About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Time, technology, and the younger set

This post is actually going to be a series of questions that have arrived this week as I spent time with my kids and niece, leaving me with snippets of time to read some blogs (but that was about it).

Facebook and our youth

I am living in the land of You-don't-understand-I-can-do-it-because-I-know-best: in other words, a house full of teens! Imagine my shock when I found out that unbeknownst to me, my son has had a facebook for 2 months. Part of the shock was not that he wanted one, but that he didn't tell me. Of course, he got his own shock when he discovered that I had a facebook account myself. And my reaction was not to forbid him from facebook, but to friend me so I have access to his wall. There are two reasons for this: 1) I see what he is up to, and 2) his friends see that I am there--sort of like having a chaperon on the school trip. They'll still try to sneak things, but at least they know they have to be a bit more careful when they do so, because they might get caught. My son is not happy that I visit his wall and read what is on it. But I am still his parent, and he is not old enough yet to handle problems on his own when they come up. This does not mean I will handle the problems for him, but rather, I will be there to walk him through as he makes mistakes (which I am sure he will do) and not allow him to panic. Mistakes are made when we panic (Tom Haskins has some interesting insights into that) and teenagers especially tend to do stupid things when they panic.

I did notice however, that facebook provides a valuable service for teenagers. Research has shown that this is the age in which people develop socially and the social world is very important to the teenager's development. As many of my son's friends live about an hour away, he is able to maintain ties that would be difficult otherwise. He feels a part of a group. While it would make my life simpler if he was not a typical teenager, and liked to just sit at home, not succumbing to peer pressure, and growing up to be the perfect adult, I also know this would be a bit creepy. So, as any parent knows, I live in a constant state of anxiety (thankfully, I have one more year before he can drive). However, I know he is a normal kid and find that facebook helps him to feel less isolated. We did come to an agreement, though, that he is allowed only one hour a day on facebook.

Interesting Language use

Another aspect to being with teenagers for the week is the need to watch your language. The slightest thing leads to a snicker (whatever you do, don't try to discuss Lacrosse with a group of boys that don't play the game--the terms send them into gales of laughter and sexual innuendo). This lead me to something I want to work on more this year in my communication classes: the differences in register when communicating with different groups. I find many students (especially undergraduates) have difficult in changing registers. My idea is to maybe have them give a speech, then have them change the speech for a different audience (i.e. a group of your grandmother's friends, government officials, police officers, a Mother's group, a sports fan group, etc...). I'm open to any suggestions.

While I'm on the topic of language, I normally don't notice differences in the different terms used between American and British language. However, Karen Romais had the following in her blog on a very serious subject:

There is a pedestrian crossing (with traffic lights) across one section of the road, and an elevated pedestrian bridge across another, so that the boys can cross in safety. Nevertheless, many of the boys choose to ignore both these provisions and cross the road in between the heavy traffic. Many is the time I have had to slam on anchors to avoid a tragedy. The boys themselves make no effort to look before crossing - they simply step out. They make no acknowledgement of those who have had to stop for them. They seldom bother even to look in the direction of the motorist. On one occasion, when it had been a little too close for comfort, I hit my hooter. The child in question laughed at me.
Okay, I admit, I chuckled when I saw the last part about "I hit my hooter" (which I assume means car horn). I thought, yes, you have been spending too much time with the teens! But then I began to wonder how others perceived my own use of the English language. What terms might I have used that would take a second for my readers to say "oh, I think she means..."

The Time Crunch

I marvel at how people are able to maintain their blogs on a regular basis. I wonder, for example if Vicky Davis and Karyn Romeis ever sleep!

For me, the most difficult thing about summer and full-time with my children is that I don't have time to think during the day. As a result, I find I think at night when I should be sleeping. I wonder if we were given more time during the day to think, if we would be more productive at our jobs. I don't need quiet to think, but rather time when I don't have to pay attention. My kids are pretty good about "letting me get my work done". But they will still start talking in the middle of my "thinking" and even if I tell them to wait, I become guilty because I should be interacting with them. I wonder if we do the same in the workplace, interrupting work. This is especially true for those that work in open spaces or cubicles. Should we have a thinking space in offices, where those in the thinking space are not to be disturbed? I wonder sometimes if that would increase productivity. Likewise, I think there should be a "social space" in the workplace which could be a physical or a virtual space. This is were many new ideas are generated and problem solving can take place. Something to think about.


Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

Horror of horrors! I do believe I got your name wrong! I had been reading Karyn Romeis' posts and also yours which referred to Karyn's post.

One thousand apologies for getting the handle wrong!

Ka kite
from Muddled earth

LauraAnn said...

V - I just stumbled across your blog and thoroughly enjoyed this post.

Isn't it interesting how technology establishes a new definition of old? I am in my early 40's and young for my age, but in the technological world I qualify for social security!

As a high-school English teacher feeling the pressure to stay connected with "the younger set," I have spent my summer engaged in a web2.0study. What an experience!

I won't bore you with the details - my blog bears the evidence if you are interested - but I do feel informed enough to respond to your latest post.

1. On time. I knew my students stayed up till all hours of the night, "fooling around" (my words, not theirs) on the computer. I didn't realize how focused and thoughtful that time could be. Yet, here I am at 5:30 in the morning, here during the last weeks of summer, time when I should be relishing the precious gift of sleep, responding to your thought-provoking post!

2. Regarding facebook - Rarely can I say that I am glad we don't have children, but the whole specter of facebook encourages me to think along those lines. I love your hour-a-day rule. Is there a way to enforce it?

3. Register of language: I teach AP Language and Composition, and register is something that escapes my students' comprehension. They tend to fall back on two inadequate descriptors: casual/colloquial or formal. I love your idea of tailoring a speech to different groups. This might seem painfully predictable (sorry if it is so), but you might even consider using one of the issues facing the presidential candidates as an example.

If candidate X were speaking about healthcare reform (not much of an issue in this election, is it?) and he were speaking to a group of grandmothers, how might he choose his stance, his diction, etc. But if he were speaking to a group from the AMA, how would the same speech differ in stance, diction, etc? And if he were speaking to a group of union representatives? Each speech, though conveying the same information, would have to communicate in a different way.

Another interesting idea that just popped in my head is that students rarely recognize that there are vocabularies specific to certain groups, whether social, cultural, and/or professional. For example, in my web2.0 studies this summer, I discovered a whole vocabulary that I didn't know before. Meta-this and beta-that... Just teaching kids to be aware of that is so important.

Well, thanks for letting me stop in and chat. I'm impressed with your blog and will check in regularly!

V Yonkers said...

Ken, I also have to appologize for I deleted your message thinking it was for Karyn! sorry.

Lauraann, I like your idea for the different audiences. I usually do something like that, but I think I might see if I can find different speechs by the same candidates on the same topic and have them pick out the different "terms" they use for the same topic. That would give them a good example of register.

I usually have them do a worksheet that is to identify the audiences that they are going to speak to. They give 4 speeches, and by the last speech, they usually can fill out the worksheet (which I feel is a great accomplishment, as they are beginning to think of the listener rather than what they are going to say).

In terms of the enforcement of the facebook rule, I can enforce it at home because our computer is in the middle of the house for all to see (that is how my son got caught). The problem is at school and camp where he had access to a computer. However, even there, there are limits to when they have access. I am sure right after school before sports begin (my son has about 45 minutes during which time they encourage the boys-it's a boy's school--to do their homework or seek out their teachers for help) when I can't control his behavior. But then...that's part of growing up.

I applaud your work in learning about Web 2.0 and I think you will have a better understanding of your students by understanding the tools they are using. I think you will also find they connect to what you are saying if you can put it in their terms. My students were surprised I had a facebook account, but they also had a new understanding for us "older folk" in the use of such tools. I told them I refused to use facebook as a primary source of communication because I did not want my family exposed to the images I might accidently find because of the community (the university) I belonged to.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Ha, ha, ha Virginia!

It serves me right for getting your name wrong! Not only that, but I've completely forgotten what I said in my original comment. Ha, ha!

Facebook is my choice. My daughter Hannah has a Bebo account. That's her choice. We share ideas and even swap photos, many of which we share.

I recently attended the NetSafe Conference 2008. There were many discussions on the need for careful parental supervision when kids access the Internet especially as young teenagers can fall prey to all sorts of vagaries, the chief of which was illegal file sharing. Apparently it is prevalent to the extent that ISPs are considering intervening as they can track this sort of thing.

So good on you for parenting the way you do! Teenagers, apparently, often don't have the development to realise the consequences of all that they do - feel that it's okay if no-one knows what they're doing and they believe that they are invincible in these circumstances. All part of their development I suppose, but there seems to be no easy solution to safety other than what you are doing.

Ka kite
from Middle-earth

V Yonkers said...

I just assumed, Ken, that you had done what I have done in the past. Sometimes I'll have two windows open and I'll switch the blogs. Ironically, I had meant to read the comment and accidentally clicked on the delete (I was using a different computer than I normally do).

In terms of your comment, I am very interested in the NetSafe Conference. Did you blog about it? I think this is also a cultural thing in terms of the security threats. In the US, because of some high profile incidences, there is a concern for on line predators and cyber bullying. I am concerned the most about the cyber bullying and peer pressure exerted by the community on social networks.

One of my student groups did a presentation on the perception of secondary school students towards what university life is. They felt that the majority of university students go out drinking 4-5 times a week and that school is much easier than in secondary school. They then bring this attitude to the university. Our university (which was voted the top party school a few years back) has been trying to battle this image as it results in a high drop out rate for first year students.

So where do they get this image? Certainly from TV. But more than that, you need only look at facebook with images of drinking and partying.

Blogger In Middle-earth said...

Kia ora Virginia!

Yes I have a post on NetSafe 2008, but it is just a brief on where I was at on the evening of Day2. I'm currently writing a report and will post another soon.

Beer and other alcohol are part of the culture in New Zealand, and you're right about Facebook (an older person's Web 2.0 app it seems, from what I learnt at the Conference). I have not seen much of what you describe on my daughter's screen when she accesses Bebo, but I am not denying that it goes on. It does!

TV is an influence it is true, but I think the home is too. Have a look at my post on the youth of today.