Normal is the digital age for most students, and that’s awesome!

The new normal

The new normal

I came across this great post by Justin W. Patchin and Sameer Hinduja, authors of Words Wound on the Free Spirit Publishing blog and was amazed, inspired, and confused that not everyone knew this.


This post got me thinking. Thinking about ageism, amazing students I’ve taught, and the way so many adults see students and the information technology that’s out there. I have taught students who were masters at green screens, had their own social universe, and one who had an entire youtube show that debuted every week at 7pm on Tuesday not to mention his little 5 minute PSAs about bullying, drugs, and nonviolence. I was reading the comics on Sunday and Family Circle by Billy Keane was an interesting comic, but I’d heard the joke before many times….and I realized I’ve watched the time change. The mom was reading a nursery rhyme and it said “with bells on her finger and bells on her toes, she will have music where she goes.” The little baby asked, “Why didn’t she just take her IPOD?”

I remember that joke when it was: “Why didn’t she just take her discman”, “Why didn’t she just take her walkman?”, “Why didn’t she just take her boom box?”, ” Why didn’t she just take her radio?”

Each generation has it’s own form of this joke, just like each generation has their own definition of normal. Most generations get upset at the next few generations, because they don’t have….”hard work, ethic, morals, etc, Whatever! I’m often in the middle of a person in an ageism rant about kids these days, students these days, etc, etc…and I always ask. Have you looked up “kids changing the world” …they never have.

The simple idea is that each generation creates their own normal.

I was speaking to  a group of 100 students and I said, “If you have a smart phone, you can create a video to speak out against something you feel strongly about. At that moment, 20 kids stood up and walked into the back of the auditorium and started goofing around and making a ruckus. At the end of the talk, I answered some questions, shook some hands, met some great people, and took a lot of pictures. When I was done the kids were still back there, but now they were laying on the ground laughing about a youtube video on one of their phones. When I walked up, they all jumped to their feet. Before I could ask why they  didn’t want to listen to me, they screamed: We MADE a video and it has 200 hits!

Educate everyone!These students had taken my idea and instead of waiting for the guy to stop talking, like our generation would have done, they went and DID IT!  They walked into the back, thought of a cause they all hated, and then filmed a 3 minute video with stats and edits in 35 minutes. By the time I got off stage they had already educated twice the number I had spoken to, and had a very meaningful dialogue with about 50 people on youtube. In 35 minutes. Just because we don’t understand the computer and digital age, just because we aren’t putting our entire life on facebook, just because we aren’t living on the net and living off our phone, just because we aren’t 100% wireless, paperless, and digitally connected – doesn’t mean that our students shouldn’t be or that it is wrong.

I’m 38 and I saw my first desktop computer at age 10. I began using an apple II e in 7th grade. I took basic computers in 9th grade and watched by computer geek friends play the Oregon Trail and write basic programs that would play a simple song. The first website I went on was a site for a band in 1994. I got my first cell phone “for emergencies only” in 1995, and then began carrying one all the time in 2001. Depending on your age, this is about your timeline as well. But it isn’t our kids timeline.

Born into this technology!

Born into this technology!

A basic middle school student was born in 2001. They got on the internet for the first time before they could walk and they were streaming video by the time they were 4. Cell phone are and always have been in their world. For these students of 11+, this is not the digital age, the computer age, the tablet age, or even the age of information. This is simply normal. They have gone to school with kids who have iphones for as long as they can remember. Video games are not dependent on game systems, they are apps to download or games on websites. They’ve been using computers and computer games to learn since preschool. When you want to call someone you have 2 options – face to face or cell phone. When you want to hear music, watch a  video, or talk with friends you get on youtube or facebook. The new social media forest was created as they begin to mature into understanding of what social media is. Facebook, tumblr, kik, twitter, pintrest, are not odd names for computer programs on the web – no – they are familiar places to go to hang out with friends like other digital 1generations have hung out at coffee shops and soda fountains and the mall.

I for one think this is an amazing time to live. A time to reach out across streets, cities, miles, kilometers, countries, and world wide to speak and see people all over the world and in space as well as under the water. The internet is an encyclopedia that far exceeds anything we can dream of because it is only limited by our imagination. The stuff that was filled in our heads as elementary school kids is a reality now. If you want to find it, it’s at the click of a button. If you want to do it, there’s someone on the net who will teach you, help you, and even fund your project. If you want to be a star, you can and youtube and social media can help you. If you want to create and make – it’s all here on the net. Gone are the times when we had to wait to be something…you can be something right now. You want to be a singer, sing away…record it, post it, and listen to the critiques or get discovered for your talent. Do you want to write a book, the self publishing world is ready for you. You want to help

the world, change the world, or even just make your friends feel better it’s all possible! In fact, if you’ve become bedridden, that’s ok….your blog friends will travel for you…and they will bring the world to your desktop.  Because that’s today’s reality – the world at your desk top.

This is the new landscape, but only to us who remember the old landscape. To those that are growing into it, scrolling down to read a book, clicking to find your news, and creating a video to educate the world is pretty much the normal way of doing things.


How are you going to inspire students to use this new normal?

How are you going to use or use this new normal?


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