I come home from work to find
my kitchen and office turned into a video production studio.
My son, Andy, 16, is directing his classmates in a modern
retelling of Edgar Allen Poes The Tell-Tale Heart. In this
version, two teens share a pizza and one of them develops a large
zit. Its so disgusting that the other decides hell have to kill
him, just to put both of them out of their misery.
Dad, we have any Playdough? asks Andy, which the next day is found
and used to make the orange protuberance affixed to his classmates
Credit goes to their high school AP English teacher for injecting
creativity and varying media into homework assignments.
As a part-time professor myself to college media students, I like to
mix up message as well. Its always a surprise to see how students
react to outside-the-box assignments done in video, on a Web site or
blog, instead of on paper.
First, dont always believe the stereotype. In fact, toss the
stereotypes that say all young people know new media real well and
are experts in virtual realities.
Many of my college students, who are 20-22 years old, were not that
tech savvy. Some didnt know how to make a video, how to download it
into a computer, how to edit that raw footage and add music, sound
effects or text lines.
Yet, it seems to me that Andys generation, Generation Next, those
14-18 years old, know all media. They can write,
text message, manipulate videos and still write an essay. This
generation is growing up on video on cell phones, on web sites such
as YouTube, which allows them to express themselves in even the most
rudimentary video and post it for everyone to view. The ease at which
this is possible is the breakthrough.
When I was growing up, my father bought me a Bell & Howell Super 8
movie camera through a mail-order catalog. I was in charge of making
movies, getting them developed, and showing them to the family on
Ill spare you the boring details. Suffice to say, I spent weeks
putting a trip to the Delaware Water Gap/Cape Cod to music, using a
portable tape recorder with a wired remote control pause/play button
trying to capture just the right segment of Elton Johns Dont Let
the Sun Go Down On Me. Needless to say, it was not fine technology.
Today, Generation Next possesses synchronized video and audio
technology at their fingertips, with laptop computers, video cameras
and software that make making videos as easy as snapping Kodak
moments. Its not that they are more creative than those from my
generation whove given us Woody Allen and Steven Spielberg, just to
name a few of the best movie makers in Hollywood. Its that more of
them are more familiar with these tools.
Another boy, Ill call him Frankie, has Andys desktop computer on
and tuned to YouTube, and is sitting with one hand on the mouse and
the other working his Macbook laptop. His iPhone was next to him.
Wires are coming out of his ears.
I offer, in a pompous professorial tone: You hear about the new Mac
laptop. It weighs only 3 pounds …
Yeah, check out the video, and he types a few words onto the
desktop and pulls up the ad appearing on YouTube for the MacBook Air.
It fits inside a manila envelope, interjected Andys other friend,
who had been updating his MySpace page on the other computer in the
room. My older son likes to play Dance Dance Revolution on my
laptop, also in the home office.
Frankie went on to list the specifications of the new Apple MacBook
Air, down to such detail that he lost me a few hundred megabytes ago.
Sixteen-year-olds 3, forty-something media professional, 0.
I switched gears, offering fatherly advice. It would be a wise
investment to buy a laptop for college, I said.
No, duh! they were probably thinking.
Yet, only about one-eighth of the 22-year-olds in my fall class on
opinion writing at Cal State Fullerton came to class with laptops.
Carrying personal computers is not de rigeur with that
generation, but the pressure from the Apples and Microsofts are
changing that. And they hear the pitter-patter of keyboard strokes
and thumbs text messaging across expanded cell phones and are looking
over their shoulders.
The generations the 14-18 year-olds, the 22-30 year-olds, the 30-40
age group, and on up are uneven on their computer/video expertise.
But like storm fronts, these groups are converging. If you add in
lower-income students who may not have as much access to this
technology, it is an uneven playing field for educators and the
workplace to navigate.