Tag Archives: Digital Natives

21st Century High School Graduates

The Class of 2013 represents the first totally 21st-century educated young people in America. So what you may ask. The “so what” is that they are different than previous generations.

They grew up with Internet service at home, not just at school. By eighth grade, most carried a touchscreen smartphone with wireless Internet access. By the time they reached high school, their phones could not only access the Internet faster, but could also store an entire library of photographs and digital music files. They have literally been on the crest of the technology tidal wave.

As most of them now prepare to go off to college, many of the fields of study they will enter have been revolutionized by the same changes in technology and society that have shaped that generation. For example, math has changed in that there used to be just one way to solve problems, where now there might be four different strategies – a revolutionized education system. What is different about this generation is that information is no longer difficult to ferret out, so there is no longer the same requirement for students to retain information. The old-fashioned rote memorization style of education was based on a world where having data on instant recall was a valuable skill.

Today instant recall is not only unnecessary, it’s downright frowned upon. Why clutter one’s mind with useless facts when it can better be used to play thanks to Google, Bing and Yahoo search engines? These high school graduates retain less information because they don’t have to recall it – they can find it – but reportedly that doesn’t make them any less intelligent. Education is even shifting its focus away from the retention of information and toward the use of information, because electronically, information is retained for us.

But technology isn’t the only thing that has shaped the lives of this year’s graduates. None of them have any clear memory of a time when the United States wasn’t engaged in a war in Afghanistan — a war that began in 2002 when they were in first grade. It was always on the news, when as adolescents they would see the list of the people that died that day. Despite growing up in a time of turmoil throughout world, they seem to have developed a culture a greater tolerance and diversity than in previous generations. For example, interracial dating, which in earlier times would have ignited controversy and actually was illegal in some states, is something they hardly even notice.

Part of that is a reflection of the rapidly changing demographics of the nation. From 2000 to 2010, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of people identifying themselves as being of mixed race grew 32 percent. Reportedly there is a lot less cliquishness and separatist subgroups that don’t interact with each other in high school.

They also were educated under the No Child Left Behind mandates for education, which meant standardized tests, beginning in third grade, that meant more to teachers and schools than they meant to the students. Students were pressured to do well, and given big incentive rewards for doing well. Some have referred to the effect as Lake Woebegone where all kids are above average, but the intent was to ensure that all were at least proficient in all subjects.

Time will tell what the generational impact of their times will be, what they will accomplish, and what they will contribute to society, just as every preceding generation has been judged. The one undeniable characteristic of this Class of 2013 that is totally dependent on technology is that they will not be attracted to any library that does not appeal to their technology-based life style.


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The Lamentable Loss of America’s Literacy

While I was on vacation last week, I heard some very disturbing news. My state has adopted the Common Core State Standards curriculum that eliminates ‘cursive writing skills’ from the core curriculum of public schools. I was shocked. Shocked that any state would do such a thing, and shocked to learn that 45 states had already slipped past my notice. I’ve been writing that “education reform” is a major factor in the environment that is affecting the library in the 21st Century, but who would have thought it would go that far. I guess anyone can suffer from short sightedness.

How I missed this School Library Journal article from July 19, 2011, is a mystery that upsets me, but not nearly as much as what this “reform” is doing to education of young people. According to this Cursive Out Of Common Core Standards, But Still Hanging On article;

Currently, 46 states have adopted the Common Core curriculum, bringing some commonality to what all students are expected to learn across the country – and eventually, what they will be tested on as well. While most educators agree that keyboarding – or learning how to use a computer’s keyboard – is a critical skill in our increasingly digital age, there are still uses for handwriting, albeit fewer.

Despite the fact that the Common Core website shows only 45 states have adopted the curriculum, I’m still in shock. Actually, I was stunned a few years ago when I was close to a boy and girl (brother and sister of relatives) who were in middle school and had the worst handwriting I’d ever seen, and could not read cursive at their grade level. I later understood a bit more when I came across Jason Dorsey: The Gen-Y Guy and his video where he laments about the millennial who couldn’t read a handwritten note from his boss.

But, I honestly did not have that cognitive “moment” where I really understood that our society is becoming less literate than ever until I heard that cursive writing is out of the core curriculum across most of America. I’ve even seen that lack of ability to write cursive can inhibit reading comprehension skills. So, now we won’t be able to read or write? WHOSE ASININE IDEA WAS THIS?

No doubt some of you are wondering why in this Information Age of technology and computers – when I’ve written that we’ll soon be able to simply speak to computers and not even keyboard – that I should be shocked. It’s like the SLJ article states;

Some note that as fewer students are taught cursive, the ability to read historical documents may decrease – much like an ancient language slowly disappearing from common use.

How sad that is! It’s not that our language – the basis of our culture – is dying during our lifetime, it’s that we’re deliberately killing it! To be replaced by what? Some texting shorthand jargon that few non-digital natives understand? TM IM TILII. (Trust me, I’m telling it like it is.)

So what? How does this impact the librarianship profession?
How difficult do you think it will be:
– to work with young people who can’t read cursive?
– to answer reference questions from people who can’t write – only type?
– to help a customer with a call number in their best handwriting?

Although, the advantages to the profession will be:
– not having to erase writing from books,
– not having to erase writing from drymark boards or walls,
– not having to remove writing from bathroom stalls,

I’m sure many of you can recognize the disadvantages to any society that is unable to write or read its own language except in computer text. Tell us what they are. I’m too stunned to think of them all.

My initial review of the Common Core Standards revealed that the word “cursive” was not in the Standards – anywhere. A reader comment prompted me to more closely read the Standards for reading and writing requirements. I’m not encouraged.

Under “Language Standards” the Kindergartners (under the Conventions of Standard English section), are supposed to “1. Demonstrate command of the conventions of standard English grammar and usage when writing or speaking.” by (among other skills) “a. Print many upper- and lowercase letters.” Grade 1 students are supposed to “a. Print all upper- and lowercase letters.” (Pg. 26) That’s it. Writing letters is not mentioned again.

Under “Writing Standards” (which one would think included “writing” letters – silly me), Kindergartners (under the Production and Distribution of Writing section) are supposed to “6. With guidance and support from adults, explore a variety of digital tools to produce and publish writing, including in collaboration with peers. (Pg. 19) Grade 3 students are supposed to “6. With guidance and support from adults, use technology to produce and publish writing (using keyboarding skills) as well as to interact and collaborate with others. (Pg. 21)

My more informed concern now is that after Grade 1, kids will no longer be expected to handwrite anything, they will be expected to increase their “keyboarding” skills. Even in Kindergarten kids can produce written documents using “technology to produce and publish writing.” There is NO expectation for kids to EVER use handwriting!

Maybe this falls under the “everything I need to know in life I learned in Kindergarten” philosophy, but I still think it’s leading to a disastrous future for literacy. Like I wrote – WHOSE ASININE IDEA WAS THIS?


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Digital Natives Want ‘More’ From Their Public Libraries

A colleague recently put me onto a study by the Idaho Commission for Libraries that collected feedback on “Perceptions of Idaho’s Digital Natives on Public Libraries“. It is a very comprehensive, eye-opening, and highly useful study from which I believe all public library leaders can benefit.

Since Digital Natives comprise the next big challenge in library customers, it is highly useful to know their opinions of their community library. This study provides that – and more. One puzzling finding is that focus group respondents reported that that believe that “Information on the Internet is not always trustworthy.” and they also believe that “Overall, information obtained through books and libraries is much more trustworthy than information found online.” Yet, they admit that “The Internet is typically the starting point when a search for information is begun.”

What would account for this contradiction? Well, “Convenience is most important when digital natives look for information.” and “Libraries are mostly for young children and older adults, but not for those that fall into the age range that encompasses digital natives.” because “Libraries are perceived to be an old-fashioned, cumbersome way to get information.”

So, what could libraries do to make themselves more attractive to Digital Natives? “Understanding how libraries should be used is important, and would help make the library less intimidating.” Also, “Libraries should elicit opinions and ideas from younger digital natives when creating programs and services targeted for this group.” Libraries could also create “Library activities that provide opportunities for social interaction [that] are very appealing to younger digital natives.” And to attract older digital natives, libraries could create the “Hands-on experience [that] is perceived to be the most valuable source in older digital natives’ learning experiences.” – such as a technology petting zoo.

Another important element is “The fact that older digital natives believe that libraries should act as a hub for community information is reflected in their choices for potential library services and resources.”

10) Web-based resources offered by public libraries should include reference tools.
The preferred resources chosen by the older digital natives were all related to accessing information online. This is despite the perception that public libraries would not be able to afford to offer resources equal to what a university provides online to its students. Still, it is an indicator of the importance that digital natives place on convenient access to reliable information.

This is a very valuable and comprehensive study presented for Idaho library community application, but which – IMHO – has nearly universal application to every library interested in providing services to their Digital Native customers.

How well do you know your Digital Native customers? What services/programs do you have aimed at fulfilling their needs?


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