The Notification Generation  

Children who were born after the year 1996 don’t know a time before smartphones and the internet. The ubiquity of smartphones is so apparent with this generation of children (sometimes called Generation Z, iGen or Post-Millennials) that they consider owning a phone to be a preadolescent rite of passage and a social norm. The advent of the Internet, and the subsequent emergence social media, radically changed what it meant to learn, socialize and work. Members of this generation are distinctly different than the Millenials before them; in that, they not only use social media as an avenue for self-expression but also actively construct their learning experiences and social connections, in the form of notifications. For the purpose of this article, let’s call them the Notification Generation or NGens for short . Their careful calibration of smartphone notifications defines, at least metaphorically, how the new generation filters, selects and consumes information. This article aims to explore the behaviors, attitudes and motivations of this elusive yet powerful group of young people coming of age in the post-digital era.

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  Change the story of education  

In 2009, a Nigerian novelist named Chimamanda Adichie gave a rousing TED talk called “the dangers of a single story”. She made it clear that there is a great risk in reducing complex human beings to a single narrative. While she spoke of the narratives in a cultural context, her central idea, I think, has a broader application. Around the world, our education systems are clinging to a single story of academic ability, based wholly on test scores. It’s a story as old as time, but with a very high stake ending. If you score well in tests, you’ll go on to succeed in college and career and live happily ever after. If not, then your life will go down the tubes and you will live miserably thereafter. This story is the reason why the testing culture has become overwhelmingly predominant in our schools. Rather than using tests as a diagnostic tool for instructional support, test scores are used to rank children’s academic ability on a very narrow spectrum. Throughout their school years, children shuffle from one test to the other, with the singular goal to increase their score and not necessarily to improve the quality of their learning. In the U.S., children who attend public schools take an average of 112 state-mandated tests between pre-kindergarten and grade 12, excluding any school-developed tests, teacher-designed tests or diagnostic tests. The number of tests are so high that teachers, quite literally “teach to the test” and spend over a month preparing students for each state-mandated exam. In China, the test culture is so stressful that students who attend the GaoKao matriculation examination, resort to extreme measures such as attaching themselves to IV drips for energy boosts. And recently in India, scores of anxious parents scaled school walls during an examination to provide their children with answers to the tests, thus resulting in a mass expulsion of those students.

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