Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds

A national survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that with technology allowing nearly 24-hour media access as children and teens go about their daily lives, the amount of time young people spend with entertainment media has risen dramatically, especially among minority youth. Today, 8-18 year-olds devote an average of 7 hours and 38 minutes (7:38) to using entertainment media across a typical day (more than 53 hours a week). And because they spend so much of that time ‘media multitasking’ (using more than one medium at a time), they actually manage to pack a total of 10 hours and 45 minutes (10:45) worth of media content into those 7½ hours.

The report was released on Wednesday, January 20, 2010, at a forum in Washington, D.C., that featured the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, media executives, and child development experts.

Two things from this graphic jump out at me.

1) Whilst the time students spend recieving TV content has increased, the channels through which this content is recieved has changed dramatically. Students now spend a large proportion of their ‘TV’ time watching media through Youtube, Hulu, and a host of other video sharing sites (legal or otherwise – students are also accessing media through P2P sites such as This makes sense to me as I have noticed that I am increasingly spending less time watching TV and spending much more time personalizing my ‘TV content’ experience by using social media to watch what I want, when I want it. Children of the 21st century expect this type of capability in all facets of their life – and yet are still tortured by a one-size-fits-all curriculum model that is delivered in most schools.

2) In the last 10 years the amount of time students spend playing video games has increased significantly. You only have to look at Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 sales figures in 2009 for the first five days of sale – approx $550 million. Compare this to the five-day opening worldwide box office gross figures of Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince ($394 million) and The Dark Knight (($203.8 million). The inherent complexity built into games in the 21st century require strong problem solving skills and in fact encourage collaboration through participation in MMO’s and virtual worlds. K12 education needs to start taking gaming seriously. No longer can the system view games as having no educational value.

This report is a good read, isn’t too lengthy and is littered with statistics and infographics. Recommended.

Disrupting Class

Just finished reading Disrupting Class: How Disruptive Innovation Will Change the Way the… by Clayton M. Christensen. It is an interesting read about school and educational reform that clearly highlights the problems that we now face. The message in a nut-shell is that we need to move to a more customized, personalized education system that may look nothing like the 19th and 20th century industrial model that we currently possess. Christensen argues that the heart of the problem lies in standardization – the polar opposite of personalization. (As I was finishing this book it was interesting to see current media coverage about the possible NAPLAN boycott in 2010.)

A more personalized educational system will require a fundamental, architectural shift that will involve combining subjects, reordering who does what and even having flexible school hours.

He states, “If we acknowledge that all children learn differently, then the way schooling is currently arranged – in a monolithic batch mode system where all students are taught the same things on the same day in the same way – won’t ever allow us to educate children in customised ways. We need a modular system.”

I agree. Open content or modular learning will free the teacher from being a major developer of resources (reinventing the wheel – teacher centred) to devoting more time to being a supporter of the learning. (learner-centred) This is the type of learning that we need more of. Gone are the days where the teacher can stand up the front and lecture to students who are content to be passive recipients of information. Technology will be the great enabler and while access to technology is increasing in schools, “…schools use computers as a tool and a topic, not as a primary instructional mechanism that helps students learn in ways that are customized to their type of intelligence.” We need to make the shift but it will require disruptive innovation.

Christensen shares – “At every crossway on the road that leads to the future each progressive spirit is opposed by a thousand men appointed to guard the past.”

I’m often asked how the the inspiration I find through my reading plays out in my day to day work with kids. What has changed? What do you do?

Its interesting to reflect on the transformations within my own classes….

I now very rarely lecture to students and only spend a very small percentage of classtime at the front of the room. I take time to listen to all students and actively encourage discussion and exploration around current and real-world events and developments. Students are inquisitive by nature and yet all to often in education teachers squash this because they say they don’t have time, use the crowded curriculum as an excuse, or sometimes because the teachers themselves don’t know the answer to the question that is posed. The most powerful thing a teacher can do is to become a learner. Be part of the process. Encourage the deep questions and don’t be afraid to say you don’t know all the answers. But follow this up with “That’s a great question which I don’t really have an answer to. Lets hypothesize and then find an answer together.”

If you came into my class you would find students all around the room – they may be up at the whiteboard trying to work out a problem or even showing one of their peers how to solve a particular question. You would find students working in small study groups, using appropriate technologies depending on the circumstance and genuinely engaged because they are learning. There is a lot of inquiry-driven learning that is taking place and sometimes it goes off on a tangent that may be outside the scope of the curriculum. That is a good thing. It is personalized in the sense that students are at different stages in their learning.

To teach this way you have to have a feeling of what it is that interests, challenges and engages students. Talk to them. Find out their likes and dislikes. Take risks and challenge the old assumptions. If I had to offer words of advice in a world of increasingly ubiquitous access to technology it would be “See the opportunities rather than the obstacles.”