The illiterate if the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn and relearn Alvin Toffler

I think Toffler’s words are insightful and profound; and I agree with him.

According to Donald Tapscott,author of Growing Up Digital: the Rise of the Net-Generation

today marks the first time in history that children are outpacing and overtaking adults on the technology track; parents, teachers, and other adults are looking to children for help with computers and computing. In Finland, for example, the government has chosen 5,000 N-Geners to teach the country’s educators how to use computers! Tapscott contends that the “N-Gen is transforming the new media from a cult enclave to a cacophonous cauldron of millions. Through their massive demographic muscle and unconstrained minds, N-Geners are creating a new world”. This world is one in which any idea, regardless of how threatening it may be to the contemporary social order, has voice and can spur radical views on such topics as business and the process of democratic governance.

Tapscott believes that N-Geners will soon want power in every domain and will take it. Using data from Internet discussions with approximately 300 youngsters between the ages of 4 and 20, he examines the characteristics of N-Geners as well as their role in the “new” world; he then discusses the implications of technology and the N-Gen on our changing culture. How will non-N-Geners fare in the future? Will they be able to share power? Will they have the courage to accept the N-Gen and its culture and media? Tapscott delves into these issues as he examines what it is like to grow up digital.

According to Tapscott, N-Gen kids think, learn, work, play, communicate, shop, and create in fundamentally different ways than their baby boomer parents. He identifies the following ten characteristics of N-Gen culture and advises educators to take each into account as they rethink teaching and learning:

  • Fierce independence: a strong sense of autonomy derived from active roles as information seekers rather than passive information recipients;
  • Emotional and intellectual openness: a priority for those with Web pages and chat rooms through which they explore and expose who they really are;
  • Inclusion: evidenced in the way children from different cultures meet, collaborate, and accept each other as never before;
  • Free expression and strong views: the result of access to a wide range of ideas, opinions, and arguments;
  • Innovation: encouraged by constant exposure to ways of doing things differently and better;
  • Preoccupation with maturity: the need to be taken seriously based on ideas and capability rather than age;
  • Investigation: a strong ethos of curiosity and empowerment to change things;
  • Immediacy: the expectation that things will happen quickly (because in the N-Gen world, they do);
  • Sensitivity to corporate interest: the awareness and avoidance of controlling and exploitative businesses; and
  • Authentication and trust: the continual questioning of the veracity of what is on the Web.

“Kids look at computers the same way boomers look at TV. This shift from a broadcast medium (television) to an interactive medium (the Net) signals a ‘generation lap’ in which the N-Gen is lapping its parents on the ‘info-track.’ We don’t marvel at the technology or wonder how television transfers video and audio through thin air, we simply watch the screen. TV is a fact of life. So it is with kids and computers”. What does this mean when we consider the larger context of how we prepare kids in school and what they need to learn to become contributing members of society? When and how should children interact with technology both at school and at home?

The current delivery system is designed around the broadcast model, in which lecture, text, and homework assignments are centralized, delivered unilaterally, and based on pre-designed structures that work best for a mass audience. Tapscott believes that learning should be customized, student-centered, and non-linear, with teachers acting as motivators and facilitators of learning rather than transmitters of information. In such an interactive environment, construction and discovery replace traditional instruction and learning becomes a lifelong endeavor. Tapscott states that the “new media enable—and the N-Gen needs for learning demand—a shift from broadcast learning to what I call Interactive Learning”

In response to questions posed regarding the impact of technology, most notably social media, I think about where this is all going and what it is going to look like in say 10 years time. I also wonder what kind of divide technology and social media is going to further create between developed and under-developed brains, which will be dependent on accessibility. But most importantly I wonder what kind of impact this is going to have on:

  1. developmental skills and abilities in infants
  2. education and learning
  3. socialization
  4. physical health

The four topics above shall be the headings for my next four blogs. These are big questions that will have an impact on performance and productivity of talent in the new world of work in to the future.

I just want to make it clear that I am pro progression, change, evolution, technology; and social media, I am just interested in where it is all leading us and it’s best to be informed.



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