The E-Generation Series part 1

Posted by on Jul 31, 2013 in News | No Comments

Managing student programmers, dangers of internet addiction, and practical ideas for overcoming the downside on your campus.

Technology is a way of organizing the universe so that man doesn’t have to experience it.  – Max Frisch

The last few years, I presented an ed session called “Are We Too Busy ‘LOL’ing to Really Laugh Out Loud”.  I was overwhelmed by the response from students concerned about the impact of overdependence on technology among a large percentage of students on their campus.  I was also delighted by the enthusiasm of those students when they realized they could do something about it through their role as programmers.  One outgrowth of immersing myself in this subject was that it spawned many conversations with Student Activities Professionals about the challenges and frustrations of how to best manage students in this new technology age.

Maybe Bob Dylan was indeed a prophet…After all, it now appears that he knew and chose to warn us about the micro chip…. “The Times, They Are A Changing”.  One thing is for certain, the college campus of today faces a confusing challenge as we deal with the obvious advantages of the avalanche of new technology versus the time honored truth of interpersonal contact that has had such an impact on our earlier experiences.  While we continue to preach and teach the concept of building a unique and solid community on each of our campuses, we have to admit that the bottom line today is that we don’t interact with each other like we use to.

The face of today’s campus….Each of us has our own examples; and many of us may even recognize ourselves:

  • Our sidewalks are full of students that no longer have a conversation on the way to class.  Instead, we see Ipods with noise-cancelling headphones, heads down as thumbs move furiously in meaningless shorthand, or students walking side by side but each on their own cell or other electronics.
  • Walking down a residence hall corridor on move-in day….  Four brand new students have just arrived all living next to one another.  Doors are open, which use to mean “Come on in and get to know me!”  Now, they are standing in the open door just to get 4 bars on their cell phone reception.
  • Sunday night student programming meetings were a flurry of conversations and a collision of creative ideas.  Now, they seem a bit quieter as more and more students listen (maybe) with one ear as they text message with their eyes and hands.
  • The advent of Facebook was the end-all solution for efficiently getting the word out about the Friday night social event… Right?  No longer would student programmers really need to hand letter dozens of signs, wear their “Ask Me About Tonight’s Event” t-shirts and personally invite students they knew or encountered.  Now everyone has the same invitation and the campus was carpet bombed with information electronically.  Yet, many are learning to hate Facebook spam and are missing the personal invitation that could only come from a social rep taking a chance and knocking on a stranger’s door.  Everyone today is invited, but many no longer feel personally welcome.
  • Two students are chatting with each other for hours.  Isn’t that great?  (Did I mention that they are both in the Cyber Cafe sitting not more than 25 feet from each other?)
  • As professionals, we work hard encouraging our student leaders to learn the art of event planning with all of the details that must be mastered to ensure that a campus-wide event goes off successfully.  We want them to take the initiative and do the leg work as they become more and more confident with their leadership position.  Yet, more and more we see our students reporting back with the “Killer Web Site” that they found on the internet.  Forgetting the previous relationship between the college and the hand full of tried and true agencies that have counseled, educated and worked hard to ensure that we had the best programs possible and artists that are well prepared for college tour challenges, they have now been pushed aside for a flashy site we know nothing about.
  • As professionals we can easily be identified by our students as very hip to the electronic generation or a dinosaur that still roams the college campus asking what the big deal is about YouTube.  We may not have thought of it, but much of our credibility with many of our students may be based upon how we communicate with them in their preferred style.
  • You are attending a live showcase or show of one of the most powerful up and coming singer/songwriters today and the audience is clearly moved and the person next to you is texting.
  • You know students who have spoken to more strangers on Facebook or MySpace this week than they’ve had real live conversations.
  • You’ve actually used “dot dot dot”, “LOL” or “BTW” in a live conversation. OMG!

How many did you identify with…this is reality for most campuses nowadays.  It’s a formidable challenge to educate ourselves to the innovations of today, while still valuing teaching and modeling the positive benefits of personal human interaction.  Never forget that when we make the effort to spend time together, we nearly always break down the barriers that separate us.

As professionals we must come full circle and never forget that we must always change and learn, yet never forget the genius of spending face-to-face time with our students.  We must carefully and skillfully pick and choose what is the best of both worlds and teach and model those benefits.

Old School Bob Dylan reminds us…   “U’d btr start swimmin’ or u’ll sink like a stone… 4 the x’s tha r a changin”.

Next week….the impact of overdependence on the e-generation: employability, real relationships, health…Then managing student volunteers in the tech age, ideas for programmers to positively impact the downside of tech overdependence.