Friday, December 31, 2010

Dumbest Generation Reflection, Reva Potter

I chose this book for my book study because my son owns a copy and it was handy. My son is fifteen and had not finished the book, and now I know why. He probably could not get past some of the statistical information in the beginning without the bullets, headlines, and graphics he loves so much, being a member of a pretty spatially-enhanced upbringing.

But I would like him to read it one day. We would have a lot to talk about. The text-rich environment of his upbringing (his mother is an English teacher after all) make reading and writing and test-taking easy for him. He also is very tech-savvy (obsessed?) and uses most of the usual social networks. His Facebook page is full of all the silly stuff the author laments in the book, and I know he is a truly shallow adolescent at times. But the Internet has also allowed him to experience more intellectual pursuits along with the shallow ones. He is a pretty good researcher for his classes, critical of websites and their authors; he consults the Internet for further information when he is reading something unfamiliar; he consults the Internet for classical music and pieces for oral interp competition; he looks up background information on new authors he is reading and new musicians he finds interesting. So far, I do not see a dangerous member of the Dumbest Generation in the making.
Is my teenager so unusual? This book makes me worried that he is. Sometimes so do the ridiculous additions my middle school students put on their IGoogle pages. So do the terrible habits students have when accepting Internet garbage as research, especially when students from most grade levels think that cutting and pasting text from an article and then “changing some words” is not plagiarism. So many things in this book really struck me at the teaching level, worrying me some, and justifying some of the worries I have already developed in the last 17 years of teaching.

I agree with Bauerlein on a number of points. The Internet and the constant social connections to peers allow them to detrimentally isolate themselves within their peer group. Most students have a disconnect with adults and are often offended that adults think they know more. This may be typical adolescent thinking, but we have not done students any favors by solidifying their thinking when we believe that students know more about using technology than the teachers. They may be able to navigate tools, but thoughtful use of tech tool requires mentoring and advising – the responsibility of teachers.

Bauerlein’s issues with screen time and lack of reading also hit home for me. I agree that vocabulary is a major issue in our culture. It is becoming a dividing line between students who will succeed at their goals and students who will not. It is impacting our students’ abilities to take tests, to critically understand information, and to express their thinking. The statistics on vocabulary, comparing print and screen sources, was astounding to me. No wonder students wait for me to explain directions two or more ways after they read them for themselves; they do not have the vocabulary confidence to know what to do. My hope is that as a language arts teacher, I am using technology to improve vocabulary, showing students tools such as visual thesaurus and the components of online dictionaries to make them better consumers of online vocabulary tools.

This book raises implication about how teachers may want to approach the validity of technology use in their classrooms. When we use tech tools, we have to be aware that we also need to teach the tech tool. It would be a rare middle school student who is an expert researcher online – this needs to be taught. A middle school student will probably not create a Prezi with advanced vocabulary unless the teacher requires this. Student authors will not collaborate in Google Docs with valid editing comments unless these are mentored and modeled. The Dumbest Generation may be happy to stay that way, but their teachers should not be happy to let them.

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Reflection on the Dumbest Generation

This book was very interesting and some of the stats were my generation really this dumb? This is the question I kept asking myself as I read each chapter. This is my generation, I don't remember high school without computers and the Internet and I distinctly remember playing "Oregon Trail" on an Apple 2E in 5th grade. Google and spell check have always been a part of my generation. Can I be this ignorant and passive? Maybe. I did complete lots of community service and worked hard to attain good grades but I like the rest of my peers chose movies and gossip to reading Kerouac and Eliot. "Today's rising generation thinks more highly of it lesser traits." This quote could not be more true. Take the movie Jackass , for example, there is nothing but lesser traits in this movie and the movie made millions not based on new ideas and themes but the ability of the actors to be hit repeatedly in the groin. How do we as educators help to fix it? How do we inspire kids to read and question and come up with new ideas? The challenge at the end of the book is to help fix the problem to stop the dumbest generation from ruining America. "They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever." I liked this book although I think some of it my be extreme. As a person of this generation I find it hard to believe that everyone younger than 30 is dumb. And although we may not be reading the "classics" many of the same ideas have been translated into modern stories that kids are interested in reading. I do feel that civic and history are very important to the education and keeping our country growing and educated but I do not feel that the future is as bleak as the author Mark Bauerlien predicts it to be.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Book Reflection

Book Reflection-The Dumbest Generation by Mary Larscheid-Christensen

The Dumbest Generation brought to the surface many ideas that I had never been presented before. Mark Bauerlein paints an ugly picture of young Americans. The opportunity for young people has never been greater, but instead of being interested in books, he sees them letting their social life guide them. He feels technology, digital empowerment, visual awareness has not led to civically minded, politically inspired young Americans but to self centered social individuals.

This book was essentially filled with the opposite theory of what this class is based on. So as I learned more and more technology each week, I read about how damaging it is for us. It made quite a contrast to consider.

After being exposed to all of his opinions and data, I don’t feel the despair as he does. I am the one that likes to see the glass half full instead of half empty. I am the one to see the “good apple” in the bushel of rotten ones, so I cannot agree with his philosophy of the Dumbest Generation.

I believe you can take data and arrange it and tweak it to show just about any viewpoint you would like it to show. So I feel there are young Americans that are interested in history, civic responsibility, foreign affairs, books, religion and art.

You can always find the best or worst in a group of people. I prefer to look for and expect the best.

Monday, December 13, 2010

No More Culture Wars

Chapter 6 begins with the story of Rip Van Winkle, the popular literary character that falls asleep for 20 years then awakens to a completely different United States. This Washington Irving story reference sets the tone for the rest of the chapter. American youth has forgotten about history and civics. Most of their arguments are based on current events and readings instead of using history and classic reading to make a stronger point. There are no longer groups that demand radical change, no longer groups that argue amongst themselves to prove stronger points. The radical ideas and thinkers of Alcove 1 and Port Huron do not exist. Similar more "watered-down" groups still exist but these groups no longer have radical ideas for change, most of the newer political groups only base their ideas on current issues, media and writing. They have forgotten about history. " The Dumbest Generation cares little for history books, civic principles, foreign affairs, comparative religions, and serious media and art, and it knows less."" They are the latter-day Rip Van Winkles, sleeping through the movements of culture and events in history, preferring the company of peers to great books and powerful ideas and momentous happenings." This chapter ends will a grim look at the future of the United States. If the trends to not change our very culture will be lost. The statistics don't lie, fewer books are being checked out of the library and less kids are going to museums and art galleries. The author encourages those over 30 to change the views of and inspire the Dumbest Generation to change their ways.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

“The Betrayal of Mentors” discussed the pedagogy shift in how students are taught. The main focus of the selection is the change from passive learning to student-centered learning. As the shift is occurring, students are becoming masters of their own knowledge and they begin to seek out for their own understanding. No longer do students feel compelled to follow classic works of art, rather instead they are opting to choose their own course in learning and knowledge. Art students do not desire to draw like Picasa; they want to draw and be themselves.
Not only does the selection focus on the paradigm shift in student-learning; it also directs fault at adult negligence in acknowledging that they (adults) do have more knowledge, and students are not displaying the respect for adults as in the past. The chapter points out that “Nearly 90 percent intended to graduate(high school), and more than one-third of them stated that high school was easy. “
With this bit of factoid, we as teachers are faced with a daunting task; we need to challenge our students who are in need of this extra boost, because as the article states, only the cream of the crop will make the forward attempt and seek more learning opportunities. All students need the challenge versus just the “best of the best” students.
As the chapter continues forward, it brings about a point of mentors. Many students do not have mentor in their life that can give them excellent life-long advice. For example, the article stated “Dissociated from tradition, with nobody telling that sometimes they must mute the voices inside them and heed instead the voices of distant greatness, young people miss one of the sanative, humbling mechanisms of maturity.” Maturity is key to our high school and college students’ advancement. They must understand they do not know everything, and each individual is capable of learning from their elders. Our society has so to say, “Thrown in the hat”, on the youth and quit trying to teach simple etiquette and manners.
Without excellent mentors, many of the youth have become narcissistic. Many feel they simply can learn nothing from others, and they feel they are so special. As the book reminds us, adults are not helping the situation by always telling children “They are so special.” Narcissism is preventing students from unleashing their innermost talents because they do not even try. As they fail, as we all do, they tend to blame everyone but themselves. Man y do not see failure as teaching mechanism, rather instead they simply use it as a way to get out of work, an excuse. Success is determined by the willingness to move forward in difficult times, rather than doing everything perfect or blaming others when something isn’t perfect. Today’s students are struggling with this simple lesson.

Chapter Three Quote