Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Mark Cuban's inspired thoughts on the digital generation gap

I've long been concerned by the educational technology pundits, Web 2.0pians as I like to call them, who herald every new web app as not only an earth-shaking revelation, but the end of school as we know it.

In the social upheaval of the 1960s and 70s, young activists used to say, "Never trust anyone over 30." It seems that popular middle aged ed tech keynote speakers and bloggers have embraced that slogan as a form of self-loathing. The Digital Natives/Immigrants cliché and other similar nonsense is built on the assumption that Twitter (or whatever replaces it an hour from now), somehow makes you smarter, a better citizen and reduces the chances of male pattern baldness. Such ageism makes me a bit queasy.

But, what the heck do I know? Maybe I'm wrong.

Well, Mark Cuban (Internet billionaire and owner of the Dallas Mavericks) agrees with me in his recent blog, Never Friend Anyone Over 29.

There seems to be some delusion that all technology and applications are new. Invented from a cloudburst with no historical context. That as new, the technology is the province of the young, with anyone over 29 too old to understand and too confused to actually use it.

Thank you Mr. Cuban. You were robbed on Dancing with the Stars!

PS: I learned to program in 1976 (in a school class that now teaches keyboarding), connected to a mainframe via acoustic coupler from my bedroom around 1978 and have been online since 1983.

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  • Gary,
    A nice post and a good lead. These thoughts have crossed my mind and others in recent months. The self loathing and demeaning attributes of the natives/immigrants debate is a bit too much to bear at times.
    My post expresses my views a little more clearly.

    By Anonymous John Larkin, At November 7, 2007 10:57 PM  

  • I hear far too often that "we can never keep up with these kids in terms of technology." I always felt insulted by that mindset. I just assumed it was because of my ego. :)

    My father has been using computers since the dawn of time and at 60 some odd years would embarrass just about anyone around in terms of knowledge and proficiency.

    If you want to quickly disprove the idea of "digital natives" visit a school with a 1:1 laptop program and test the basic skills of 100 students. You'll find about 20 who can barely enter text, let alone create folders or know where their saved documents will end up. On the other hand you might have one or two who are at the upper end in terms of skills. Most sit in the middle with basic knowledge.

    I think the idea of digital natives has become a handy excuse for those who don't want to continue to learn. It's a cop out on both ends. "Why try to learn when I can't compete with these natives?" and "Why try to teach and structure their computer usage when they already know everything?"

    By Anonymous James and Tom, At November 8, 2007 8:28 AM  

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