By Charles Innis
I frequently overhear older people refer to “kids these days” as doomed.
With the enormous popularity of smartphones, social media and computer use among young people, a pessimistic attitude has been forming among those who grew up without them.
Many older adults believe the upsurge of digital media is causing children to be over-stimulated.
The ubiquitous distractions of 2014, such as television shows, video games, the Internet and smartphones, are leading to a generational shift in attention capabilities.
A number of psychologists refer to those born from the 1990s and beyond as the “ADHD Generation.”
The current rise in amphetamine use, with drugs like Adderall and Vyvanse, among college students highlights this point.
While media consumption and cursory stimulation are indeed at an all-time high among students, little is said about the potential rewards our youth could reap.
If kids are more inclined to multi-task and a large-scale shift in attention level is occurring, then perhaps a change in our educational techniques should be considered.
New tools applying more interactivity and digital media can use this shift as an advantage.
In 2007, literary critic N. Katherine Hayles wrote an essay on this subject titled “Hyper and Deep Attention: The Generational Divide in Cognitive Modes.”
She describes how pervasive media consumption is literally re-wiring brain patterns among children.
Think about all the children you see in San Francisco playing games on their parents’ iPad while out at a restaurant or riding BART.
Rearing kids with this stimulation will arguably lead them to thirst for it more, and as they grow older, these kids may need drugs such as Adderall to focus on their schoolwork.
Rather than attempting to change the kids themselves with mind-altering drugs, perhaps new educational tools should be introduced to the classroom environment to adjust to their habits.
Hayles presents many interactive possibilities in her essay, including video games and chat rooms as educational tools.
Other possibilities can be found by adjusting lecture styles and the general coursework itself.
Including more multimedia in the coursework through softwares such as computer games and interactive textbooks can provide education through more stimulating channels.
Incorporating these methods in the curriculum would engage our generation of students on their level, rather than fight against it.
Perhaps these high-tech possibilities seem too farfetched for now.
After all, having these advances in every classroom would require ample amounts of money.
Our government hasn’t proved itself to be very prioritizing of education.
According to The Federal Education Budget Project, education spending made up only four percent of the entire federal budget in 2013.
Yet as digital technology continues to advance and become more widespread, new tools will begin to unearth.
Computers may become more readily available and global crowdfunding platforms such as Kickstarter may lead to new modes of learning.
Even if such technologies are impossible, it’s important for instructors to consider new teaching methods to appeal to upcoming generations.
On a small scale, some examples of multimedia teaching methods are conducted here at City College already.
City College geology and oceanography instructor Katryn Wiese mainly instructs through self-made video tutorials and in-class group interaction, instead of lecturing chiefly through PowerPoint or textbooks.
As important as it is for students to have discipline and avoid distractions by digital media, it is equally important that education providers consider accommodating our intergenerational shift.
Whether we like it or not, companies like Apple and Google are here to stay.
Recent technology such as Google Glass and Oculus Rift may just be the beginning of our digital revolution.
If we do not consider changing our instruction methods to adapt to those growing up with these inventions, then perhaps our youth may be doomed.
But if we use technology to our advantage, we may reach a heightened level of intellect never seen before.