Discussion Of Benefits Of Technology For Younger Generations In 'The Dumbest Generation'

Utilizing a large variety of examples, Mark Bauerlein discusses the effect of technology in youth minds. Bauerlein stands by the idea that technology is more of a distraction than it is an advancement for students in the 21st century. Contrary to his beliefs, it is true that a lot of good comes out of technology on an intellectual level. Especially for teens. Although Bauerlein addresses that our generation of students’ learning is impeded by online communication in his book “The Dumbest Generation” he fails to mention some of the political aspects that students engage in online. Studies from several cited sources can prove that technology such as televisions, computers, and cell phones empowers teens, increase retention rates, improve productivity, and humanize students. By writing otherwise, Bauerlein is manipulating the minds of parents, teachers, and political leaders limiting the true opportunities that technology and communication provides for children.

Whether on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, or Snapchat there are countless opportunities to learn about political, social, and economic situations. Indirectly challenging Bauerlein’s argument, Peter John Chen writes that “People are empowered by the interactive nature of technology to be more politically expressive in online forums” in an excerpt from his novel. Correlating with Peter John Chen’s point, over recent years many students have felt “empowered” to strive for social and political justice. Gaining their knowledge through social media, student-organized rallies are more prevalent than ever. For example, after the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High attacks in Parkland, Florida students across the nation joined together and hosted “one of the largest youth protests since the Vietnam War” bringing together around “2 million at 800 simultaneous rallies in every U.S. state and on six continents.” So when Bauerlein writes “Instead of opening young American minds to the stores of civilization and science and politics, technology has contracted their horizon to themselves, to the social scene around them” one can only question the legitimacy of Bauerlein’s argument.

Mark Bauerlein’s writings attempt to reinforce the belief that technology is mostly counter-productive, especially in classrooms and learning facilities. Yet, data from National Training Laboratories represents data opposing Bauerlein’s argument. Education professionals have determined that students retain “5 to 30 percent” of the information taught to them through passive teaching methods. These methods include “lectures, audio-visual presentations, and skills demonstrations.” Whereas when technology and computers are used for learning it allows for a broader scope of participatory learning opportunities that result in “retention rates as high as 90 percent.” By insisting that technology is contracting the minds of the young Bauerlein is not only undermined by multiple sources of data, but the concept also segregates against those who truly need technology for their work. Moreover, a study from the University of Texas interpreting the use of technology for students with mental illnesses confirms that computers reduce anxiety and improves the independence of special education students. With the help of technology, students are bringing in larger amounts of information from class lessons as well as becoming more productive.

Bauerlein judgingly notes that students are not productive outside of school. Specifically, Bauerlein critically interprets a high school survey about student engagement noting that “90 percent, came in at a ridiculously low five hours or less” and “25 percent of them logging six hours minimum surfing and chatting online.” Granted, students could spend more hours each week studying and fewer hours surfing the web. But, with computers and online resources leading to increased retention rates as well as raised productivity students can spend less time studying and more time surfing the web. Comprehensively described by the U.S. Department of Education, in their article Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning, note “technologies can increase educational productivity by accelerating the rate of learning; reducing costs associated with instructional materials or program delivery; and better utilizing teacher time.” This shows that more work is learned in class so there is less of a necessity to study long hours.

Admittedly, Bauerlein logically distinguishes online communication devices as a home for luring distractions. From the buzzing on a phone to the pop-ups on a computer, it is easy to lose focus when attempting to complete a task. Bauerlein truthfully writes “Teen images and songs, hot gossip and games, and youth-to-youth communications no longer limited by time or space wrap them.” Although Bauerlein’s idea may be true, the advantages of technology as it’s used in education clearly outweighs the possibility of distraction that comes with it.

With a critical tone, Bauerlein writes “youth-to-youth communications no longer limited by time or space wrap them up in a generational cocoon reaching all the way into their bedrooms.” Sadly, many children do not feel comfortable speaking in public, for instance, children with social anxiety. Informingly described in an article from the University of California, Los Angeles “Social anxiety involves more than shyness. It is about being extremely anxious in social situations, and often is called social phobia.” For many children communicating online is an escape from issues, such as social anxiety, outside of their rooms. Additionaly, being able to communicate 24/7 from a business perspective is very beneficial. Written in a journal article, Kaveri Subrahmanyam and Patricia Greenfield believe that “More and more they are integrating these tools into their 'offline' worlds, using, for example, social networking sites to get more information about new entrants into their offline world”. While Bauerlein is correct that some children are not connected with the outside world, he is not thinking about how these childrens online communication is benefiting their future or present state.

It remains true that technology is valuable for students around the world. For social activists, special education students, and for all technology users around the world whether they want it to or not has positively impacted them. Whether through increased retention rates or increased productivity technology has benefited students globally. When Bauerlein expresses otherwise he is depriving many students of the opportunities that the internet provide. Although some of Bauerlein’s critics were correct, by writing this book Bauerlein negatively impacted the younger generations.

Work Cited

  1. Bauerlein, Mark. “Excerpt from The Dumbest Generation.” Penguin Random House Canada, www.penguinrandomhouse.ca/books/301089/the-dumbest-generation-by-mark-bauerlein/9781585427123/excerpt.
  2. 'Technology and Education.' Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2018. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC3010999175/OVIC?u=miam96583&sid=OVIC&xid=325bdbfb. Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.
  3. Jason, Zachary. “Student Activism 2.0.” Harvard Graduate School of Education, www.gse.harvard.edu/news/ed/18/08/student-activism-20.
  4. “Contextualising Our Digital Age.” Australian Politics in a Digital Age, by Peter John Chen, ANU Press, 2013, pp. 1–16. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt2jbkkn.9.
  5. 'Smartphones.' Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2019. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC3010999207/OVIC?u=miam96583&sid=OVIC&xid=ab14f26e. Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.
  6. 'Technology and Society.' Gale Opposing Viewpoints Online Collection, Gale, 2019. Gale In Context: Opposing Viewpoints, https://link.gale.com/apps/doc/PC3010999342/OVIC?u=miam96583&sid=OVIC&xid=06813ebc. Accessed 9 Oct. 2019.
  7. “How Mobile Technology Can Benefit Learning.” Education Technology, edtechnology.co.uk/Blog/how-mobile-technology-can-benefit-learning/.
  8. “The Use of Technology in Special Education.” UTPB Online, 15 Sept. 2017, degree.utpb.edu/articles/education/technology-in-special-education.aspx.
  9. “Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning.” Use of Technology in Teaching and Learning | U.S. Department of Education, www.ed.gov/oii-news/use-technology-teaching-and-learning.
  10. “About Social Anxiety and Schools.” Socanx, smhp.psych.ucla.edu/pdfdocs/socanx.pdf.
  11. Subrahmanyam, Kaveri, and Patricia Greenfield. “Online Communication and Adolescent Relationships.” The Future of Children, vol. 18, no. 1, 2008, pp. 119–146. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/20053122. 
16 December 2021
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