Some thoughts about “iGen”

Leave a comment

I recently saw a job ad with the following “skill” requirement listed:

“must have the ability to be off phone for more than 10 consecutive seconds”

I suppose that made a strong point to potential applicants, or maybe it was related to issues with past employees… It was a position that would require driving and moving stuff.

The ad made me think of a recent article, Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?.  In spite of the alarmist title, I still read it.  The article was an adaptation from a new book by Dr. Jean Twenge.  Soon after that article was posted on The Atlantic, I saw a few responses and articles dismissing the claims made by the author/researcher.  As I thought more about this topic, I decided to listen to the 50 min. segment from the BBC:  “Are Smartphones Harming Teenagers?”.  I thought the panel discussion was quite good and it included Dr. Jean Twenge.  This is the list of the participants:

Dr. Jean Twenge – Professor of Psychology at San Diego State University

Amy Orben – College Lecturer in Experimental Psychology at The Queen’s College, Oxford University

Tanya Goodin – Founder of the digital detox consultancy Time to Log Off, and author of ‘Off’

There were also two teenagers participating in the discussion as well.

It took me a few “sittings” to get through it, but I made a few notes of points from the discussion that made me ponder and reflect.  Here are a few that I thought were key:

  • it is important to consider what is on the phone, not necessarily the phone itself
  • if teenagers are spending approx. 6 – 8 hours of leisure time on their phones/screens, what does that “crowd out” of their lives?
  • social media/online time is very diverse/complicated — important for research to consider the “3 C’s”:  content, context, and connection
  • software is designed to be “sticky”, so how do we moderate effectively?
  • suggestion that more evidence is needed, but research always lags behind real world experience
  • should we do nothing then? What is the downside of doing nothing at all? “Guinea pig” generation?
  • differentiate study of the different social media platforms?

It was good to hear the input and insights from the two teenagers.  I also noted that they both attended schools that did not allow cell phones in class.  They also both reported that their own phone/screen use was reasonable and manageable.  They also didn’t think it was necessary for younger children to have smartphones in response to the finding that the average age of having a phone in the UK was 9.

It is a complex area to study but I find it hard to dismiss the new data and possible trends.  It is difficult not to have concern about the possible impacts on independence and mental health. The decrease in sleep at night is enough to concern me.  There seems to be multiple sources of stress now in the lives of teens and young adults.  I think we need to care about how smartphone access and use adds to stress and anxiety.  Both youth and adults have a role in getting smarter about moderation.  I still see my 20+ year olds struggling at times with the use of their devices and screens in practical ways instead of excessive ways.  It takes work and self-discipline for sure.

Dr. Twenge’s research pointed to some positive trends for teens as well.  I am now following her on Twitter and keeping an open mind about this.  My kids are grown up, but it is an area that I still care about.  I also recently read the article, In Praise of Mediocre Kids.  I thought the article spoke to valid pressures in the lives of children as well.  It doesn’t mention smartphones or social media, but I think technology has increased how much parents compare the “successes” of their kids and families to others.  I am not sure “mediocre” was the best word for the title — what about just well-grounded kids, or kids just doing their thing…?  Where do things start to get off track?

My thoughts as an “old” parent…

Advertisements

The School Down The Road

Leave a comment

A friend of mine does some excellent writing on her personal blog about life and growing up in Northwestern Ontario. A few years ago, I confirmed her approval to feature a couple of her initial posts on my blog. I am finally getting around to it! I grew up in the same township as “Little Monik”. It was a “township” at the time, but the area eventually became a part of the new boundaries of Kenora when it became an official city instead of a town. I still think of the area as the small town I grew up in.

This area of Kenora has been mentioned in the news more lately since Gord Downie’s Secret Path advocacy project. I got thinking again about Monik’s posts about living near “CJ School”, which we called it back then. She wrote about some of her memories and reflections in two parts:

CJ School Part I

CJ School Part II

My family also lived within walking distance of “CJ”. The children in our area attended elementary school for several years in the building adjacent to Cecilia Jeffrey Residence. I attended for Grades 1 through 5 together with a number of children who were living in the CJ residence during that time (late 60s/early 70s). I also had friendships with a few of the girls that Monik had mentioned. We played at school and occasionally in the community in the evenings. I remember a few of my classmates being invited into the residence to see their rooms. I am not sure why a number of children still lived at the residence during that time. I think they returned to live with their families on the reserve in the summertime, but I am not really sure. Through researching and reading a few documents online, I found closure dates for the residence ranging from 1960 through 1976. Monik mentioned the closure date as 1974 in her post. Maybe there were different dates for the residence and the school building itself and also a transition period. CJ residence was run by the Presbyterian Church. My report cards from the time have “The Kenora Board of Education” listed.

I don’t recall questioning much about why the children had to live at the residence and attend school there. As a child, I was only aware of this one residential school in our small world that was Kenora. I think I understood that their parents lived far away on reserves – but I didn’t know very much about reserves. As a child, I think I just accepted this as the way their children would be able to attend school. This would have been the time during the final years of First Nations children living in these residences in Canada. I don’t recall being aware of the previous history of residential schools at the time. I don’t think I was told much about it at age 6 or 10 during those years at “CJ School Block”.

In the summers, I remember attending large pow-wows hosted on the residential site. The experience was rich for the senses for sure. I still remember much about the site back then – the playground, the field, the baseball diamond and the forested area that separated it from Round Lake.  I visited the site just over a year ago.  An office building sits where the school had been – I think it is the same building. I took this picture of the monument that is now on the site where the residence building used to be:

I also located it on Google Maps as, “Cecilia Jeffrey Residential School Memorial Park”.

I just wanted to write down a bit about this time during my childhood – a statement that Monik wrote in a reply on her second post prompted me:

 Thanks, that was a tough one to write. Strange how my memory seems to get better when I write it out and then think about it more… I think it’s because at first I’m just remembering what the “little me” could process, but then on reflection I can understand more of what else was happening. Hindsight is a new perspective.”

I am still learning, listening, reflecting, questioning, and filling in the gaps too.  It is like we lived so close, and yet so far away…

That topic again…

3 Comments

“Doing away with” trustees seems to be a topic once again in Ontario.  I think it was prompted in part by a recent Globe and Mail article.  It appears to me that the responses and debates quickly become polarized, but it is a discussion that keeps returning.  The election for trustees is every four years — next year, 2018, brings that around again.

I often wonder what the main concerns are about not having boards of trustees in place.  Is it the worry that public education will not remain public?  Do some fear it would mean one step closer to “school choice”?  Is there a concern that parents or parent groups would then have new roles and responsibilities in governance and accountability?  Other?

It might be said that only “a few” school boards are dysfunctional in Ontario — but how do we know for sure?  Are they all transparent?  Should they be?  It can seem very complicated the more one digs into the questions.

I knew I had written one post about Ontario boards of trustees in the past, but upon further looking, I see I wrote two on the topic.  Although not specific to Ontario, my stats tell me that this one still gets a lot of search hits/views:

Appointed vs. Elected School Boards

The other post is more specific about the working relationship between Ontario trustees and parents:

The trustee – parent connection in #onted

If anyone has thought or written on the topic more recently, please let me know or add.  Thank you.

**Update (April 28):  Paul McGuire had posted on this topic and in response to the G&M article early this week.  Good questions and points to consider from Paul:

Should we still have School Boards? A Public Challenge

Doug Peterson featured Paul’s post in today’s, “This Week in Ontario Edublogs“.  Doug added his response there as well.

I wonder (if either ever happens…), what would happen first:  No Catholic school boards, or no school boards at all?

Peers in Pockets

Leave a comment

I enjoyed spending some time reading this post by Daniel Willingham, “Give a kid a computer…what does it do to her social life?”.  He discussed a number of studies in this regard, some findings and the limitations of the data.  Please read his post for the further links and insights he provided.

In addition to his good points, I related to his concern he wrote about in the last paragraph:

My real concern about digital technology use in teens is hard to quantify. When I was a teen I, like most, probably assigned too much value to the opinions of my peers.  They necessarily stopped influencing me when I got off the school bus, and I was influenced mostly by my parents and two sisters. I don’t relish the thought of children taking their peer groups home with them in their pockets, influencing them 24/7, and diminishing the impact of their families.”

A book by Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Maté, Hold on to Your Kids, came to my mind, but before I could add the comment, someone already had thought of their work and done so,

The comments you make in your final paragraph remind me very much of what Gordon Neufeld says of the rise in peer group influence and the correlative decline of parent/family influence in the lives of children and teens.”

I am not always sure what to make of some of the studies about the impacts of digital media on children, teens and family life, but I do think the impacts of social media and instant messaging/texting need to be examined separately.  They are often intertwined, but attention to each may vary (my most recent post about texting and relationships here).

I still feel relieved that my children didn’t have their “peers in their pockets” until their late teens.  Maybe the conversations in families are starting sooner now and the impacts may change.  New parents may be having very different conversations and decisions to make right from the start now: The ‘joy’s of digital media in new parenting.

If you wish, I thought this was a good review here of the Neufeld and Maté book and this link is about the book on Gabor Maté’s website.

Paths and Gaps: Part 3

2 Comments

I have written about about “gap” years a couple of times — in both the general and personal sense:

Graduation Caps and Gaps

Paths and Gaps: Part 2

My daughter who took a “gap year” before going away to another city for university was recently home on her study break or “reading week”.  It is also now that time of year in Ontario when many Grade 12 students are starting to receive and consider their acceptances to university and/or college.  My daughter is now in Year 2 at university and I asked her again if she was still glad she took a gap year.  She gave me permission to document her answers and thoughts on my blog:

I benefitted by the exposure to the “work world” that year.  It gave me a new perspective on ways to live life and be successful in different ways.  It helped me improve other qualities and skills other than just “book smartness”.”

I had time to find out a bunch of things I wasn’t … in order to be able to start finding out who I am.  This happened in both my gap year and also during my first year at university.”

I thought the gap year would give me time to figure out what I really wanted to study at the post-secondary level, but it was really about learning other things instead of discovering what I wanted to study.”

In the end, I realized I just needed to try something at university in order to find what I wanted to do.”

My daughter included the subjects she was passionate about in her first year of university.  I think that this is one advantage of a first year at university — she was expected to take courses in different faculties.  This worked well for her as she could include her love of science, math, art and women’s studies.  It was through this “sampling” that she was able to decide what she didn’t want to study in depth while also leading her to what she did want to focus on.  It was something she hadn’t thought of initially at all.

My other daughter didn’t take a gap year after high school.  We had discussed the option with her, but it just wasn’t something she found comfort in doing.  As it turned out, a gap year after university before a college program was more beneficial to her.  We are happy with their paths and choices and I am sure other decisions would have worked out fine too.  There will be bumps regardless of the path!

Given all my thinking and reflecting on this, People for Education’s report released this week about career and life planning in schools caught my attention.

The press release here.

Career and Life Planning in Schools full report here.

I still need to spend some more time with the report, but they have made some recommendations for improving student portfolios for career/pathway support, the community involvement requirements, guidance counselling, and more (for a quick look start at page 14).  “Multiple paths, multiple policies, multiple challenges” indeed.  I don’t recall the mandatory “career/life planning portfolios” that my daughters brought home here and there as being very useful at all, but their community volunteer hours proved quite valuable in different ways.  I will be curious about what changes ahead.  What do others think?  What are the areas that need to change the most… and when?

informed, but full

2 Comments

It’s been one week since the inauguration of the new U.S. president and I don’t think I have ever paid so much attention to U.S. politics before.  I am trying not to get caught up in a… “What did Trump do today?” sort of thing.  I am feeling quite confused about what and how much I should be paying attention to…  if at all.  Other questions:  Where should I look and read to stay informed?  Am I aware of how algorithms are determining what I read?  Yesterday I read Dean Shareski’s post about similar thoughts and questions (he links other good reading as well).  A few of his points/positions resonated with me, including:

In the end, many of us are getting obese on information. I know some would argue that’s the price we have to pay. We are forced to stay informed. But staying informed today with being somewhat misinformed is extremely challenging.”

I recently changed my “Twitter bio” to mention that I was using Twitter to stay informed.  Lately though, I have been a bit disturbed by what I have been informed about.  Maybe things will settle down soon…  It still makes me feel a bit lost and I wonder if there is any point to individuals blogging, tweeting or responding with all the information (and manipulation?) and news (and “fake news”) blasting out lately.  (Well, some of the humorous responses have eased the tension some!)

Donna Miller Fry has been tackling the topic about the challenges of our current internet and online/social media worlds through a series of “10 posts in 10 days” on her blog.  She has really dug into some important questions and current realities.  She is listing all 10 posts with further good reading and listening here.

Lots to digest and balance…

One step ahead

2 Comments

I recently read Glen Cochrane’s blog post regarding a book he read about Jian Ghomeshi.  I haven’t read the book, but I appreciated reading Glen’s thoughts.  One paragraph in particular on his post had me pondering a good while,

I can’t help notice the role of technology here (texting), that enabled Ghomeshi to maintain a presence and a dialog that ultimately signified consent (in a legal and public opinion sense), without actually getting consent. Technology provides an easy way to maintain presence, yet also provides a way to remain ambiguous – this isn’t good nor bad in itself, except that courts and legal matters need to take such new forms of communication and relationship status into account. As does public opinion.”

write and think a lot (probably too much) about the impact of communication technologies on many things.  It can be both interesting and disturbing to me how new forms of communication are being “used” by individuals.  I often think about how technology can help maintain a presence in a “distant” way.  It comes with convenience, but I think it can still be “emotional work”.   But, as Glen referred to, Ghomeshi did what manipulators do… which encompassed how he communicated through texting.  With new communication technologies and changing norms with each, there is a lot to consider — context, relationship, skills, individual intent and purpose, etc.  I often think about cases and situations like this:  How would the situation and/or outcomes been different without texting (or.. insert other form of communication)?  I doubt there is any “one step ahead” in this for society.  We seem to continue to learn, teach, and be impacted “two steps behind”.  It this okay?  Is it always okay?

Just my jumble of thoughts amidst a confusing world of politics and communications today…

 

 

Older Entries