What's Age Got to Do With IT?

There is a small pet peeve I have - it is 'our' tendency to generalize. One thing that is in this category is the myth of technology and age. I guess in a way, there is some statistical backing to the contention that youth - by youth I mean folks about 35 and under :-), basically the so called 'digital natives', or 'net gen' or millennials and those younger, use computer tech more ... but not all, and that is the problem. I won't go into the research that points out the fallacies of these generalizations (I am involved in one such long term study with a colleague). We hear this generalization in many places, how computers comes 'naturally' to young kids, how young people are so 'tech savvy', how all youth is so connected ... and so on. I have been interviewed for an article in The Manitoba Teacher and interviewed on CBC in the past year about the startling revelation that this is not always true. Just because the Internet and computers have always been around during a person's entire life, does not make them savvy. Heck I grew up with cars and they were central to my upbringing in the auto capital of Canada - does that mean I could just jump into a car at age nine and drive it? Or open the hood and fix any problems? I don't think so. (I didn't even get my drivers license until I was 17.) Now, back to computer technology - I started using computers by taking computer science in high school - a looong time ago (early 70's, ulp) and have learned about them and used them ever since. Hey I am an older guy and can use computers pretty darn well, I even have some idea how they work.
      I just want to comment quickly on 2 problems that arise from the generalization that kids are good with computers. First, if we assume that all young people have some natural ability and affinity to digital tech, then, as teachers, we will be leaving some behind or putting them at a disadvantage. We must keep in mind that everyone is different. Second, some older folks (parents, grandparents, etc..) sometimes use the age thing as an excuse not to learn. Just about anyone can learn to use a computer or social media or ...if they are so inclined, but it is easy to say "I'm too old for that". If you aren't interested, or don't have the time - say so, age has nothing to do with it. If it is important for your job as a teacher (or a parent) - then learn it!  Maybe ask your kids/students to help, they know all about it :-)


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