Most educators are aware that students are deeply involved with social networking websites like Friendster, MySpace, Webshots, The Face Book, Xanga, Live Journal and others. Business Week has an article our this week called, “The MySpace Generation,” in which they try to explain what is happening with these sites and why.
One of the most shocking points in the article:
“Fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds average nearly 6 1/2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Net, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey.”
Doing some rough mental math – the average student gets home around 3:30, meaning with a 30 minute break for dinner, they are done watching TV, playing video games and surfing the Net at 10:30. Then maybe a little homework till 11:30pm-midnight, then bed? And if you are a student who plays a sport and gets home at 7:00pm, well then all bets are off.
We all understand that we are in the middle of a big shift in adolescent behavior. In the coming years it will be essential for young people to gain the skills they need to manage their time. More important than multitasking, students will need to be able to turn off the IM/MySpace and struggle with a philosophy problem, or try to understand the mitigating factors of the cold war, or work through Gregor Mendel’s pea pod experiment. You cannot concentrate while watching TV, talking to 3 friends online, downloading music and reading your favorite blog while posting to your own. You will certainly give your brain exercise in keeping information in order, but deep-thought process never has the chance to begin.
There is certainly value in being able to multitask, most jobs demand it in some ways. But most also demand well thought out, creative, analytical processing as well.
In the end though, if students are willing to spend 6.5 hours engaging with this multimedia, educators have to find a way to carve into that time. My idea? My lessons need to be part of their online experience – they should be IM’ing with study partners, they should be watching videos of lab experiments, dowloading podcasts of lectures, creating a U.S. History blog. Empower students to use their tools for their own learning.
Open note to the MySpace creators – come out with MySpace School Edition and give me a call.