Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The iY Generation

I have just stumbled onto a new book about our current middle schoolers, high schoolers, and college students, which is called Generation iY:  Our Last Chance to Save Their Future by Tim Elmore.  I haven't read the book, so I can't speak directly to its value; however, the reviews of the book do raise some issues that I have been discussing recently with my fellow parents of tweens/teens.

Elmore argues that the students born after 1990--which is basically our "traditional" college, high school, and middle school population--differ significantly from the young people who have been labeled the Millennials, or Generation Y, because they have grown up in the era of I--Internet, iPods, iPhones, and iTunes.  This, claims Elmore, has led this population to focus on "I" (in a narcissistic way), and to be extremely advanced in dealing with technology, online social networks, and technology-mediated relationships, while not being very good in dealing with actual people or real life situation.

According to Elmore, who claims to have communicated with 50,000 students and educational staff and parents per year in writing the book, leads to young people who are:

  • Overwhelmed--So much is going on in their lives that 94% of colleges students agree with that description of themselves, with 44% saying they are so overwhelmed that they can barely function;
  • Over--connected--So attached to their cell phones and computers that they are connected full time, and almost consider these devices as "appendages" to their bodies;
  • Over-protected--Parents have tried so hard to meet their children's needs that it is a rude awakening when they enter a world that largely doesn't care what they think, need, or want;
  • Overserved--Longitudinal studies say this is the most self-obsessed generation in modern history.
On the other hand, the technological connection and media savvy of this group of people can make them much more socially aware and active than previous generations.  And so Elmore dubs them a "Generation of Paradox":  social, yet isolated; sheltered, yet pressured; self-absorbed, yet generous.

Elmore contends that the solution is for adults to assist with the human abilities that this technology focus has atrophied, particularly in regards to the spiritual, emotional, and relationship arenas.  He also states that adults who teach such students need to incorporate four qualities in their educational activities (qualities that I think are pretty much lacking in public education):
  • Experiential education
  • Participatory education
  • Image-rich education
  • Connected education
He also believes that today's students are increasingly right-brained, while traditional education continues to teach in a left-brained dominant way.

As I said, I haven't read the book, so all of the above is basically hearsay.  And I think it actually applies more to college student than to middle schoolers.  Nonetheless, I think it raises interesting questions about the impact that growing up in such a technologically-connected world does to our children's experience and expectations, especially in regards to education.  I think it is a discussion that is worth us having--with our children's teachers, our fellow parents, our children, and ourselves.


  1. I am looking at Elmore's site, where he says he talked TO more than 250k students: http://www.growingleaders.org/index.php/about-us/about-tim.html
    That's broadcast.

    Connectivism in education is a good idea, though. Actually, all the ideas you listed are quite lovable.

  2. Yes, while I'm not sure about his characterization of this generation of learners, I like his proposed educational priorities.