Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Too much? Too fast?

Mousetrap, original image uploaded to Flickr by peprice

When Mark Prensky talks of the Twitchspeed Generation being bombarded with 100 images a minute on the likes of MTV , is he advocating that this is acceptable or a good way to inform young people?

Just because it is done, does it make it desirable? That's my question today.

I think of my own kids watching TV or being entertained and realise just how irretrievably different they are to me when I was their age. Take the game Mousetrap, for example - actually, to be honest take ANY board game and if they take it out of the box more than once a year of their own volition, then they deserve a medal. As I recollect, Mousetrap was a treasure trove of delightful bits, and half the joy was setting the board up - despite the eternal frustration of the cage falling on its on.

I was ecstatic to receive a Mousetrap for Christmas and loved playing it. My own kids got a set a Christmas or two ago from their beloved Auntie, but each time they got it out of the box, I'd find them 10 mins later with it in the box again - Euan saying 'This game's just TOO MUCH effort'. They prefer to play with the diver in the bath, the steel ball has joined their GeoMag playset, the cage holds a fearful T Rex in Euan's model Jurassic Park (itself a plastic representation of Euan's very favouritistist PS2 game) and the mouse can be found in Shona's zoo - in other words they have REPURPOSED the contents to suit their more diverse interests (there's gotta be a future Blog post in there somwhere) because that game is just too slooooooooooooooooooooow paced for them.

But is this good? Or are my two, like all other children, missing out on life in the slow lane? I can't imagine them sitting down as wedid in the school holidays watching badly dubbed German tv shows - remember White Horses, Belle et Sebatien, Robinson Crusoe and Flashing Blade? Yet when I sit them down and sit with them, they do become engrossed in HR Puffnstuff and The Double Deckers. Throughout all this I am left with that feeling that they are missing out.

Anyway, I was talking with a friend last night, someone whom I have known only a short while, someone to whom small things are a big deal - like just going outdoors. And she was cutting herself up about making a fuss of simply going to the local shop.

Without saying too much about what happened, suffice it to say I felt she was very very brave in getting to the shops and back without seeking support from anyone. I told her to be proud of what she’d achieved, instead of being hard on herself that she’s made a fuss in the first place.

So it occurred to me that this ‘Twitchspeed’ analogy of Prensky’s could be applied to our daily lives. For now, with things happening so fast and furious around us all, we tend to overlook the small achievements or small things that we do and we then tend to make a big deal if the whole thing doesn’t turn out as planned.

I see this in my lessons when a pupil is upset when I tell her that such and such a word needs a capital letter, or if a font is hard to read, whilst praising her for the rest of what she has done. She will focus on the small negative comment instead of being buoyed up by the praise she has received. I know its only natural, but it means we miss the bigger picture.

Why am I writing this now? Well it’s because this is becoming more prevalent in my lessons than used to be the case and I am sure it’s because young people want to succeed in every capacity without room for failure, as a result of say, such failure not being rewarded in computer games – when you don’t progress unless you succeed in the linear pathway to the end goal (in most standard games). Compare this with the likes of Second Life which has no goal, it’s not a game after all, yet you can just do what you like without feeling you have failed to achieve what you set out to do.

I don’t know if that makes sense, but I think if we adopted an approach that we congratulated ourselves on each little achievement then this world would be a much happier place.


Dayngr said...

I think if we adopted an approach that we congratulated ourselves on each little achievement then this world would be a much happier place.

Agreed. I think may of us focus on the negative because we don't hear enough positive. People find it hard to handle compliments. Also, I think how we praise our children should be genuine. Instead of saying "Awesome painting" which is rather general we should be more specific and say "What a bright yellow sun. It's beautiful" etc.

I'm all for taking life a little slower when it comes to my kids. They do not have mountains of digital or battery operated toys. They have play-doh and sidewalk chalk, scooters and cars they have to push with their feet and lots of books. There will be plenty of time for computers and electronics when they are old enough. For now, playtime is low key.

.mrsdurff said...

so what does chuffed mean anyway? it sounded so interesting that i had to leave a comment too!

islayian said...

What about the ability to set a goal and have the tenacity to acheive that goal?
Does the twitchspeed mean that you have to have twitchspeed gratification?

PS I am Chuffed to have posted ;-)

kijikmultimedia said...

Things change, life goes round in a circle. Your parents played with something else. The youth generation has their own language, just as you did when you where a child/ adolescent. Their vernacular is just as salient, albeit at times may seem unusual, but as long as they get out and get some sun what they learn now is applicable to the dynamic transformation society is currently experiencing.

www.kijikmultimedia.com said...

kijikmultimedia's blog

kristianstill said...

Hi Drew. I was hoping that we might catch up at some point, after Tom Barrett pointed me in your direction. Having read a few of your posts, I think I live next door to the Nail House. Fancy poppin over for coffee? Tea? Water?

Kristian Still

Rob Wall said...

Your post hits on something that I've been thinking about lately - leading a slower life. If you haven't seen it yet, you might enjoy Carl Honore's TED talk Slowing Down in a World Built for Speed.

Melissa Techman said...

I like this post (and comments) and I have several thoughts. The first is that we shouldn't assume that just because our children are awash in images, they are awash in meaning. I am interested in the question: Why, if our current students have grown up immersed in images and information, must they now be taught to make pictures in their heads when they read? As a Teacher/Librarian I have to teach many young students HOW to make pictures (=use their imagination) when they read. I don't think this was true decades ago. At a conference this fall , someone said it is because the media/digital world which surrounds children contains many images which have no meaning attached to them. We "understand" images and words in a way we take for granted. So, whether it (media bombardment) is desirable or not, my take on it is that teachers should teach many ways of thinking and not assume that watching, viewing, clicking is for children what it is for us!