Much has been written about Baby Boomers, Generation X and now Generation Y. Defined as 20 to 30 year olds, Gen Y’s rule the cyberskies. They are the first generation of true Digital Natives and Nick Shore, head researcher at MTV, calls their attitudes and beliefs the Millennial Edge, defined by invisible boundaries. They demand quick-twitch media, biting wit and provocative situations. They don’t know where the behavioural lines are because they have never been drawn.
For the most part though, Gen Y has gone through a traditional, paper-based educational system, emerging to live and embrace a loud and busy on-line world. Following right behind is The Cloud Generation, growing up with smart phones in hand and established digital footprints. They arrive at our schools adept at cyber connections and new ways to communicate. How do we accommodate their multi-intelligences and cognitive knowledge, and access their great capacity for deep learning? How can we be more than Ground Control, keeping them safe as they hurtle unguided through the cyber skies?
Let’s just start with the basics. Common Courtesy 101. That’s a clear line we can draw in their cyber-sandbox. Right next to respect, appreciation, acceptance…you get the idea.
Presently throughout the educational world there is much debate about blocking, filtering and restrictions, designed to keep students cybersafe at school, and on task. There is no doubt the home computing environment may be quite different, so we must model appropriate behaviour online while that invisible fence is still in place. We’ve discussed Edmodo as a safe social environment, and applications like Kidblog and Bitstrips as moderated spaces for reflection and comment. Here’s what one grade 5 class’ interactions looks like. Agreement or disagreement is done respectfully, goes beyond community talk, and the underlying tone is one of courtesy.
As professionals we acknowledge appropriate communication in our online connections, as demonstrated in this dialogue from a collaborative Google Docs created by a group of educators at Educon 2.3 on the topic of “Why Digital Writing Matters”. The style and tone remain courteous, collegial and contribute to the common purpose. You can see a note in the margin at a certain point. What a great way to give immediate feedback!
By appropriately connecting with our students, colleagues, parents and community online, we leverage the wonder and possibilities of today’s world. The cloud generation may ultimately not be defined by date of birth. Be careful what you write; your grandmother may be your Friend!