Skills for the 21st Century

Cognitive and Literacy Skills for Success in a Fast-Paced Technological Age

Teens and Cell Phones – Implications for the Future

Posted by durencls on May 6, 2010

So in surfing last night, I stumbled across a posting I initially thought was redundant – “yeah, yeah, yeah, teens and cell phones, I know all this.”  The more I looked at it, and thought about it, however, the more implications and connections it had for the future and education.  

From Flowtown‘s marketing blog: “How Are Teens Using Their Cell Phones?  (based on Pew Research)

As we’ve said before, futurism – predicting the future – is hard, and many have really failed at it.  But as educators’ mission is to prepare students for the future, we need to at least try to align our instruction with what we think are the most reasonable future predictions.  Once source for these predictions is “generational research/theory” – particularly the study of the behaviors and affinities of younger, “up and coming” members of society – teenagers and young adults (MillenialsGeneration Z, etc.).

So what predictions can we glean from this one graphic developed from marketing research?

  • Cell phones – mobile, wireless communication is now the norm, and this trend will continue.  Although only 37% of teens’ phones have internet access, most futurists predict wireless mobile computing will become much more ubiquitous. M-learning is a current educational hot topic.
  • Texting (which is a form of writing – honest), is preferred over auditory use of cell phones by teens. This trend is being seen more and more in all age groups. Short quick written updates – instant messaging, tweets, status updates, texts, etc. are becoming a tool for building community, marketing, finding information, etc.
    • Reading implication: the ability to successfully navigate this flood of “short hand notes”  will become critical. Skimming and scanning text and visuals, as well as fast-paced decision-making and prioritization skills (what is worth my time?) will be skills needed for success. [Hmmm, note to self, explore this more in a later post…]
    • Writing implication: the ability to communicate clearly in an ultra-concise format that grabs readers’ attention will be a critical skill.
  • Increased use of visuals to process an ever growing pile of information. This blog regularly posts such “infographics,” and in fact, this type of visual representation of data is becoming more and more popular. Continuing the trend we see in USA today, people want to be able to view statistics and info “at a glance.”  Also note that, after texting, the vast majority of teens use cell phones for taking and sharing pictures. The ability to process information presented visually – pictures, graphs, video is and will be key to success in the workplace.
  • The need for skepticism – This visual is, remember, a marketing tool, created from marketing research, likely to further a particular agenda.  All representations of data contain bias, and some can even be deliberately misleading (or even incorrect) in what they imply or show.  To be successful in a more fast-paced, information heavy, visual world, people will the skills to critically evaluate what they see, hear, and read for validity, bias, and intent. They need to know not just HOW to read a graph, but how the data connects to it, ways it can be visually manipulated, etc. They need to be critical consumers of visually presented data.

Wow.  All that in a graphic that most folks will look at for less than 2 minutes (if even that).

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