Times they are a’changin

Janice Friesen (who I met online but lives here in Austin) has some interesting observations on her blog Texas Malahini about how our students think differently than previous generations.  

She observes that:

“My mother’s generation thinks that it is OK not to know something and that there is a lot that is unknowable. They do not value asking questions. They are VERY protective of their private information. My son’s generation thinks that EVERYTHING is knowable and that there are no secrets really. In any conversation when there is a question they go right to Google. They wear their lives on their sleeves and assume that it is not a big deal (just look at My Space).”

She goes on to talk about how they use phones differently and how they view facts differently than in the past.  

“My mother’s generation thinks that public information MUST be accurate and correct. . . My son’s generation is moving too fast to care about how accurate public information is. It is OK to say what you think and to change your mind. “

I was especially struck by that statement.  Will Richardson showed how in Wikipedia that there can be as many as 500 edits to articles in merely two minutes.  Two minutes.  I tell students Wikipedia is like a river–it is there but it is ever changing, so that any time they dip their foot in that river, it might be(and probably will be) different.  How do we or our students cope with information when it is that fluid?  How will this play out in the long run? 

bookflickedidleberry.jpg  Unlike in books, what’s online is a record, permanent, but also temporary unless we store it.  Where will our records of all these conversations be in the future?  Will they, unlike books, be erased or lost in the flood of information?   Or does it make it a larger “small world” where all the information links back together and the significant works and ideas rise back to the top, like six degrees of separation?

What skills do we need to be teaching our students to operate in an information environment like this?     One that keeps floating to the top of my mind is the ability to critically evaluate something.   Another is some way to filter and focus because distractions are everywhere. 

Other ideas on skills we need to teach our students, or comments on how you see student thinking changing?

photo credit:  “flicked book” http://www.flickr.com/photos/idleberry/109839101/

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