Challenging Assumptions About Teens, Tech and Teaching

by Parent Co. February 27, 2015

I can’t stop thinking about the article “School Is About More Than Training Kids to Be Adults” by Micheal Godsy in the Atlantic. Godsy is a high school English teacher and baseball coach. The article is mainly about why focusing on career and college readiness isn't always effective with today's adolescents. But it also touches on four interconnected topics that our team at Parent Co. talks about often. Godsy’s article adds new context to these discussions. Adults still make wrong assumptions about how and why teens use technology and social media. Godsy shares an anecdote about how teachers at his school started using Twitter to connect with students, only to discover that very few teenagers actually even use Twitter. Teens increasingly prefer Instagram and apps based on ephemeral messaging like Snapchat. Snapchat is currently used by just 4 percent of middle-aged adults. I personally don’t think most people over 35 will ever understand or adopt Snapchat in its current form. And if they do, Godsy suggests that teens will flee to whatever network is next. Also, kids aren’t as interested in using tablets and smartphones in the classroom as most adults (and policymakers) assume. Godsy writes: “One of the teens explained to me, ‘We like using our phones and laptops for games and talking to each other, but we don’t really want use them for school.’” Adults don’t model aspirational lives Godsy writes “It seems to me that many high school students don’t even like, much less admire, the adult world.” Teens have access to many of the benefits of being grown up without the accompanying responsibilities. "What about adulthood do I think should inherently appeal to teenagers? My students probably go on better vacations than I do, they eat food that’s just as yummy, and they certainly sleep longer. Adults, meanwhile, are washing clothes, cooking good meals, and driving their kids to practice." If adults seem miserable, it's no wonder many teens aren't motivated to "leave the kids table." Then again, maybe teens should get less and earn more Godsy says that many kids just want to be kids while they can. However, policymakers either aren't aware of this reality or can't accept it. Godsy suggests that while adulthood should be more appealing, adolescence should also be a little less luxurious. “Maybe communities across the U.S.—from the small towns to the national stage—can give teens a little less and make them earn a little more.” I can't imagine this will be very popular in the US, but it makes sense to me. The “Serial” podcast as an educational model Finally, this is the fourth article I've read this week that mentioned how teens love the podcast Serial. In fact, Godsy had his class study Serial in place of Shakespeare. This made me wonder: what if there was an educational model based a format similar to Serial? Instead of laying out educational material in a book, ebook, app or video, what if it was presented from multiple points of view in investigative form over several connected episodes?


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