Generation “Like” in the Classroom


The Beatles


One Direction

With each decade, teen culture thrives on commercial competition. Wearing the right brands, eating the right food, and listening to the right music. This part of teen identity traces its roots all the way back to Elvis Presley and the clever advertising that brought The Beatles to the states for the first time. Teens used to compete locally, perhaps with the several hundred others that inhabited their schools, but now, with the advent of social media, teens are reaching out to compete globally peers.

Social media like Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr have found a way to monetize teens’ social currency in the form of likes, subscribes, followers and friends. As classroom teachers, understanding how children are using these tools to expressive themselves is important if we understand their profiles on a national and global scale.

Luckily, social profiles don’t exist with 1st graders, but the roots are perhaps taking hold as young children are growing up with Ipads. The games they are playing, the YouTube videos they are watching to sing the ABC’s and count, all have adds. Unless you install  Addblocker (which you should do right now!!), your child might be overstimulated with countless adds each day. This is an easy solution to the bombardment of advertising that exists on the web, but what about the vanity?!

Generation “like” refers to perhaps the surge of 12 to 20 something year-olds who are living their desired social lives online. I say desired because of the carefully constructed and calculated extent that each teen spends on Facebook and Instagram content. Consider the group of 5 NJ high school students crowded around a laptop-filled kitchen table creating a new profile for their friend Darius. The friends analyzed each potential profile picture meticulously to determine its potential impact and expected likes. “Girls get more likes,” one said, “but the more you get the better the picture is.”  The vanity and naivety  is slightly obnoxious, and this is where teachers can come in.

Teachers who wish to educate students could start here. Informing teens about the true nature and purpose of social media. All of the teens in PBS’ documentary admitted to feeling empowered, and validated in their quest for social currency. However, what they don’t realize is that their likes, shares, and every click are generating revenue for massive companies.

The data is breathtaking, and when Oliver Lucket, CEO of The Audience reveals the Facebook data for one his most successful clients, my jaw dropped. Oliver has the sponsors, and potential customers right in his pocket, ready to sell to the corresponding advertisers. This is the “invisible” yet obvious purpose behind it all, to get teens more loyal to brands.

Let’s get back to the classroom…I digress.

The good news is kids and teens are becoming masters at this technology. They thrive on self promotion, and perhaps this is enough to inspire kids to make a math tutorial video for class, or film a movie for a literature class to show in front of their peers. I’ve seen kids create social media pages for authors, or civil rights leaders for social studies, or twitter accounts for global warming causes. Social media is here to stay, and as teachers who embrace technology, we must also embrace the digital world that comes with it. Our first step must be in educating children to the true nature of social media, our second step is modifying our lessons (not standards) to inspire kids to combine their digital profiles with classroom content.


Will Richardson’s Blog

A 22 year public school veteran and daughter of two, Will Richardson offers daily parenting and learning anecdotes that appear digestible and thought provoking. After reading a handful of his daily entries and watching his Ted Talk on the future of student learning, I am sold that Will Richardson is the real deal.

As a father, he often ropes in his daughters learning outside the school to indicate the shift in how students are seeking information to learn. Whether its watching piano tutorials on Youtube, or taking inner city boxing lessons, Will’s observation and analysis on his children appear to reflect the methods and norms of most digital learners today.

Will is quick to criticize test prep and state standards that seem to mar natural student learning. I use natural learning to describe the ways students are accessing information outside of the classroom. Students seeking learning in photography, art, music, and even math tutoring are turning to the internet for its blogs, forums, and online videos for help. A lot of this online learning is creating self-made experts in the field. Professional photographers and cinematographers who never learned their craft in a school, for example.

I am pushing the subscribe button on Will’s blog, I enjoy his tone, his intellect and his ability to tell stories.


Quest to Learn

Quest to Learn, a New York City District 2 Choice school, uses digital games to accelerate learning. This fascinating concept for a school, revolves around the idea that a game, is essentially a set of problems that need to be solved. If students are solving games, and creating them, aren’t they also showing mastery of literacy and standards? I agree completely with this concept, and more, the evolution of video games in the past decade reflect a level of complexity and social interaction never seen before. Video games are now are not just challenging individuals, but groups of people with more complex problems then ever before.

The biggest fear of course, for the older generations, and even for mine, is that kids spend too much time with games and screens. Video games today have a reputation for being a waste of time, overly violent and sexual, or a drain on a could-be-productive member of society. Possibly the most fascinating of the interviewed is Henry Jenkins, a Media Scholar at the University of Southern California. In his walking interview, he questions what our society labels as addictive and productive. He says students spending hours on sports, or art, or reading are hard working, while children who solve complex problems in video games, hours per day per week  are labeled as children with addictions. Perhaps we are not seeing the merit, or complex, social teamwork skills that are needed to achieve success in video games. Jenkins uses the infamous World of Warcraft as a reference, but I actually believe he knows what he is talking about. The game is by no means simple, and would honestly be too strenuous and complex for most of its critics.

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Players in World of Warcraft experience complex, group dynamic, number crunching, precise team play that merits game success or failure. This complexity has never been seen before in games.

Quest 2 Learn poses a fascinating model of what student centered digital learning could look like. However, its a meticulously organized school, with selective admissions in a city that often requires children to compete just for middle and high school experiences. My thought is it’s a fascinating and successful school, but how can these strategies be mass produced, and funded, so that children in the rest of the city, and nation experience the same tinkering?