I turned 36 years old on the 20th. And as it is her tradition, my mom contacts me to remind me that I am a year older. The restrictions of her religious beliefs prevent her from actually saying “Happy Birthday”, but the sentiment is there.
For the last 18 years my mom has called.
This time she texted. I chuckled at that because I remember teaching her to text on that same phone about three years ago. It was a gift from to her for some reason I have since forgotten; her first and only digital device and she made me sit with her and walk her through the process.
And every year she texts more and more until that’s all she does. And it only took her three years.
On the other hand my mother-in-law, who is made of awesome, is a digital rock star. Being a Network Analyst, she was given an iPhone 3G as part of her job. The first thing she did is created a ringtone from AC/DC’s “Dynamite”. It only took her 3 hours. But that included walking her through ripping the DRM off of the track too…
The Great Moogster and Tea are on a combined 8 social networking sites, and this excludes the ones that they use for school. To ground them off the computer is to cut them off from friends, school assignments and their recreation. They are masters of the proxy and it takes a keystroke logger and 30 minutes a night to make sure they aren’t causing trouble. They can also conduct college level research. They’re 16 and 13, respectively. Oh yeah… it took the RedHead 5 hours to clear off nearly 2 dozen viruses off of the upstairs PC.
Yes, there is a reading response in here, but I needed to create a context to clarify my point.
The point: I am smack dab in the middle of Generation Beta. The generation the created the technology, but doesn’t own it. The generation tasked with teaching both the older and younger generations the literacy skills that they require to navigate the world.
But to do teach literacies, we have to define them. But…
The skills that each generation needs are unique.
Denise Klarquist wrote a short article on the Cheskin site about “The Advantage of Being the “beta” Generation” where she states that where she is searching for evidence “that approaching “a certain age” didn’t mean certain obsolescence”. She argues that the replacement of the then 18 year old Joss Stone for the then 40 Sarah Jessica Parker and the fact that her then 4 year old niece didn’t want (or need ) help to install, navigate and use her computer and software meant that she was no longer needed.
She later found that “teens today are more focused on content and experience than the behind the scenes working of the technology”. And judging from the cursing that came from the RedHead as he cleaned the computer, that seems to be the case.
Our generation grew up lacking knowledge and gained it through various, albeit limited resources. We had our parents and teachers, who were a good source of knowledge (until we became teenagers), we had newspapers, books and magazines which had a scope limited to what they determined to be “fit to print”. Then there was television. I am old enough to be around when HBO was a pay per view service available on unused VHF channels and cable wasn’t around. Once it did become available, I learned everything I could and soon was able to share this information with my parents, who eventually learned it.
The experience that my parents and teachers had was far greater than mine, but the technology grew much slowly in relation to their ability to analyze and integrate it into our lives. Books, magazines, movies and TV were technologies they were greatly familiar with and knew the dangers and benefits of from years of experience. It was a matter of scale (more channels) rather than a manner of learning the tools, then the dangers and benefits.
Personal computers, the Internet and a slew of related digital devices has brought a world of information to us. And Generation Beta, the inventors of the technology, has seen it the devices and technology expand to uses that we have never imagined.
Our parents and teachers, those who lived full and happy lives without the technology that Gen B can’t live without, rely on us to learn the technology and implement them into their lives. This is if we can convince them to use it in the first place.
Our children are not lacking the skills to navigate and create the technology. They were born with it and it’s all they know. They understand that everything they read online isn’t gospel and they have a better sense of irony and satire than our generation had at their age. And being children (don’t say it too loud, or they will start having fits), they are not inclined to consider the consequences of reckless use of technology, namely that you’ll hose your computer and your stepdad has to miss a good part of the NASCAR race to fix it.
So what is the job of the beta generation?
It is to define the body of knowledge, refine the skill set and develop the ethics of this digital age. It is to understand that knowledge is now upside down. It is to have the humility and patience to guide our elders who have taught us so much through the learning curve. It is to have the humility and patience to teach the practical consequences to our younger generations as they guide us through a learning curve of our own. It is to be the testing ground and to understand that we may never be quite ready, but will filter through the bugs as we find them.