I’m one of the first kids who grew up with technology. When I was five or six, my parents bought an Intellivision. I played it for hours everyday. My best friend had an Apple ][. I begged her dad to let me play it each time I was over there. We hung out in the video arcade, I grew up on Pac Man, Galaga, Centipede, Q-bert, Pengo. We had every gadget. And if we didn’t have the gadget, I made sure to make friends with the kids who did have them.
I put my first computer together in high school. We owned a Mac+ very soon after they came out. For my almost entire career as a college student (almost all 9 years of it), I was a computer lab help-desk assistant. I was one of the few people who worked there that wasn’t a comp-sci major.
When the first Nintendo came out, I had one. I had one of the first Game-boys. I also had the first Playstation.
I lived technology. It wasn’t what I wanted to do for a living. It wasn’t my passion. It was just a part of my life. The solution to every problem could be found in technology. I typed faster than anyone I knew (except my hubby. Maybe that’s why I married him? :) I communicated best through email, BBS message boards and usenet. I carried around my floppy disks.
I was an early adopter, as they call us. I grew up plugged in. To everything. Everything that was available anyway.
Not many people who are my age (36) have stories to tell like this. Well, many of my friends do, because we’ve happened to huddle together, almost like magnets, because we all know what it was like to grow up like that when the rest of the world around us shook their heads and wondered what the heck all these nerds were doing with buttons and blinking lights.
Now, we’re having kids. My kids are 2nd generation technophiles. They are growing up in a technology saturated world. For hubby and I, that is “normal”. Because we both grew up the same way.
It’s hard to explain how this changes the way people think. Laureen over at Life Without School does a great job bringing it together.
She explains that technology isn’t changing education because it allows us to have remote classes or to learn things online. Technology is changing education because it’s changing the way people think.
We are evolving. That is the only way that our educational system is really going to change – is changing the way people think. The internet and other forms of technology are going to change education. And it’s not going to be the way the old-school educrats think it’s going to change things. Our kids already have a much different way of obtaining information than any generation before. And because our kids can access information in a much different way, they are going to start demanding a different kind of education.
The few kids in my generation who barely remember what it was like without video games and computers, we are the first to see information in this new way. I don’t know anybody from my generation, who grew up with technology the way I did, who ended up following a traditional educational path.
The more and more kids who grow up thinking through the lens of technology, particularly the internet and communication tools, the more and more kids who will challenge the way our educational system approaches learning. That’s how technology is changing education. Not because we can do what we’ve already been doing in a different way. But because the people who use the system won’t be served by it anymore, and too many kids will be taking non-traditional routes to learn. When enough kids do that, those paths won’t be so non-traditional anymore, and will be pretty normal. Over time, the new paths will become part of the system.
We’re seeing it with homeschooling already. Particularly the non-religious homeschooling crowd. But we do see some of this in the religious crowd too. The more kids we see leaving schools in order to avoid being medicated, or to learn in their non-traditional way that make schools pull their hair out, the more homeschooling becomes “normal”. Homeschooling’s becoming normalized, because more people are doing it out of necessity, not out of preference. Technology is a big reason why this is happening. Kids aren’t limited to what’s available down the street. Homeschooling is a refuge to the kids who are plugged in, and are trying to be fit into a way of thinking that is practically foreign to them.
Perhaps this change in how kids think about information can only be explained in hind-sight. Especially since this kind of change will not come easily. After a while though, we’ll all be internet/blackberry/Wii savvy, and we’ll look at our schools and ask, “Wait, what is this?”. A social epiphany. And it’ll all come together.
Only time will tell. And it sure will be interesting.