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Are Today’s Youngsters Doing Better or Worse at Exams Than Earlier Generations?

Are Today’s Youngsters Doing Better or Worse at Exams Than Earlier Generations?

Whatever you do in August, it’s hard to avoid the continuing debate about education, particularly at the upper end of schooling and examinations.

This month sees GCSE and A level results and a host of other qualifications, so it’s all very important and inevitably, controversially fascinating to the media who are often short of much to fill their pages and channels with.

Let’s just focus on some of the issues in terms of the digital interface of interest to MBF Blog readers, leaving aside the perennial one that exams are/are not getting easier.

Texting Harms Grades

Whatever the overall grades, many pundits will repeat the old story that if they didn’t spend so long texting, they’d all have hot A stars.

An American university survey in April 2013 found that women in their first year spent almost 12 hours a day on ‘media related activity’, such as texting, browsing, social networking and watching television.

This presumably ignored any use of devices for genuine research. But it also concluded that those who read newspapers or listened to music improved their outcomes.

So you could say, that this was one survey among women only, first year students at university and in the USA, so little can be drawn by way of parallel to our 16-18 year olds’ results.

Or it could just confirm your view that young people are wasting time, lowering confidence and curbing their learning with all their gadgets. Whatever.

Internet Generation Know Less

According to the author Sebastian Faulks (Charlotte Grey, One Week in December and Birdsong), today’s internet generation will be the first in history to know ‘less than their parents.’

He argued some months ago that young people don’t need to capture and/or retain information as it’s always at their fingertips.

He said, ‘…for centuries we have taken for granted that the next generation would cumulatively or collectively know more than generations before…’

Of course, he’s right. You tend not to remember stuff you can look at in an instant, though some must stick in the brain.

But he’s not right if you include all that young people know about technology itself and its appliance, that was just not possible for earlier generations to know, never mind about understand.

The point is that what we have is what there is. Learning and the assessment of learning, knowledge and understanding is some way behind the digital revolution.

Internet Destroys Youngsters’ Creativity

Not to be outdone in the author expressing opinions stakes, Irvine Welsh (Trainspotting) told the Hay Festival in June that ‘the digital world has stalled the creative process.’

He felt that ideas no longer have time to ‘find their feet’ before being put to an audience of millions. The slow process of moderation, assessment, consideration and checking done by creators in the past has no place in the instancy of the digital publishing.

He may also be right in a sense. He said that the digital world is not about creativity but about ‘the process of it and how you get that out to people, so it’s about promotion  and marketing.’

The millions who enjoy making their own films, publishing own books and music, the meme makers, the parody specialists, the open-access idealists – all would disagree and say that the digital age has spawned a whole new world of creativity.

Children Need Digital Detoxes

Apparently iPad addiction has now been identified in children as young as 4 and older kids who sit glued to a device for three or four hours a day become ‘distressed and inconsolable’ when they are separated from their gadgets.

Talk of addiction is now applied across the age ranges. Parents of young children are owning up to using equipment as a form of child-minding, particularly in the early mornings.

Judith Woods writing about this in April 2013 in the Daily Telegraph cited a survey that found 22% of 11-year olds ‘know how to bypass parental controls.’ Parents monitor TV viewing, but fail to do so for tablets and smartphones. Unsuitable material is as available on the one as the other.

Psychologists say that only online can some children and many teenagers feel good, or at ease or even in control. The first technology addiction centre is at the Capio Nightingale Clinic in London. There a £16,000 intensive 28-day program is available to treat ‘troubled teenagers.’

Swaggering in confidence from winning games online, youngsters in many cases are incapable of ‘going to the corner shop’ and coupled with cyber-bullying, exam stress and expectation pressure, future job prospects and all played out in a very public forum, as Woods pointed out, then is it surprising that some teenagers are affected when they sit exams?

But they are not the majority, surely? Is it right to frame restrictions and policies to fit all youngsters?

The discussion forum is open on this.

Linked posts:

Creative Arts On the Brain, Quite Literally, 18 June 2013

Film Is Perhaps the Most Changed Technology of Them All, 22 May 2013

Compulsive, Addictive Behaviour Is the Price of the Device, 23 April 2013

Digital Footprints Can Follow You and Your Job Prospects for a Long Time, 26 March 2013

The Role of the iParent in the Age of the iChild, 25 February 2013

Internet Memes Are Sometimes Fun with a Satirical, Serious Purpose, 25 September 2012

Image: enixii