The generation gap - is it all bad news?
Last night there was an item on a national "current affairs" programme showing babies using ipads and all the pitfalls of children growing up with digital devices. This is a fairly typical response and they referred to "generation conflict" whereby each generation thinks they got it right and this was evident when a comment was made by a viewer that generation alpha (those born after 2010) will probably not have the social skills that his generation has. I have been thinking about this and while I'm not a supporter of babies being raised by an ipad, what I have seen in my own two children who are 19 and 16 is quite a different set of skills to my own. I wouldn't necessarily say that their social skills are poorer than mine or my parents. In fact I believe the opposite is true.
I am amazed at the number and range of friendships that my children have. Social media enables them to stay in touch, to connect and communicate in ways that simply weren't possible when I was a child. Picking up the phone to talk to someone outside of your city used to be a big deal. Now I skype with my son in Auckland from my smart phone. Easy. Regular. Nice. Watching my son put together a flat in Auckland with three others in other cities all from his laptop was amazing to see over the summer. Trade me, facebook and a few skype calls and they were done.
My 16 year old daughter is even more into it. Tumblr and facebook enable her to share and follow her interests. She has friends in other countries and places all over NZ.
Students at my school connect with me via google chat and email, as well as popping into my office from time to time. I like being accessible to everyone. The student who is too shy to come to me in person might chat with me or send a quick email. Long gone are the days of the Principal being the inaccessible person at the top. My students see me as being someone they can talk with and share ideas - great voice within our school from our students.
So, I don't see the skill set in socialising diminishing, I see it as being different. For students to succeed in a global workplace they're going to need the skills I see happening in our classrooms each day and those happening outside of school too.