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The Digital Natives Are Restless July 22, 2009

Posted by alwaysjan in Food for Thought.
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8 comments

American Gothic

When I arrived at my friend Cathy’s house in Kansas City, the first order of business was to log onto their wifi account. Cathy had a password written down, but it wasn’t working, so she called her 23-year-old son.  Matt rattled it off over the phone. Twenty plus letters and numbers. “This isn’t a password – it’s the nuclear launch code,” Cathy mused. Once I was back on-line, my DT’s (Digital Tremors) subsided. Whew.

That got me thinking about how everything has changed due to technology. On the flight back to the Midwest, the plane couldn’t take off.  “There are still electronic devices on in rows 15, 32, and 34,”  the flight attendant announced. So we waited. Another announcement. Finally, we taxied.

I give my parents, who are in their 80s, a pass on technology. My dad bought a computer years ago and has so many security programs installed to prevent identity theft that every time you press a key a security alert pops up about possible suspicious activity. Talk about killing the creative muse.

Both my parents have cell phones, but I don’t bother to call them because they’re usually turned off. And my parents never figured out how to retrieve messages. I have to admit that it wasn’t until we ditched our landline, that I was forced to figure out all of those features on my cell phone. And I’m still reading up on how to shoot an independent film using it.

While I was visiting my parents, my brother was there along with his daughter, Allison, and her boyfriend, Jeff, both who just graduated from college. For them technology is second nature. Missed the last episode of True Blood? Jeff downloaded if for me and emailed it to my dropbox so I could watch it on my computer.

Jeff carried his iPhone with him and set it on the table during meals. Sitting at Runza Hut, we got talking about whether the exquisite and highly addictive Runza (a doughy mound filled with ground beef and cabbage) was of Polish or German origin. Jeff googled it. Turned out it’s German/Russian. So there! Meanwhile, my phone kept dinging. “I keep hearing something,” my mother said looking around. It was yet another incoming text message on my phone. Sometimes technology can be too much of a good thing.

Because my parents Wifi connection was spotty, I was worried I’d have to cruise the neighborhood hoping to piggyback on someone else’s wireless. Jeff informed me this is called War Driving. I googled the Urban Dictionary just to make sure. Who would have known?

My parents were most impressed with how you can go to Google Maps and see a 360-degree street view of your home. And all of this on an iPhone!  When my mother asked how we could look inside the houses, I bit my tongue.  Then my dad asked how much an IHOP costs. There’s a learning curve here and at this late stage in their lives, it’s a steep a hill to climb. No, make that a mountain.

Last summer, I read an interesting article called Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants by Marc Prensky that explains how those who’ve grown up with technology, the digital natives, actually think and process information differently than the rest of us. Whether you teach kids, have one, or were ever one yourself, it’s a fascinating read.

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