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Things I’ve Noticed About Teens and Tech

I have had many conversations with adults about students and technology.

There’s a common thread that often pops up, something to the effect of…

  • “Kids today just take to tech like a duck to water.”

  • “It’s so easy for these kids to pick things up naturally.”

  • “I have to ask my child to fix/setup my computer/network/printer/phone.”

Behind these statements is the assumption that students are going to pick up how to use technology on their own, so no training is really necessary—as opposed to adults, who need a lot of hand-holding.

In no particular order, here is some food for thought:

1. Only some teens are exceptionally comfortable with tech.

Some are proficient at just a few things that they have taken the time to figure out, and others are on the fence about it. This is just like adults who show a wide variety of reactions to technology!

2. There is a difference between being focused and proficient on one gizmo versus knowing how to use that gizmo to get work done.

Often I will see a student who is a whiz at using their phone, but is unable to adequately search the Web for a piece of information—they might know how to access and play games on their phone but have no idea how to print from it or access their Google Drive documents.

3. Sometimes students (and adults!) quit after only one try.

Our modern computing systems are so complex and so integrated with other devices across the networks that sometimes it takes a few tries to get the data “over yonder” where it needs to go.

4. Rebooting really does work wonders for devices.

On iOS devices, though, you do have to “swipe out” of all the apps that are running before restarting the machine. I suggest rebooting iPads about once a week.

5. Sometimes students seem to be more proficient with technology because they have more time to explore.

For example, they don’t have real lives with things like jobs, mortgages, and car payments! It does take time to learn a new device, what it can do, how you can use it, and what buttons to push. Often adults will not or cannot invest the time so they can work the new gizmo.

6. The best way to learn technology is to play with it.

Approach any technology with a sense of wonder and play with it. “What would happen if I…” and “What does this button do?” can be very powerful questions!

There is rarely anything you can do with software to officially break it. Looking at settings is always a good idea. Changing them may make a device misbehave or do something you don’t like, but settings can usually be changed back.

The students who are genuinely most proficient with technology are usually not afraid to make mistakes and are naturally curious explorers.

I encourage you to join their ranks.

7. Human laziness knows no bounds.

Just as back in the day, the excuses for not getting work done were varied and creative. How many kids whose dog ate their homework actually had a dog? We see the same today. With the technology and processes we have here at MDS, there are several ways to get an assignment done. Our teachers are very aware of technical glitches that can impede turning in an assignment, and they also are aware of teenagers’ natural tendency to make excuses.

Be Proactive

We encourage students to be proactive with technical issues. This is partly so they will take responsibility for the things they are supposed to be working on, but also because they are learning how to work around technical glitches, which they will be dealing with the rest of their lives!

I call it “techie life training,” and it can be a useful thing to know.

By Tom Rule, MDS Technology Director