Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Burns Reflection

A key concept in the book, The Dumbest Generation, is the increased amount of students using technology.  The author determines this is a direct link to the increased gap of achievement among students today, referring to them as the dumbest generation.  Bauerlein provided many statistics to support his claim and also a survey of the amount of time students spend consuming different types of media.  His concern is that students spend a substantial amount of time in front of a screen versus reading a book and that these students have little or no appreciation or knowledge of arts and world facts and events.  I think there is some truth to his concern, but when I read the text I had to remind myself that an author’s evidence is only what he or she is willing to offer the reader.  Social networking creates a powerful group element that has never seen before in history.  According to the text, IQ tests have become more complex to meet our growing intelligence.  This should tell us that how  our children are using digital technology to enhance their learning is very positive.  In my own classroom, I began to notice something that I don’t think I noticed prior to being in this course.  At the beginning of my two online math courses, I have about half of the class log in the computer and instead of beginning their math course, the go to various news sites (usually MSNBC and read a few current events).  Generally they share a story with a neighbor.  At first I was harping on them to get started with the math for the day.  But during this course, I realized that this was a good thing and I continue and encourage them to do so.  According to a critic of the book (, the author “ignores the fact that the generation before was just as disinterested in high art (and traditionalists blamed MTV), and the generation before them also seemed more interested in teen escapism than classical music or Victorian literature (and the traditionalists blamed rock and roll)”.  Despite the author’s heavy use of statistics, it doesn’t convince me that our students are getting dumber. 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Schwab's Relection Post

Unlike some people in our group, I thoroughly enjoyed Mark Bauerlein's book, "The Dumbest Generation". It helped me understand many things about my students and how they look at school and their own education. I don't necessarily feel that the author was overly negative but rather more concerned with the outcome of all the research that has been done on why students are the way they are. When "three out of four ACT-tested 2006 high school graduates who take a core curriculum are not prepared to take credit-bearing entry-level college courses with a reasonable chance of succeeding in those courses." (pg 110), something has to be remiss. So I created a short survey for my own students (ninth and tenth grade science students) to determine some of their own likes and dislikes in relation to reading and technology usage. I figured this would give me several key concepts to use as a topic of this post. What I originally thought was going to be my topic--Technology usage versus Reading--was soon changed when 60% of my students responded that they enjoyed reading for pleasure over playing a video game! So I dug a little deeper and analyzed all of their answers on the survey. I soon found a startling correlation to another topic in the book: the difference in the number and types of words used by readers versus students that do not enjoy reading. On page 130, the author states "A low-reading, high viewing childhood and adolescence prevent a person from handling relatively complicated texts, not just professional discourses but civic and cultural media...". Furthermore, "Education researchers have found that children raised in print-heavy households and those raised in print-poor households can arrive at school with gaps in their word inventories of several thousand words." When I read my students' answers to the survey questions, these statements popped into my head and it was if a lightbulb came on. I was seeing the results of many years of viewing habits in my students' answers! Most of the students that responded that they do not like to read did so in sentence fragments with misspelled words, even though they were asked to answer in complete sentences. They were also asked to list reasons why they do not like to read, not to just say it's boring. And they could not follow those directions. Here are a few sample answers, complete with spelling and grammarical errors.
1. boring, dont peak my intrest,
2. I never have I don't get In to books
3. It makes me tired
4. Reading isn't exciting, nothing happens, its really boring.
5. I don't like to read because in my opuinine {opinion?} it is a wast of mytime
And my favorite...
6. i think reading is Really Really Really Really boring

Compare those weak statements to those made by the self-professed readers:
1. Reading builds my imagination, helps my fluency, and encourages role playing.
2. I love reading because its really entertaining as well as beneficial to your brain. It can sort of take you to a different place.
3. I enjoy reading because its fun. You get to have this picture in your head and imagine what's going on. You get to be in your own little world.
4. Because it gives me ideas for my stories. The books I read are full of amazing new things, books are creative, and reading sparks my imagination.
5. Reading gives me something to do when I am bored. I can learn more about different people and how it was during certain times (1970's).
And my favorite.....
6. I like reading because you can go to a place you don't see in video games and you can relate to it at times and for me I have constant flashbacks of what happened in the book so I'm like making a movie in my head.

Even to the casual observer you can see the differences in the writing styles. The readers use bigger words (imagination, entertaining, flashbacks) and write in complete sentences. Their spelling is better and their word usage is more correct. And fewer of them use "really" as an adjective. But what troubled me most was that the readers seemed to have this ability to see pictures in their mind's eye when reading and the non-readers/gamers did not have this ability. Was this why they were drawn to video games, because they couldn't come up with their own images, so they rely on the game's images to entertain them? Is this due to differences in how the brain is "wired"? Are we programmed to be readers and non-readers? Or is it due to habits that are picked up when children are very young and impressionable? The research in the book was all after the fact: those that had high-viewing childhoods knew fewer words before they even entered kindergarten and they were never able to catch up to their peers that were raised in book friendly homes.
So giving a child a book as a gift is really helping them become better students. I don't think this comes as a surprise to any of us.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Technology and Ebenezer Scrooge

By the way, "A Christmas Carol" was the first story to be broadcast by a radio.

There have also been a least seven full-length movies made from the story (many more which have been take-offs of the theme.)

There have been countless TV shows, computer games, music and videos inspired by "A Christmas Carol."

And still, my 8th grade class of Native American kids in SD enjoyed reading the novella in its original form.

If kids don't read these days, it's our fault in not guiding them and in not giving them the time to do so.

By the way, I was able to access the original Dickens' composition directly off the web because it's now in public domain. I downloaded it to my word document, did a little editing, highlighted the vocabulary words, entered the vocab words on, and finished with a Google Docs test.

I'm still mystified as to why this author is so negative about technology!

Assignment for Students: Create a Voki for one of the characters of "A Christmas Carol"

This is my Voki which I used in class this week. See comments below.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Chapter 6 ~ No More Culture Warriors

This section of the book began by retelling the story of Rip Van Winkle. This was a tale of a Dutch American villager who stays in the woods for a 20-year nap. Before, people found an old newspaper and debated public issues months after it happened, but after he woke from the nap he discovered they participate directly in the same type of events. At first, I really did not piece the correlation of the Rip Van Winkle scenario to the conclusion of the book.

Toward the end of the section, the author states that as of 2008, the intellectual future of civic understanding and liberal education looks dim. The social pressures and leisure preferences of young Americans help in setting the direction of the American mind. According to the author, the direction is downward. He provided the following joke told during the seventies about college students after the late sixties.

“What do you think of student ignorance and apathy?” the interviewer asks the sophomore.
“I dunno and I don’ care”—

The author made a bold statement about the Dumbest Generation caring very little for things such as history books and civic principles, foreign affairs, etc. and that they know less. The comparison of Rip Van Winkle made at the beginning of the chapter was made toward this generation. That is, that they are the latter day Rip Van Winkle, sleeping through the movements of culture and events of history who would rather be with their peers instead of great books and momentous happenings. According to the author, intellectual life can’t compete with social life for the Millennials.

He went onto state that if parents and teachers don’t realize the issues (fewer books and more videos checked out of libraries, more kids go to a mall than a museum, etc) then they are blind. In his opinion, unless things change the Dumbest Generation will be remembered “as the fortunate ones who were unworthy of the privileges they inherited. They may even be recalled as the generation that lost that great American heritage, forever.”

I agree with the Section 3 summary in that the author is very pessimistic. I can almost envision the author as being a very old fashioned teacher, stuck in his own ways. Too stubborn to realize that things change, they aren’t always going to be like the old ways, and that change can be positive; it doesn’t have to be viewed as negative. I’ve witnessed impact technology has played on our students and teachers and the result is mostly positive. Change is what you make of it, in my opinion.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Chapter 5 Summary: The Betrayal of the Mentors

This section of the book is all about how the teachers of today's students have led to their being the dumbest generation. It says that teachers are always telling students what a great job they are doing, etc, and making them overconfident Narcissists. This leads to the students thinking that they are doing great, and need to study less and work less hard.

The mentors (teachers) of these students are all doing a "student-centered approach" because that has been found to be a best practice in education. They are no longer acting as experts, but instead, are letting students discover the information. According to the author, taking these teachers from "sage on the stage to guide on the side" makes students disinterested in learning. "If mentors are so keen to recant their expertise, why should students strain to acquire it themselves?" "Knowledge and tradition are emptied of authority."

It talks a lot about how students no longer value tradition, literature, or their teachers. Students used to read and model their studies after great geniuses, but now just look to their peers for guidance.

A new demographic group, "Twixters" was formed, based on these beliefs/effects. Twixters are 22-30 year olds who have a college degree, are from middle class families, and live in cities. They live with their parents or roommates, are not married, and work dead-end jobs, because they aren't really ready to live "adult" lives. They are still stuck in college mode.

This section of the book also talked about students testing scores being lower the last several years. It said that these students, according to a survey, mostly plan to attend college, but most of them do not have the math/reading skills to succeed in these goals. Apparently, according to the author, teachers telling them to follow their dreams and be all that they can be, has caused them to all want to graduate college but not given them the skills to accomplish this task.

In my opinion, the author is very pessimistic. Who thinks that kids in general shouldn't follow their dreams because they are not smart enough? And I also think that he is afraid of this generation because it is different than the old way. But he is forgetting that different can be good. Of course students today don't look to Wuthering Heights for help with their love life, but instead ask their friends. Isn't that how it should be?

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Post for Ch. 3

Sorry this is being posted so late. Just got signed into my blog again yesterday. I now have a New Post tab. Yay!!!!

Section 3 Super Summary
Dear Group,
I was really struggling with how to approach this week’s summary and decided I CAN write a letter. Therefore, here goes; my summary in letter form.
I was pretty frustrated throughout the reading of this section, and this book, for the most part. The author would like the readers to believe we are in the midst of observing the Dumbest Generation progressing into the future because of the vastness of the emergence of technology. I do believe there is a point and time in which all of us should choose between technology and the “in your hand” book. There is also a lot to be said about too much of a good thing. As an educator with an English class, I see, all too often, the student who can communicate a point in writing using the “text” jargon but does not see what is wrong with using “u” instead of “you” or “BTW” instead of “by the way”. They are also losing sight of proper grammar.
With this said, I still contend screen time is not necessarily making our upcoming generation “dumber”. I tend to agree with Lev Grossman of Time magazine when he states, “The new Web is a very different thing. It’s a tool for bringing together the small contributions of millions of people and making them matter. Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution.” I feel the accessibility and availability of technology for our young people is empowering them to share their ideas and gives them an opportunity to hear from thousands of others all over the world instead of just within the walls of their school or classroom.
Another thought I had while reading this section and thinking about what I wanted to share; I grew up and learned without the technology that is available today. Now, as a teacher, I am sharing the information I absorbed and memorized with my students while allowing them to take advantage of the ease of research and investigation using the vast array of technology that makes learning fun and interesting.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Carolyn's Book Cover

I picked this picture because it portrays how I see today’s teenagers when they are trying to make sense of the world’s academic requirements.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Schwab's Summary of Chapter Four

Chapter Four: Online Learning and Non-Learning (pgs 111-162)

The author starts this chapter by looking at the findings of the Educational Testing Service, the company that brings us the SAT. They had high school and college students take a survey on their “digital research skills” and found that although these students could play games and enjoy all of the social networks that are available, they cannot manage the digital information available. They called this missing ability, Information and Communications Technology (ICT) literacy. As Irvin Katz, a senior scientist at ETS explains, “While college-age students can use technology, they don’t necessarily know what to do with the content the technology provides.”
Mark Bauerlein continues, citing several more studies about how students can definitely use the digital tools, but “On the first large tests of the aptitude, however, they failed. It seems that the judgment of Web content involves mental faculties different from the faculties cultivated by standard Web consumptions by young Americans.” What are these “Web consumptions”? They are MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and all of the games that teens and young adults flock to.
These studies notwithstanding, public schools across the nation have put screens in more and more classrooms since 1996 when President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act that has funded technology programs by using taxes on our phone bills. I can remember when our school received computers in every classroom—we called them Janklow computers and they were installed by cheap labor from DOC inmates! The computers were too few to make a difference (five in a classroom of 25-30 students) but we had access and could rotate students if we watched the clock.
But, as the book continues, access to computers did not raise our students’ math and reading skills. The educational games they played on the computers were fun, but students showed “little to no achievement gains…..students who were involved in them (digital initiatives) didn’t perform any better than students who weren’t.” In fact, two researchers from the University of Munich that analyzed the 2000 Programme for International Students Assessment (PISA) [see chapter one for information about this test], concluded “Once other features of student, family and school background are held constant, computer availability at home shows a strong statistically negative relationship to math and reading performance, and computer availability at school is unrelated to performance.” But yet we continue to spend huge amounts of our school budgets on updating our digital tools.
So what exactly is going on that is causing our scores to plummet? Well, the obvious is that students are spending too much time online connecting with their peers that they just spent the entire day with at school. This is time taken away from doing their homework, because it is just ‘too borrring’ and catching up on the latest gossip or teen trends or playing quick paced games is much more fun. AOL even has a page titled “Look at Pretty Pictures” with the subtitle “Because it’s better than homework.”
Another cited reason for poor scores is the difference in word inventories and the change in the reading ability of students. A low-reading, high-viewing childhood can make a difference in word inventories of several thousand words by the time a child reaches kindergarten. This gap never becomes smaller and only grows bigger as the child continues their academic career. This affects students’ verbal skills and their ability to be competitive academically and then later, professionally. But what interested me the most was the latter reason: the change in how students read when they are online. A consulting firm, Nielsen Norman Group, in California researched the Web reading and screen habits of teens and young adults. As the book states: “Nielsen has no stake in grand pronouncements about the Digital Age, and no speculations about “new literacies” or “digital natives” or “learning styles” surface in his reports. Instead, he bestows concrete, evidence-based recommendations regarding site design…He consults a more mundane factor, the habits and reactions of regular users in their routine usage.” I quote so that you realize that this researcher does not have any bias or reason to make conclusions that would seem a stretch to someone in an opposing camp. Nielsen found that whatever students are doing while they are online, it definitely isn’t reading as we know it with books. It is more skimming and scanning and jumping to another page if they don’t find anything of interest. He even came up with a name for that type of reading in his April 2006 study:”F-Shaped Pattern for Reading Web Content”. The readers eyes will track all the way across the first line or title but will soon be only looking at the far left side of the page, slowing in the middle (to form the second part of the capital F) and quickly falling down to the bottom of the page. As you can imagine, reading comprehension falls just as quickly.
At the end of the chapter, Mr. Bauerlein lays the blame of students’ academic demise on three separate groups. Students because, “They don’t realize that success in popular online youthworlds breeds incompetence in school and in the workplace.” Parents, “because it (technology) eases the demands of parenting, but they might be a little less inclined to do so if they weren’t led to believe in the intellectual benefits of screen time.” An lastly, “Blame, also, the teachers…who will not insist upon the value of knowledge and tradition, who will not judge cultural novelties by the high standards set by the best of the past, who will not stand up to adolescence and announce, “It is time to put away childish things.” Well said.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Book Cover

I chose this picture to represent the cover of The Dumbest Generation.  I thought it was a very humorous picture and although a pizza couldn't obviously be emailed, it shows how much we rely on technology in our everyday lives.  Students today have grown up with technology use at their disposal in pretty much everything they do.  Whether you agree or disagree with how students use technology, it is part of our everyday lives and we need to understand and educate ourselves. 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Dumbest Generation: Pages 39-70

In Chapter 2 of the book the Dumbest Generation author Mark Bauerlein gives an incredibly negative account of the effects of technology on human society, specifically those in the age category of 18-24 years old. After reviewing the section I am torn on the effects of technology on society. Without question people have greater access to information than ever before. However, Bauerlein points out that societies ability to read has gradually declined since the mid 1980's and the greatest drop occurred between 1992 and 2002. Interestingly, this was the time frame that the internet became a world wide phonomenon.

In 2002 the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts was executed to determine the enjoyment people received from the arts and literature. According to the study there was an impressive response rate of 70 percent. Sadly the study found that reading rates fell dramatically from 1982 through 2002 and indicated that people were not reading at the same rate they were twenty years earlier. The survey indicated that 18-24 year olds were the second strongest reading group in the United States in 1982 but now they were the weakest. They survey broke down age groups by the following: 18-24, 25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64, 65-74. The study suggests that the "youthful" 18-24 year old group no longer enjoyed reading like they used to. Considering that this is the youngest group it also suggests that reading for enjoyment is a thing of the past.

Bauerlein believes that technology is creating a dumb society because we don't need to know the basics like we used to. As he states in the book, "we can't spell and we don't know synonyms because there's less need to know. What smart person would devote hours to learning words that can be accessed at teh click of a button? Spell check can spell."

I believe Bauerlein brings up a good point. Many students in school don't have the basics because they don't need to know the basics. In addition, students would rather surf the net, play video games, or watch television rather than pick up a good book. With so much information society does not have the capacity to take in as much as they did twenty years ago. I agree with Bauerlein that if we would turn off the computers and television sets maybe we would be intellectually further ahead.

The greatest issue I have with Bauerlein's message isn't the legitimacy of it, but rather, how he conveys the message. Through the section I felt as though Bauerlein would grate at the reader with his cynicism and negativity. That being said, anyone who disputes all of his points I believe is inaccurate.

I think this is a great picture for the book “The Dumbest Generation.” The picture of the cat shows a mind that appears to be completely overwhelmed and blown away by what he is supposed to do. I have often felt the same when dealing with technology. I also think the picture demonstrates a feeling of the world coming down on top of the cat. Again – I can relate!

Sunday, October 31, 2010

New Cover

This is a picture of a "generation gap." I thought that this would be a good cover for "The Dumbest Generation" because the older man is reading while the boy is texting. This shows the difference between what the two generations do to pass time. The book is all about the digital age overtaking the new generation.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Screens and Teens article

Check out the article related to this book at:

In Mark Bauerlein's introduction to his book, "The Dumbest Generation," he starts by giving examples of a small set of students from Bethesda, Maryland, in 2005, who, as he puts it, "have only one thing on their minds, SUCCESS, and one thing in their hearts, ANXIETY." They have descended into a "competitive frenzy" for grades and SAT scores, and Bauerlein makes a point about how miserable they are.

But midway through this introduction, Bauerlein switches gears to quote statistics proving how little American students actually do study, and how much time they spend plugged-in to TV and computer screens. His point is to underscore how, although the press may be broadcasting that we're overworking our students, the reality is that the intellectual condition of young Americans is on a downward spiral. His theme for his book is that while American students are given every conceivable opportunity to gain knowledge, "technology has concentrated their horizon to themselves" thereby crippling their intellect.

Chapter One starts with anecdotes taken from Jay Leno's "Jaywalking" clips where Jay asks people on the street pertinent questions and gets astoundingly stupid answers. Bauerlien goes on to cite several prestigious surveys which all back up his thesis that "most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy."

After a parade of statistics pointing out how dumb our newest generation is, Bauerlien expresses his opinion that students now spend more time in school, students have access to more cultural institutions than ever before, and students have more money to spend pursuing leisure interests. According to him, the paradox of the Dumbest Generation is that "for the young American, life has never been so yielding, goods so plentiful, school so accessible, diversion so easy, and liberties so copious. The material gains are clear, and each year the traits of worldliness and autonomy seem to trickle down into ever-younger age groups. But it's a shallow advent. As the survey research shows, knowledge and skills haven't kept pace, and the intellectual habits that complement them are slipping."

At this point, I checked the book's copyright date.


I'm wondering if Bauerlein noticed what was happening around him in 2007 when he was writing this book?

--Karen Willmus

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Willmus' Book Cover

After reading the introduction and the first chapter of "The Dumbest Generation," the word which came to my mind was "garbage."
"Garbage" as in: "this book's not worth the paper it's printed on."
Hey, I should have known I wouldn't like this book when I read the title, especially the blurb that says "don't trust anyone under 30."
I haven't had a chance to research the author, Mark Bauerlein, and I don't know where he's coming from, but within the first few pages, I could tell he and I are from two planets on opposite sides of our galaxy. After I skimmed the rest of the book, I thought it just might be possible we weren't in the same galaxy at all.
Here's a quote: "most young Americans possess little of the knowledge that makes for an informed citizen, and too few of them master the skills needed to negotiate an information-heavy, communication-based society and economy. Furthermore, they avoid the resources and media that might enlighten them and boost their talents."
Apart from sounding pompous (furthermore?) and contrived, Bauerlein is just plain wrong.
My father, who died this past year at the age of 93, was a well-read, college-educated man. But I know, at the age of 48, that I far exceed his knowledge because of the information outlets I have access to. When he was 48, we had one television channel and a couple of radio channels. Dad's acquisition of knowledge was limited to what he could glean from a couple of farm magazines, a monthly issue of "National Geographic" and an occasional novel he had little time to read. Commodity prices were broadcast at noon before Paul Harvey's tidbit of trivia, and if Dad missed the evening news, he'd have to wait to see what the weather was going to be until it arrived. Letters to his family in Norway were mailed once a year (Christmas) and I heard from him once a week (Sundays) when I left for college. We rarely talked on the phone for more than a few minutes. Long distance was too expensive.
My daughter is 12. She certainly doesn't yet know as much as my father or I, but by the topics of the books on her bookshelf and by the list of websites she's visited, I'd say she's soon to leave us in the dust. Today's topic was cell mitosis. Interphase. Prophase. Metaphase. Anaphase. Telephase. Wha-la! New cell!
Don't get her started on designing skins on Adobe Illustrator, renewing her library books online or updating her Facebook account so that she can keep in touch with her 18 cousins. The poor girl moved 700 miles away from her childhood home but chats with at least three of her old friends twice a week. (When I was her age, I moved to a town one hour away and never heard from my old friends again.)
Now, if there's anyone in the family who has problems mastering the skills of today's marketplace, it's my 54-year old husband, a St. John's University graduate who has yet to master e-mail.
Seriously. He's been unemployed for two years because he's helpless in dealing with anything that has a USB connection.
Bauerlein seems to think children should learn how to use today's communication technology away from it?
I believe that technology and the internet provide children who would otherwise have been cut off from an education a chance to have as close to an equal education as possible.
Assuming a connection to the internet and qualified teachers, can a student in rural South Dakota now have an education at least on par with a student in New York City?
In a previous generation of Ivy-League prep schools, the answer would have been absolutely no. At least now it might be possible. What's more, like the Indonesian children in the photograph, there is a massive world-wide growth of education for rich and poor, male and female. No matter how much competition that gives American children, the growth of education is not something which can be bad!
It's been my experience that today's generation of children are eager to learn and exceptionally open-minded. But they don't like being "blahhhhed" at any more than the rest of us did at their age. (Don't know what "blahhhhed" means? That's the language Charlie Brown's teacher spoke. You know: blah..blah...blah..)
One major difference today's generation has is there is A LOT more for them to learn... and... in my humble opinion... A LOT of it's garbage. If Bauerlein wants to complain about all the garbage in our info world there is for the next generation to sift through, then I thoroughly agree with him.
When I saw the above image, I thought: "Yes, that begins to say what I think this book could potentially address."
Unfortunately, I'm afraid the book won't live up to this cover.

--Karen Willmus

Friday, October 22, 2010

Schwab's new book cover

I chose this image of a student "secretly" using their cell phone in class because my book, The Dumbest Generation, explains how tech savvy students are, but how they do not use technology to gain new and useful information. They use their computers and cell phones to keep track of friends and for gaming. I especially liked how this image shows unopened books on the desk because the author explains how students are not reading for entertainment or edification purposes. They see books as old fashioned and assignments that require them to read as roadblocks to spending time with their friends online. I have to admit that I agree with the author 100% so far.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Welcome to Literature Circle Twenty!

Your Super Summarizer schedule is as follows:

Section One--Due October 28, Karen Willmus
Section Two--Due November 4, Ethan Dschaak
Section Three--Due November 11, Carolyn Schuldies
Section Four--Due November 18, Geryl Schwab
Section Five--Due December 2, Hillary Hill
Section Six--Due December 9, Jonette Burns