Saturday, February 12, 2011

Reflection Post

This class certainly got me thinking, and opened up my mind a little from my prejudices. Before I read this book I was convinced that kids were already too “wired” and that the last thing our society needed was giving kids even more time on the computer and in front of the television and games. After all I’m a proponent of getting kids outdoors.
Getting kids outdoors became even more important to me after reading Richard Louv’s book “Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder” that draws our attention to the absence of nature in the lives of today’s wired generation and links this to some of the most disturbing childhood trends: the rise in obesity, attention disorders, and depression. It’s a fact - children in the United States are spending more and more time indoors nowadays due to televisions, computers and electronic gaming, and less time outdoors.
As I started to read Mark Bauerlein’s book “The Dumbest Generation” I must admit I was kind of in this “see I knew it” attitude assessing all the negative statistics and comments. But taking this class, learning about how technology can be used to teach, and looking at interviews on you Tube like the one with James Paul Gee “Games, not Grades” helped me to open my mind to possibilities.
In reflection, here is what I believe now:
There are both pros and cons in this digital age.
First the cons:
Yes, nature deficit is on the rise and it is affecting our kids negatively; writing, spelling, language and reading skills are not improving, and in some cases getting worse, instead of better. Social networking on the web is not the same as physical face-to-face social networking, and we are losing physical communication and activeness in our communities. Even worse, our own family members tune-out with headphones, games, televisions and computers. Many families do not even eat together anymore.
When the children are at home, it is up to the parents and guardians to monitor their children’s amount of time they will be “wired” and what content they are viewing. It is also up to the parents and guardians to make sure their children get outdoors for both mental and physical health reasons.
While children are at school it is up to the educators to do the same.
As an aware parent and teacher I am very active in my daughter’s wired time and content. What scares me is there are parents and teachers who aren’t. Certainly the best approach then is to spread information on the pros and cons of technology in the lives of our youth, and to provide helpful guidelines to promote the good use and reduce the bad use of technology. Teach the students themselves about how technology affects them and how to be their own best monitors.
But there are pros too:
I think the Internet and web based tools introduce exciting ways to learn and have a place in today’s education. There are so many more possibilities for helping different kinds of learners (e.g., mnemonic, visual). There is an infinite amount of information at our fingertips 24/7. As for reading and writing skills, these can be integrated with web tools. For instance a Literature Circle and Blog site like we used for this class could require students to read and write. It is true we are able to do the creative part of writing, but not the penmanship when we type. However, there are smart boards that have tablets where students can use their penmanship, and if it’s not available now, then surely it can be where students can write on their touchscreens on their laptops. As for spelling skills, we could use virtual spelling bee games. As James Paul Gee said, when kids are playing video games they are constantly being assessed and they are always trying to improve to up their score.
I would like to see education move entirely away from lectures and standardized testing and toward the integration of authentic hands-on activities (a lot of them outdoors) with games (both indoors and out) that test their knowledge and in some cases simulators to tests skills that are too expensive or unavailable in reality. I think some students who hate coming to school to learn might start to enjoy learning.

Saturday, January 29, 2011


I will be honest....half-way into this book, I was wishing I had picked a different book! I found myself being discouraged and disheartened as I read through all of the statistics and negative comments about the young students of today. While I can somewhat understand where the author is getting his beliefs from, I do nto feel it is quite accurate. Today's students simply have a different approach to learning than what many older teachers are used to. There are so many tools available for students to use today, and "old school" methods of research seem meaningless. We as teachers need to figure out the best way to use these tools in our classes and find new ways to keep our students engaged in our classes.

With all of the social networking sites and wide variety of different "entertainment-based" things that kids can be doing on their computers, there is a good chance that students will become distracted and may misuse technology within the classroom. If we can find a way to properly monitor its use, technology can be a huge benefit in the classroom. One big problem that I see is that while we may be doing everything we can in the class to teach students how to use technology productively and responsibly, the same things are not being taught at home. If the parents of the younger generations would maintain some guidlines and limitations on how their children are allowed to use technologies, these young people might be better trained in self-discipline, responsibility, and respect when it come to use of technology. This book has helped to open my eyes to the quickly changing world of education and the role that technology plays in its development.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Dumbest Generation

book summary

The book The Dumbest Generation is a good look into one of the major ciriticisms of the computer generation, but the picture Mark Bauerlein paints is a little more bleak than it really is. His stats are taken a little out of context, and kids have always complained about hard work, hard thinking, hard reading. The difference between this younger generation and my own generation is that this young generation is being scrutinized more often and more publicly than ay other generation has been. And I believe that a huge part of the blame for this younger generation's intellectual laziness (that we laugh about on Jay Leno's "Jaywalking") and technologocal dependence is my generation's fault (maybe WE are the dumbest generation). We are the parents who let them "google" instead of research, cut and paste instead of read and summarize; we are the parents who buy them their cell phones and let them text all day and all night and sleep with their cell phones; we are the parents who buy them the WII instead of sending them outside to play. It has happened on our watch!

Our job as parents and teachers is pretty clear and I think we, as teachers, are in a nice position of power. WE can help them to use this technology for thinking instead to avoid thinking. Kids do still read. Bauerlin states that the sale of the Harry Potter books rejuvenated book sales, maybe not quite a much as people hoped and predicted, but kids were/are definitely reading. "In a year with no Potter, BISG estimated that total sales of juvenile books would fall 13 million....Sales would jump again when cloth and paper editions of the next Potter arrive, but after that, unit sales would tumble a stunning 42 million copies" (pg 44). In my own household, Harry Potter was read, reread, and led the way to a search of other series from the library. As an English teacher, I still get to teach students about the beautiful language of Shakespeare, the horror or Poe, the sharp wit of Pope. I still get to teach them to love to think and feel ...I just have to do it a little differently... but I still have the privilege of teaching them that the hard work feels good. I just get to use a lot of tools to help me to do it.

No More Culture Wars

This chapter begins with the story of Rip Van Winkle, a man that fell asleep for 20 years and awoke in a completely different world, a world that that had become involved and educated in government. The relaxed indifferent world that he fell asleep in was no longer. Rip Van Winkle was being forced to make important decisions that impacted his life as a colonist, but he was unequipped. Mark Bauerlien uses this famous story to set the stage for this chapter. This generation is the modern Rip Van Winkle. The authors states that "Most individual voters are abysmally ignorant of even very basic political information." Rip Van Winkle had no idea whom to vote for because he had been asleep for 20 years. This generation has chosen not to be educated. "They are latter-day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements of culture and events of history, prefering the company of peers to great books and powerful ideas and momentous happening." This apathetic nature has stopped the culture wars. They have chosen to be passive; they are no longer the radical thoughts of Alcove 1 and Port Huron. This decline in radical ideas and lack of civic responsible will be the downfall of this generation. The author ends the chapter with a very bleak outlook of the future: " They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever."

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Reflection: The Dumbest Generation by Mark Baurlein

I just need to start this by saying how sad it is that trees had to lose their lives for the printing of this book. It is also sad to think that this author is a college professor and seems to hate the age group of students that he is responsible for. I would not enjoy him as an instructor.

Now about the book. My reaction to most of this book was, “Is he kidding?” The author seems to think that all people, especially those 15 to 29, who have not read the classics or regularly visits museums, are “dumb”. He doesn’t seem to take into account that people have different interests and likes and do different things. (Thank goodness for diversity.) After reading this book, I asked the young people I know in this age category if they have read the classics and/or like to read the classics. A couple of them said yes to both. (They are readers.) The others said not so much. But they are very active and smart and reading is not high on their interest level. They are all college graduates and function very well in society, most are even great parents. They do however have a great knowledge of technology. It is part of their lives and their jobs. I often wish I could be as comfortable as they are with technology. So “no” I don’t agree with the author that all people 15 to 29 who don’t read classics or go to museums are “dumb.”

I hope that as a teacher I will be able to find the balance of the old (books) and the new (technology) in my classroom. I feel there is still a need for both.

I feel I am a functioning adult, but I don’t frequent museums and I have read very few classics. But hopefully with the 100 of them on my eReader I will eventually read a few more before I die.

One last thought—is it ironic that this book is available as an eBook?