Millennials/ Gen Z Workshop- Summary Report

  • A Field Report From Teaching Millennials/ Gen Z. Students, April 17, 2012,
  • Hamden Hall Country Day School, Hamden, CT.  
  • Presenters (in order of appearance):
  • William Hunter, Hamden Hall, Topical Introduction (w/remarks, below)
  • Lorri Caroll, Hamden Hall IT Director, Diigo and Research Coordination
  • Sarah Ludwig, Hamden Hall Librarian, Evernote and Seamless Note-Taking
  • Kirby Mahoney, St. Thomas’s Day School, LS Project-Based Video Development
  • Marek Beck, Greenwich Country Day, Wikis as Key to Classroom Management
  • Dave Saunders, Greenwich Country Day, Edmodo as Homework Organizational Tool

My Opening Remarks… Undelivered, A bit Unnecessary perhaps, Yet an Oblique Entry Into the Topic… Followed by the PowerPoint I did use as Introduction on 4/17:

Peering over the top of someone’s head while waiting at Starbuck’s, where we teachers ought to own stock, by the way, I witnessed a poor shlump much like myself bent over a set of student essays.  I couldn’t help but notice the title of the essay on top, in 88 font, and, for some reason, pink letters, “IT EXISTS!”  it proclaimed, presumably some sort of epistemology essay on perhaps a veiled attack on modern urban planning.

I lingered on the size of the assertion for some time, in fact, perhaps because it was getting close to the time to start choosing my opening salvo for this workshop, and what tack was I going to take into the forests of the future which our current students will own much more than we, these children now of Gen Y students I taught in my first decade in the ‘80’s beginning now to show up in my ninth grade classroom?  “It exists!” I thought to myself, that’s it!  Not the concept itself, since I’ve been fairly cognizant of the earth’s immanence, its existence, since that first fall off the jungle gym, back when they were tolerated despite the injuries, way back when.  No, it was the need for such a huge font that struck me, maybe the pink even, as if there were a whole crowd of skinny jeans and black t-shirt wearing Millennial/Gen Z’s (as I will call this combined crowd of youth age 8-22) who were either doubtful or in denial—willfully so, as if there were indeed a beast at the door called “reality” which it made great sense to bar from entering—maybe forever.  After all, who bore these children and young adults into the lap of affluence into which a ticking bomb has been tossed, one of population glut, climate change already, at 1 degree hotter, bringing multi-teethed tornados to the Midwest ten months a year and third-world drought that can in no way contain the flood waters that carry whole communities downstream in a matter of three or four hours—and this, at one degree, when Bill McKibben at Middlebury and a raft of others see an inexorable rise of at least 4-6 degrees before we can turn things around—that is, if we start tomorrow taxing carbon emissions and cutting back on air flight and smokestack emissions, taking three days off from appliance use every week and so on, limiting travel on weekends and holidays, and so on.  Yes, to restate this question: Who bore these children– to face what “reality challenges” ahead?

Yes, it does Exist– Virginia, in fact, New York, California, Atlanta, Dallas, and so do our Millennial Z students, who are perhaps more aware even than we were, in the days before bullying and name-calling were punishable offenses, that even their protected existence does not, in the words of Stephen Crane, trigger in the universe any “particular sense of obligation” towards them.  We knew this back in the ‘60s and ‘70’s in fact, and grew bitter at the fundamental injustice of life during the Vietnam War– but there was no escape hatch to turn inward, at least en masse, onto social media and everlasting chat, away from the real world that still, in fact, as our coffeehouse essay put it, “exists”.   And yet, of course, in a fundamental irony, back then we attempted at least to expect things of the reality beyond ourselves, hoping that its indubitable existence might be an incentive, in fact, for it to behave, this reality we shared, by leaving Vietnam and giving us peace instead.  And so we insisted, and so it came to pass, the existence of reality carrying with it no excuse but instead some sort of obligation that certain (hopefully justice-based) requirements must come as a part of its license– that it must at least reflect on its actions, this reality to which we were all subjected, that we had such hopes for.

Now, it’s the soft power of the electronic age that seems much more inexorable than a morally bankrupt war halfway around the world, as if it were indeed a fact of life far into the future, from which we can never return to a world of nationalistic villages such as existed before 2000 arrived, before the beginning of the ever-growing, one-and-only global monolith that the computer and instantaneous communication in the age of Bill Gates’s “Business @ The Speed of Thought” has wrought, all the world pouring second by second, minute by minute through the electronic spigot of the world wide web.

And so, as aware as any generation perhaps has ever been that newly emerging realities of the global marketplace are not necessarily going to whistle their tune, who are these new students of ours, children of Gen Y adults and Millenials’ younger siblings, these Generation Z students, born after 1996 and coming of age ten years into the new century?

This is what this workshop set out to encounter, at least, if not to limn completely.  Our answer was, as usual, to look at such generalizations about future trends as were available on the internet, then consider new tools with which to face the new challenges posed by our “new students of the digital age”.  Thus, after a general introduction (see PowerPoint below), I opened the floor to the five presenters listed above, who carried us from 6:20 to 7:45 pm.  As you can see in this blog, several of the presenters listed above have already posted their presentations. Thanks to all for taking part in a well-attended (34 participants) workshop featuring Diane’s masterful organizational help as well— and, New Haven pizza, naturally enough, Modern on State St. being halfway between Hamden Hall and the New Haven Green.  – wordforester (Bill Hunter, Hamden Hall School)

— Introductory PowerPoint:   millgenzpresentapr17hunter3

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About wordforester

Bill Hunter-- English teacher, poet, prose-writer, father, husband, native New Hampshirite, summer Mainer, CT teacher for the last 29 years-- with interests in how to develop young writers and create a new literary community beyond internet chatter and a diminishing reading culture... let me know if you have any routes to ponder, especially in regard to satisfying the twin needs of reading acuity and interpretive skill combined with innovative writing assignments that involve both student voice and text-intensive investigation...
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