11 September 2013

What was missing from my youth.

Learning to use digital media and observing how today's youth are steeped in a culture of connection is making me feel extremely jealous! It's not that I'm not excited to connect myself, but reflecting on my own formative years compared to the opportunities literally sitting in teens' laps now has got me feeling a bit nostalgic.

Angst aside, I thought it would be interesting to reflect on my earlier years by framing my teenage activities according to the research findings in Living with New Media. What were my friendship-driven practices? Which were interest-driven? What did I do while hanging out? Messing around? Geeking out?


My primary friendship-driven practice was role-playing games. Since age thirteen or so, my close friends and I gathered to 'geek-out' every weekend. Our activities included creating entire fantasy worlds complete with maps, cultures, monsters, and romantic intrigue. We impressed each other with creative descriptions of our characters' actions and rich justifications for their actions. In fact, after awhile, we graduated from the ubiquitous Dungeons & Dragons and became Rolemaster snobs. Our collections of various multi-sided dice rivaled the hoard of Smaug and most of us stayed safely far away from real-life drugs and girls.

Sometimes, we didn't 'geek-out'. We were often distracted or simply chose to do other activities. It depended on the mood of the group and sometimes on which members were present. Looking back, there was a tremendous amount of social dynamism in that group and we were lucky to have the time, space, and liberty to explore.


When I was in high school, music was my thing. I bought my first electric bass with my 8th grade graduation gift money and by the time freshman year started, I was jamming Led Zeppelin and rockin' a mean mullet. I 'geeked out' by practicing every night after dinner and as my awareness and abilities grew, I sought out other people to play with. Because everyone else played guitar or drums, aka the cool instruments, there were always people, older and more skilled than me, asking me to come play in their garages. I hated most of those people, especially the best musicians. They were arrogant and cruel, but I didn't care. I wanted to make music, loudly, in garages, and headbang while doing so. I learned a lot from those jerks not only about music, but also about dealing with difficult personalities.

photo cc wikimedia commons

It's interesting to note that, in those garage-jams, I was never satisfied with 'hanging out' or 'messing around'. If we weren't focused on improving our sound, I got bored and left. Everyone needs bass players and I didn't waste time sitting around waiting for the drummer to show up. I soon stopped jamming altogether and only rehearsed with established bands to prepare for gigs.


All this reminiscing made me lose the point. How would smartphones and the internet have changed my experiences? Do I really wish to have had those tools? Would I want to replace D&D with WoW? Could I have saved time finding other serious musicians in my town on Craigslist or twitter?

I suppose I might have, or mightn't. These technologies are simply tools. I used the tools I had; teens today use the tools they have. I pursue what is engaging and relevant to me and always look out for new ways to do so. I'm sure you are the same.

What were your genres of participation? What are they now?

How can we harness our students' technological tools to help their learning be engaging and relevant?

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