youth he is in contact with. However, to generalize is a disservice. He does state that adults need to be more influential in the lives of youth, which is true. One of the people who did a summary in our blog used the phrase "the generation this book is talking about...." which really does signify who this book portrays. It is the youth with which the author has a relationship, not all youth. I am not so fatalistic to believe that the youth of today are going nowhere fast. I believe that we are all evolving, and that technology is speeding up that evolution. It will take awhile to get a grip on what technology has to offer us. In this point in time, kids feel a fascination with technology, and it's taking up a lot of their time. Actually, I feel a fascination with technology and it takes up a lot of my time! If indeed our future is in jeopardy then it's our job to realize technology's pitfalls and to turn the negative into a positive. This book did a lot to open my eyes, whether I agreed with it or not, and helped me look with a little more discernment at the technology that is pervasive in our lives.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Section Six

This section opens with the author elaborating on the story Rip Van Winkle, making the point that the story is filled with political background. Rip goes to sleep one person, and awakes in a world where he is participating in the outcomes of his life. This is a very different world for him, and he is uncomfortable with the new realization that he is indeed a participant and is expected to make decisions. Individual freedom in our country gives us the right to participate, or not. It is our choice whether we vote, etc. Knowledgable people have a moral sense to do the right thing. It is what keeps our country great, and keeps people involved. The author points out that there is no real concrete profit to being involved in the country's affairs. The author seems to infer that students today do argue and "activate" but without the needed background to back up their arguments. They basically have no knowledge background to solidify their postitions. He states that the "intellectual future of the United States looks dim." This generation of students don't look to the past for guidance and don't care to do their homework and learn from the past. "...they will be remembered as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited."

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Chap. 5 The Betrayal of the Mentors

Chapter Five- The Betrayal of the Mentors

In this chapter the author focuses his attention to the lack of adult mentors who are involved with troubled youths. He goes on to explain about a program titled Art Show: Youth and Community Development that focused its efforts towards saving students from dropping out of school because of failing grades in core curriculum classes such as Math, English, and Science. This particular group of students involved had artistic talents and they used these artistic strengths to assist students with their core classes. As the program evolved, these students overcame the educational obstacles and pushed forth with great success in the business world. Their artistic abilities were later used for artwork and business designs for many large companies. This is an example of how important mentors can be to young adults. The author states and I quote, “The long-term value stems from their human capitalization, the conversion of marginal young Americans into self-sufficient, confident, creative citizens.”
The author then goes into a discussion about a group of youth called “Twixters”. This group of individuals range in age from 22 to 30, have some college coursework or degrees, are raised in middle-class households, and live in cities or suburban areas. The interesting part about this group is their lifestyle choices once they are finished with college. Twixters aren’t overly worried about long-term career plans, having a home of their own, or finding that perfect someone and settling down. My personal favorite quote from this section is “They drift through their twenties, stalled at work and saving no money, but they like it that way. They congregate just as they did before college, hopping bar to bar on Friday night and watching movies on Saturday. They have achieved little, but they feel good about themselves.” This group is not following the rules that society has set. Society believes that at the age of 18, one should know what their future paths are and be ready for adult responsibilities.
The chapter goes on to talk about Poirier’s essay and a different mentoring approach. This approach was more student friendly but in the author’s words “yielded a terrible outcome”. It tells how independence and creativity were lost and so no learning occurred. Poirier stated that universities needed to change their academic structure to the new style of learning. He stated that traditional ways were not the way to teach young adults. The author goes on to state, “the teachers help, sometimes, but usually students consult “their own wits” and the input of their “close friends” matter more than in-class lectures.” Youth from this generation lack intellectual independence and rely primarily on their friends for information. This lacks the conviction that “knowledge itself is worth receiving.”
Youth from this generation are mostly concerned with themselves. Narcissism is plaguing the minds of young adults to the point that they do not see their competencies accurately. Mentors lack the knowledge of teaching young adults about empathy and sympathizing with their peers. Often times youth believe that they can accomplish far more academically then their achievement scores prove. The author states that higher level education classes such as calculus send a majority of students scampering to the registration office to drop the course. This generation would rather take the easy road to a college degree then to challenge themselves with higher-level classes. The author ends this chapter with “they need mentors to commend them when they’re right and rebuke them when they’re wrong. They need parents to remind them that social life isn’t everything, and they need peers to respect their intelligence, not scrunch up their eyes at big words.” The generation this book is talking about feels as if life should be handed to them on a golden platter and the silver spoon is destined to stay in their mouth.