Digital Natives


My dad is a high school math teacher. And his mother was an English teacher. Education kind of runs in our family, and I've long known that I also want to teach eventually. I'm quite happy doing other things for now, to gain various experiences and such (because I think being well-rounded helps make you a better teacher), but I know that at some point, I want to be teaching.

As such, I put a good amount of thought into educational systems and class structures as I come across them. I love getting new class syllabi just to see what that professor's grading methodology is. Some I'm a big fan of, others I very much dislike, but I'm always thinking about it.

So I found this article by The Economist to be interesting. It talks about the "Millennial Generation" (roughly, those born between 1980 and 2000), also known as "digital natives", and how growing up with modern technology has changed our needs as students. It's an interesting read (not very long at all), and worth checking out, but if you want the sparknotes version, here it is:

Some people think that, because we are very comfortable using things like Facebook and Youtube, it's time to completely overhaul the education system to incorporate this new technology. After all, we aren't the same people our parents were. Others disagree, claiming that as a whole, we are no better or worse at utilizing technology than any other generation (just because I find use in blogging doesn't mean our entire generation does).

My opinion? I think it's a little of both.

I definitely do not think we need a massive overhaul of our education system to better accommodate this generation. (Side note: I actually DO believe we need to massively overhaul our education system, but for very different reasons. That's a topic for another time though). The idea mentioned in the article of professors moving their lectures to Facebook is kind of ridiculous to me. I consider myself a fairly tech-oriented person, and I have zero-interest in taking classes via Facebook.

At the same time, I think we're doing students a major disservice by completely ignoring these technologies; or more importantly, ignoring how they've impacted the ways we interact with each other to aggregate (and even generate) knowledge. This is along the same lines of what I was talking about in my post on a newer "Culture of Communication".

Think about how the current generation of students learned to acquire knowledge - looking it up online. Even very tech-averse people still use Google (or something to that effect) to look for information. For somebody of our generation, the answer to the question "What year was the Magna Carta signed?" is "Let's find out."

Quick aside - When you read that last part, did you know that the answer is 1215? Probably not. Did you think about looking it up, either right then, or maybe after you finish reading? More likely.

What I think needs to be modified because of this is how we are tested, not necessarily how we are taught. In particular, I think open-book, open-note, calculators-allowed (when relevant) tests should be the RULE, not the exception.

This quarter, I had 2 finals that were open everything, 1 that was open book only (no notes, no calculator - though a calculator wasn't really relevant), and one that was closed everything.

The three that were open (to varying degrees)? The professors told us that we needed to understand the material, how things worked, how to solve the problems, etc. The one closed test? The professor told us we had to memorize every term, every formula, every value.

How exactly is that helpful? A test like that doesn't test my ability, it tests my memory. And in this day and age, what I can memorize is worth far less than what I can do. A couple of my friends were taking a poetry class, and had to memorize the tiniest details about 60+ poems. WHY? In the "real world", they can look up the details of a specific poem. Memorizing them doesn't help anybody.

I feel like the opposition to open tests comes from the belief that somebody can just roll in and find all the answers, getting a grade that doesn't reflect their knowledge. But if you think about it (and craft your tests intelligently), this isn't the case.

Back to the poetry class. One of the sections (if I remember correctly) gave an excerpt from some poems, and asked for the author, title, and year. Obviously, in an open-book test, this is simple. Which leads them to "close" their tests, when really, they need to redesign them.

Give a poem, and have the person analyze it, using techniques discussed in class. They should be allowed to look up similar poems in their book, look at their notes on analysis, and use that to guide their analysis. THAT'S a realistic, and doable test.

And if the person never went to class, having the book won't help. Sure, they can look up a poem, but they aren't going to know what to do with it. Same with math - just because I can look up formulas and theorems doesn't mean I'm going to understand them cold. Studying is still important.

But that's what happens - it requires studying, practice, trial and error; not memorizing.

THAT is what we "digital natives" need to change in education, more than anything. We need the method of our evaluation to reflect a realistic scenario. Grades become a better signifier of capability, and WE are better able to assess our skills.

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Bon Jovi


I can't believe that, with all the opportunities I had to procrastinate from school these past few weeks, I failed to blog about the Bon Jovi concert from a few weeks back. Considering all the random inane shit I post, I can't believe I never got around to writing about the concert. Oh well, better late than never!

In short: It was epic.

First, some background as to how this all happened. Back at the end of Fall Quarter, a bunch of us were in Vegas (because we're awesome like that). And while we were walking around, Alex and I saw a video billboard advertising Bon Jovi at the MGM. Alex mentioned how he'd seen Bon Jovi once before, in his senior year of high school, and how it was epic. We talked about looking into it when we got home, and then proceeded to go crazy in Vegas for a few days (again, because we're awesome like that).

Fast-forward a couple of days - I'm sitting at home, bored, wishing I could do something awesome like Vegas again (side note: I love going home. And I needed the rest. But I was still on a Vegas high). Then I remembered Bon Jovi. A quick search on Ticketmaster gave two options:

1) Las Vegas on a Saturday
2) Los Angeles the Thursday before

Naturally, we set our sights on a huge weekend trip to Vegas, but that didn't pan out because tickets sold out. So we got Matt in on the awesome, bought 3 tickets to see them in the Staples Center, and proceeded to have 9 weeks of school.

Now, for the actual concert, with pictures & video (from other people, because we weren't that close):

We got to the Staples Center about half an hour early, found $5 parking only a couple blocks away (SCORE!), and made our way in. Seats were way up in the nosebleeds, but there was still a good view of the stage. Matt saw Jay Leno outside. Dashboard Confessional opened - very odd pairing of bands, but they weren't bad. Just wasn't what we were in the mood for.

At about 8:30, the real concert began. And it went for almost 3 hours. Three glorious hours. Say what you will about Bon Jovi, but these guys know how to rock. The entire audience was up and into it the whole time. And not obnoxious fangirl screaming like you see in regards to the Jonas Brothers or some shit. Actually up, enjoying the music and the atmosphere, singing along, etc.

They had these CRAZY video screens going the whole time. They were all wires, and moved around, combining in different ways. Sometimes they were one giant videoboard. Other times, they were 8 smaller ones. Or they'd just be flying all around doing crazy shit. It was really impressive. You can see the TVs (while separated) really well in this picture:

We had the pleasure of having a lady in the front of our row (wearing a shirt that just said "ROCKSTAR") who was INTENSE. She got up, pounding her fists in the air, high-fiving everybody around her, dancing, singing, leaning over the rail to high-five the people BELOW us, and all kinds of shit. Glorious entertainment.

Compared to her, I kind of felt like an imposter - I knew some of the big hit songs, but I wasn't (nor am I) some kind of Bon Jovi superfan. I enjoy that kind of music in general, and I'll be honest - I was really there to see him play 3 songs:

1) "You Give Love a Bad Name"
2) "Wanted Dead or Alive"
3) "Livin' on a Prayer"

They could've played those and walked out, and I probably would've been content. But instead, they played a ton of newer stuff (and some old stuff I didn't recognize), along with a few fan favorites - "You Give Love a Bad Name", "Bad Medicine", "It's My Life" - and even snuck in a nice surprise coming out to sing "Hallelujah". And then they ended with something from the new album ("Love's The Only Rule", if I remember right).

They all walked off stage, but we knew it couldn't be over. There were still 2 songs from that list they hadn't played! Plus, the lights were still off. I will never understand the people who actually left. Because after a few minutes of applause, we see their shadows come back out, and BAM!

Really didn't expect them to play "Runaway", and apparently it's not one they regularly play. He said afterwards that "some of the crew really wanted to hear that one". It's one of my favorites though, so I was pleasantly surprised. Then was another one from the new album ("Thorn In My Side", which I really liked), followed by the missing hits: "Wanted Dead or Alive", and then "Livin' on a Prayer" to finish it off:

For all the awesomeness of the concert though, what with learning some new songs that I really like ("Born To Be My Baby") and rocking out to some long-time favorites, the most powerful moment to me wasn't during a song. It was something Jon said near the end (before launching into "Wanted Dead or Alive"). I don't remember the exact wording, but it was something pretty close to:

"Don't think that there's ever a day that I take this for granted. I know it's not 1984 any more. It's 2010, and to still be filling places like this... We wouldn't be here, if you weren't out there. So thank you."

For somebody who's been "living the dream" for almost 20 years now, it's amazing how humble and aware he is. They gave us a show more than worth what we paid (best $60 I've ever spent), bringing an entire stadium of people to their feet, and you could tell they loved it every bit as much as we did.

In short: It. Was. Epic.

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