As digital gap closes, poor kids waste more time

The “digital divide” separating affluent and low-income children is closing, reports the New York Times. But access to technology hasn’t helped poor kids learn more. It’s made it easier for them to waste time.

. . . children in poorer families are spending considerably more time than children from more well-off families using their television and gadgets to watch shows and videos, play games and connect on social networking sites, studies show.

According to a 2010 Kaiser Family Foundation study, children of parents who don’t have a college degree spent 90 minutes more per day exposed to media than children from college-educated families. That’s up from a 16-minute gap in 1999.

The Federal Communications Commission is considering spending $200 million to create a digital literacy corps. Trainers “would fan out to schools and libraries to teach productive uses of computers for parents, students and job seekers,” reports the Times.

Let’s say Juan is killing zombies and texting his girlfriend when he could be researching the Industrial Revolution for a history paper. Is that because he doesn’t know that a computer can be used for research? I doubt it.

The Millennial Teenager

Today’s teens are “digital natives.”

The Millennial Teenager

Learning through blogs, social media and games

Brookings looks at How Blogs, Social Media, and Video Games Improve Education.

As Stanford University communications professor Howard Rheingold notes, “Up until now, ‘technology’ has been an authority delivering the lecture which [students] memorized. If there is discussion, it’s mostly about performing for the teacher. Is it possible to make that more of a peer-to-peer activity? Blogs and forums and wikis enable that. So a lot of this is not new, but it’s easier to do [and] the barriers to participation are lower now.”

Alan Daly, at the University of California at San Diego, . . . believes education “is moving away from large-scale prescriptive approaches to more individualized, tailored, differentiated approaches.”

The study looks at how schools are using new technologies to help students learn.

College students are becoming “free-range learners,” concludes a new study by Glenda Morgan, an e-learning specialist at the University of Illinois. Using informal networks, students told her they “shop around for digital texts and videos” that haven’t been assigned in class. They mentioned videos from elite universities such as Stanford and MIT; pre-meds favored the Mayo Clinic.

Plagiarists rely on social media

Plagiarism Report

Outsiders rule?

The Geeks Shall Inherit The Earth, proclaims Alexandra Robbins, who subtitles her new book: Popularity, Quirk Theory, and Why Outsiders Thrive After High School.

Robbins follows six high school students and a young teacher (a Vermont lesbian teaching in the South) through a year of school, chronicling gamers, band geeks, emos, punks, loners, jocks and the Popular Bitch, who likes a punk boy. Even the teachers are consumed by gossip, petty rivalries, bitchery and bias toward the “popular,” Robbins asserts.

A Chicago Sun-Times reviewer buys the premise that outsiders are creative, independent thinkers, not just kids who are slower to develop social skills.

At the heart of Geeks is quirk theory, which “hypothesizes that the very characteristics that exclude the cafeteria fringe in school are the same traits that will make them successful as adults and outside the school setting”: creativity/originality, freethinking/vision, resilience, authenticity/self-awareness, integrity/candor, curiosity/love of learning/passion, and courage.

Kids on the “cafeteria fringe” — the ones who can’t figure who to sit with at lunch — usually haven’t chosen to be friendless. (Robbins’ examples do have friends, though not necessarily the ones they want.)  In my experience, outsiders aren’t necessarily super smart, creative or bold non-conformists.  They may be just geeky kids who need a little more time to get it together.  Nor is it axiomatic that the socially adept will be as vapid and mean as the popular girls Robbins describes so vividly.

As an amateur anthropologist, my daughter spent middle school studying popularity. She concluded the essential ingredient is confidence.  In high school, she wasn’t “popular.,  but had plenty of friends in the good-student set. She had the confidence to act as a social sponsor for new kids.  Her specialty was getting a new kid accepted at a compatible lunch table, so they wouldn’t be “cafeteria fringe.” She did it because she is both socially adept and nice. And a bit of a busybody, perhaps.

Cliques aren’t new. What’s changed is the ability of teens to use social media to harass, bully and exclude outsiders — or insiders who stray from their clique’s rules of behavior.  I’d like to learn more about how this works and what might limit the cruelty.

75 minutes without Facebook: Is that so hard?

College students show up for class, then spend 75 minutes checking Facebook photos, sending Tweets to friends and ignoring the professor.  She thinks it’s rude. They disagree.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Is it the professor’s job to teach manners?

Admissions staff check Facebook profiles

In the college application, you’re a teen-age saint who tutors the underprivileged and picks up trash in the park. Online, you’re a party guy or gal flashing gang signs and strewing beer cans.

College admissions officers are looking at applicants’ Facebook profiles, according to Kaplan’s 2010 College Admissions Survey. (Here’s an infographic.) They also check Twitter and YouTube. Sixty-two percent said social-media profiles usually help applicants get accepted; 38 percent said  online profiles hurt students’ chances.

Doctors warn of ‘Facebook depression’

Depression-prone teens can feel even worse when they see that classmates have lots of “friends,” activities and “photos of happy-looking people having great times,” pediatricians warn.

“It’s like a big popularity contest — who can get the most friend requests or get the most pictures tagged,” said Abby Abolt, 16, a Chicago high school sophomore and frequent Facebook user.

Gates funds social media to link students

In hopes that social media can create a virtual college community, the Gates Foundation is investing in Inigral‘s Schools App. Students who build a network of  college friends and classmates are less likely to drop out, in theory.

Also on Community College Spotlight:  Achievement dreams meet reality.

Out of the network

Teaching the transcendentalists and inspired by an essay called “The End of Solitude,” Lightly Seasoned asked AP juniors  to give up social media and TV for one day last weekend.

The journals were fascinating: some kids did it fairly easily and were happily surprised by how productive they were. One kid ended up playing Scrabble with his family instead of going to a concert (because he missed the call): he acted all miffed at me, but he enjoyed the day. Some made no real attempt because they didn’t see any point in defining themselves separately from their social circle … no, they actually said that! This group mostly consisted of the kiddos I know are heavy into the party circuit. I admire how outgoing they are — they’ll know how to network, etc. when they hit the business world, but I wonder how much they know about themselves.

A final group “didn’t want to spend time with their thoughts — they were all about avoiding some painful situations.”