In a recent post (Information Overload: Do Kids Manage Their Media Better?) on the Shaping Youth blog (about media and marketing influence on kids), executive director Amy Jussel discusses the difference between how adults and children handle information overload.
“In-boxes, smart phones and IM windows are overflowing. Always-on connections, mobile devices and new publishing tools have expanded the media we consume to include content from peers…New networks and platforms for participation are sprouting up and going supernova overnight, with no end in sight.”
Teachers looking at Web 2.0 and other technologies are well aware of this feeling of drinking from the firehose. The textbook is not the final word on any subject anymore (if it ever really was), you search for “lesson plans” on Google and get a number best expressed in scientific notation, parents want you to respond to email AND voicemail (and neither one of them work), you are supposed to download videos and upload podcasts and oh, by the way, here are 10 new tools invented yesterday that may or may not help you.
How will we teach students to handle all of this if we are overwhelmed ourselves?
But she asks a great question –
What if we preventively look to YOUTH for some of these answers? Youth voraciously digest media and STILL somehow seem to exercise more restraint than “addicted” adults overly dependent on their mobile devices and gizmos.
Many kids are able to ingest their digital media nuggets as tasty morsels instead of the ‘portion distortion’ some adults gorge upon, tanking up with “too much of a good thing.”
In my house, for example, my tween gets enamored in fits and starts with media’s ‘Next Great Thing’ then, like a pup with a new toy, she plays with it for awhile, puts it down and goes back to her primary modus operandi.
Why does this matter for school?
It matters if adults let feelings of inadequacy color what we teach and how we treat students. Information is overwhelming…. programming is hard…. the web is a scary, dangerous place… these messages are about adult fears. Students hear these as confirmation that adults don’t “get it” and it becomes just one more reason to tune out.
Students could be doing so much more to help teachers understand how technology and information works in their lives (Previous post: Web 2.0 – share the adventure with students.) In turn, students would be more open to the very important lessons teachers can teach–like good searching, media literacy, safety and using the web for appropriate, educational purposes. If we don’t teach appropriate, educational uses of technology, it’s our own fault if students fill the vacuum with inappropriate, trivial use. But we shouldn’t color the lesson with fear.