Friday, January 6, 2012

Are you a...Millennial?

...Better yet... am I?

Happy New Year internet. Here it is the end of the first week of the new year and it feels like Spring. Honest. Today it felt like Winter had completely passed over us in favor of an early vacation. The temperature cracked the 50 degree mark and although it did take a while to melt most of our recent snow, the sun did its best to make you think it was warmer. I wish it were true and Winter had indeed forgotten to rest its grey, heavy ass upon our shoulders until March, but I know better.

Although the day was pristine, I did have to spend part of that time inside...grading papers. I am just finishing teaching two online courses of Art History 101 in what is a very brief and intensive "Winter Term". Its an interesting thing teaching a fully online course. Its actual my 4th year doing the Winter Term and I have used components of online learning as part of my regular "face to face" classes. I started involving the online component to my 101 classes out of convenience. I made all the quizzes and exams available online and the students could take the test at anytime on a given day. This also was helpful in freeing up extra time...instead of wasting time sitting in class taking the test that time could be used doing something the test online automatically grades it's self and adds the grade to my class list...more time saved by not grading papers! Besides those, there are a number of other reasons for the online thing but I'm not interested in really making a case for it right here. I'm interested in talking about the person, the student who readily signs up for these courses...who does not hesitate, even if they have never taken an online course before.

I recently learned the term "Millennial". I think I'm a little slow on the uptake with this. Anyway, the term Millennial refers to a generation of people..."There are about 80 million of them, born between 1980 and 1995,"... "They multitask, talk, walk, listen and type, and text. And their priorities are simple: they come first."...They were raised by doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief you can, take your job and shove it."..."Characteristics of the generation vary by region, depending on social and economic conditions. However, it is generally marked by an increased use and familiarity with communications, media, and digital technologies."

Now, with this clearly defined, I understand why its often difficult to fully engage the college students. It is downright difficult to shock them as often takes a story about Vito Acconci masturbating in his performance piece "Seedbed" to shake them from their devices...and even then its a brief glance up from a deep, back and forth text conversation. But, honestly I cannot sit here and point fingers. Better yet, I'm asking myself...have I become a Millennial? Am I one through cultural assimilation? Can I be one even though I'm a Generation Xer with a healthy DIY mentality? ...Dear God what have I become!!!

Ehhh, maybe not. I mean, I have Facebook, but who doesn't. I do involve a good deal of technology in my daily life. I do not use a "smart phone" nor do I desire to use one...I do not want to be attached to my online world every waking second. However, I do write on this blog...have done it for a while now. The blog is pretty much a one sided conversation...its me shouting about me out in the cold, virtual, blackness of the internet. In many ways, I think writing a blog post is like putting out a new status on your Facebook page...just with pictures and a good deal more content.

And as Facebook changes its format once again in an attempt to stay fresh, my boredom grows and I smell the rotting corpse of MySpace still out there...somewhere in the online elephant graveyard...and I feel the need to get my hands dirty with clay. So maybe I'm not a "Millennial"...maybe I am just adapting to survive and exhibiting passive "Millennial" traits. I also wonder how those traits effect the work I make...more about this later.

Please take a few minutes away from your smart phones to watch the Pharaoh, a.k.a. Hen - Rock,a.k.a, Mr. Hennesy Youngman give a very funny and informative talk at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on the subject "To Catch a Millennial".

Please silence all devices...and BTW(Millennial speak), if your wondering what that home cooked goodness is at the top of this screen might be...its my New Year's Day meal...A mixture of some down home southern good luck traditions...Hoppin' John Stew over Smoked Gouda Cheese Grits, drop biscuits and collard greens. you can go tweet about it...


jim said...

hi kyle, i don't know where to start except to say that all these "millenial" things that annoy the hell out of me are simply the unexpected evidence of how i can tell i'm aging. i'm sure the younger wired people would agree except they would be less nice about it and just call me an old man. that being said, studies have proven that multitasking is a myth and really the "multitasker" is just doing more that one thing poorly instead of one thing well. also, if you consider that our memories, in a real way, are absolutely who we are as humans, then outsourcing our memories to digital devices is definitely not a positive move forward evolutionarily. the book "nurture shock" is an expose of the "doting parents who told them they are special, played in little leagues with no winners or losers, or all winners. They are laden with trophies just for participating and they think your business-as-usual ethic is for the birds. And if you persist in the belief you can, take your job and shove it." syndrome. i'm with you kyle and i will end with my new favorite quote... "a hundred years from now,... all new people".

barbaradonovan said...

So I'm definitely not a millenial and could never be mistaken for one, but not a luddite either. I enjoy a handy tech device here and there. I have to agree with Jim to a certain extent with the multitasking myth being aware of those studies or maybe I'm just envious since multitasking is admittedly NOT my gift. Still I wonder if younger people raised with the technology really are better able to do so successfully because of changing brains or maybe their racing attention spans will churn out generations of jack of all trades, masters of none. Dunno.

Curious about the on-line quizzes and testing. What's to stop students from getting together and taking tests together? Or maybe doesn't it matter since they'd only be short changing themselves with this approach.

Love Hen. Even after all these years in the south - grits, not so much - although Gouda grits could tempt another try.

k.houser said...

Thanks for the insights Jim and Barbara...this "millennial" thing is interesting to me as it defines the type of student(for the most part) that I deal with now...seemingly jaded or maybe their eyes are just glazed over from staring at a small screened electronic at ease with tech that they jump into things they are not fully able to keep up classes...on campus, I have to keep my head up so as to walk around those students walking(head down)and texting I do agree with the myth of the multi-tasker...that context is very different today. Also as far as the quizzes go online...sure they could get together...but I have not seen evidence of that in 4 years...most online students are more spread out geographically...they could use all their notes...I do not really care, its still about learning no matter their approach...there might even be greater retention of information by trying different strategies for taking the tests...but unfortunately this type of creativity is not really being used...grading is very surprising.