Today’s tech-savvy young people expect quick answers from both people and machines, and are more tolerant of social, ethnic and cultural differences, according to a well-known Harvard educator who spoke to a capacity crowd at Schoenberg Hall recently about the characteristics of the App generation.
Howard Gardner Gardner is the author of 28 books, which have been translated into 32 languages. He is a recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship. He was named one of the 100 most influential public intellectuals in the world by Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines.
These young people, the first generation to be defined by technology and innovation, are also averse to taking risks, are reluctant to make themselves vulnerable, have difficulty with feelings of empathy and are hyper-connected to family members, particularly their parents, said Howard Gardner, the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Gardner, who has written an upcoming book with K. Davis that is entitled, "The App Generation: Identity, Intimacy, and Imagination in Today’s Youth" (Yale University Press), gave the inaugural keynote on Feb. 12 to approximately 450 people attending the Graduate School of Education & Information Studies lecture series, the Dean’s Distinguished Speaker Series.
The impact of new media has not been all bad. One great advantage offered by new media, Gardner said, is that it bridges the generation gap, with young people teaching their elders how to use unfamiliar technology and adults fulfilling the youthful need for guidance and mentorship.
"This is the time when young and old can truly learn together," Gardner said. "One of the biggest regrets that young people have [now] is that they have no mentors. To me, it’s better than when kids rejected their parents completely. Young and old can help each other, and our job is to help create those opportunities."
Asked how much new media should supplant more traditional skills such as penmanship and the creation of handmade art, Gardner, who is best known for his theory of multiple intelligences, explained that, "As parents and teachers, it’s valuable to know how things were done in the past."
While children should develop reference skills, they should not be prevented from using new methods to express themselves. He described the loss of free choice, citing the limitless possibilities of browsing an actual library as opposed to only choosing books from a curated selection on a digital reader.
Gardner once asked his 6-year-old grandson what he would do if he did not have his current access to media. The child replied that he would have more time to play and to go on more outings with his parents, Gardner said
"He said, ‘Most people have technology – they don’t have the freedom to just live,’" said Gardner.
Gardner’s most recent book, "Truth, Beauty, and Goodness Reframed: Education for the Virtues in the Ages of Truthiness and Twitter" (New York: Perseus Books, 2011), examines the challenges in education between the postmodern critique of the humanities and the potential of new digital media to be disruptive.
"If anyone can make any assertions all the time, what does it mean for the terms of truth, beauty and goodness?" asked Gardner. "The question is: Do we [discard] these things, or do we devote all our energies to making them real and vivid so that people can differentiate them?"
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