The Things I Have Learnt this Year. Part 1.The Digital Generation.

I’ve decided to skip the Christmas posting this year,  as I have not much to celebrate or to say about the topic. Yet, the end of the year, and such a year, is the appropriate moment to stop – it shouldn’t be difficult during lockdown – and ponder on what we have learnt or understood, as desperate times are often so very revealing and the naked truths might be unexpected or even shocking.

I’d like to start with what is generally called the digital generation, that is the generation of those who, according to common belief, were already able to understand the know-how behind any digital device since breastfeeding. Those, whose thumbs slide fast on a phone screen and sneer at you if they catch you “hammering” a text with your index, making you feel an old, pitiful idiot. Those who live constantly connected with their smartphone stuck in the palms of their hands. Well, this year I have discovered that the skills of this digital generation are generally overrated. They are not digital at all, unless we call digital only those who can text, share pics or videos, like posts only and, please, don’t tell me they enjoy the vast prairies of information. They don’t. Their seach for knowledge begins and ends with Wikipedia and however, never goes beyond page 1 of Google.

Before the spreading of remote learning revealed this absolute truth, I had had some clues here and there, but I had never given them much consequence; there wasn’t a pandemic after all. I had noticed once, for example, that the computer my husband and I had bought for my nephews looked quite “neglected” in their room, despite we were told it was a “I can’t do without it “ gift. I also noticed they never seemed to remember where the i Pad we had given them the year before was. Never. By the ways, when they eventually found it, it was regularly dead. So, they actually could do without both of them.

At school I had been misled by the fact that any time I had a problem with devices or connection, I could always rely on one or two “helpers” for each class, but only recently I have realized why they were always the same in any class I taught and the reason is that the others have never had not a clue of what it ought to be done, like me, and two in 25 is the exact percentage of those who consciously use technological devices. 2 in 15, 8 in 100, this is the truth.

Any truth needs to be proved and the occasion was my first remote classwork – quite oxymoronic, isn’t it? – during which the students had to perform the following complex operations: download a text, fill in, save the text, upload it. A piece of cake. Of course, I had given them days to make practice with a mechanism, I was sure they were absolutely familiar with. Well, it was not so. As soon as the test began, I was flooded with the following list or problems:

1.Teach!!! 😱I cannot download the text! It says I have already downloaded it, but this is IMPOSSIBLE! I did NOTHING😇!!! Soon others tagged along behind, but unfortunately for them the rest of the students had succeeded in downloading it, so I understood that the system actually worked. After a quick check, I saw that all of them had “unconsciously” downloaded the text more than once, even seven times.

 Ok. I’ll reset your downloads and try again. Only once now or you are out”😤. A good threat at the right time always works, believe me, in fact, I received no more issues of this kind.

2.Teach!!!!😱😱I cannot fill in the text, I don’t know why 😇!!! Soon others tagged along behind but unfortunately for them the rest of the students had succeeded in writing in it, so the system actually worked.

“How can that be? It is a txt file! Which device are you using? Haven’t you tested it before?”🤔

(more or less they all give the same answer)I’m using my phone! Yesterday it worked!😩

“So, you are telling me that yesterday everything worked?”🤔

“Yes, it worked on the computer!”😥😩

“But you are using your phone now – and I might discuss your choice of device for a classwork, even if from remote – and you should have tried on the device you had planned to use, otherwise what is the point of giving you time and tools to practice? What phone are you using?”😤

“An i Phone.”😥

“You need to download a specific app, to be able to write in a txt file with the i Phone, these issues should have been solved before the classwork and not during the classwork.😤😤

3. (after few minutes)Teach😱😱😱!!! I don’t know what happened, I  did NOTHING, whatever I wrote has just disappeared!!!😱😥😇

“Have you saved you answers?”🤔

“NO, I haven’t.”😥😇

“Well, you’ve learnt something today, you’d better remember next time”.😤😤

4. Teach😱😱😱😱!!! I don’t know what happened, I saved the text , but I can’t find the file anywhere, it has vanished, evaporated, dissolved….😥😥😥

“Like magic, you mean?”😤🤔


“How have you named your file?”🤔

“I have not”.😥

“Good. Well, you’ve learnt something today, you’d better remember next time”. 😑😤

Did anything change in the other classes? Absolutely not. Same issues, same drama, same confusion. Hence, lesson learned: you may even be born digital, but actually being so, well, that’s another story.



31 thoughts on “The Things I Have Learnt this Year. Part 1.The Digital Generation.

  1. As a retired teacher I totally recognise and empathise, Stefy: when, two decades ago, I was lumbered with ‘teaching’ IT skills to 12 and 13 year olds I was always flabbergasted by many students not saving their work despite being reminded multiple times during a lesson. So the problems you enumerate are very familiar. Ah well, c’est la vie, n’est-ce pas? (Do I hear È vero echoing across the kilometres?)

  2. OMG! I could just response: it’s right, it’s right, and it’s right, just as I listen to my wife and nod my head. I love you, babe. Buon Natale 🤗💖stay safe💕🌹💕💖🤗😘

  3. Stefi, To keep up with what most businesses insist is required when online, I bought a smarphone. Today it sits in its box in a drawer. Why, because I couldn’t activate it. The unfathomable procedure was beyond me! So I have a simple, easily activated ‘Pay As You Go’ phone with large numbers (my eyesight is not what it was) for easy use. It only costs me £0.01 per call. Smartphones – you can keep em my dear. No wonder the kids spend so much time staring at them…

    • I have to say, Jack, that smartphones are fun but also very useful. I would suggest you to give it another try. By the ways, Santa brougt a smartphone for Christmas and I loved it. 🤗 Enjoy you holidays , Jack.😘

  4. You hit the nail on the head . . . the focus has been on “using apps that do things for you” and not learning what the device works or what it can do.

    If asked to do something new, most people don’t want to even try and understand. People who text and email hundreds of messages a day have no idea how their phone works, how to set up the phone to take smaller photos, how to download stuff (or where it goes when downloaded), etc. etc.

    But, it’s not all due to the users. Devices like phones and pads are not geared to show users the underlying file structure. Plus, every update changes the menus, locations of settings, renames settings, etc. etc.

    I long for the good ole days when devices were simpler and thus instructions were simpler . . .

  5. It worries me how dependent the younger generation are on their devices. My daughter seems to sleep with hers. And now my hubby has bought her a Fitbit watch. I’m not sure that was a good idea. Too many devices. Sometimes we truly need to switch off and just breathe. Nevertheless, I can see that teaching IT has its place but I’m sure they would rather upload their latest photo to Instagram!

    • If we are talking about uploading photos, they are great. But we have to help them understand that the Internet is a precious source of information and knowledge too, and teach how, where the can get this information. The digital world is far more than Istagran and Tik Tok.

  6. Oh heavens, this says SO much to me! Before the pandemic I was a substitute teacher in a number of schools, and already much of their work was done online…only these kids have no clue how to research online, no clue how to craft sentences without the computer telling them they’ve actually made a sentence, etc. It is so. Flippin’. Depressing. I teach university online, and there are plenty of adult learners who don’t know how to use things like powerpoint or formatting on word, but I can excuse this; unless one’s job required extensive use of Microsoft Office, I can get how the programs could be overwhelming at first (heaven knows I still suck at using excel). But unlike the younger students who just blow it all off, the adult learners actually realize that jobs are on the line and are therefore motivated to do something about the ignorance.

    Have you noticed how often the news laments how families are leaving public schools for private schools or homeschools, or how there are now greater learning disparities because higher-income families are hiring tutors? Wonder why no one is talking about how great remote learning is?


    Sorry, I get my dander up about this stuff. My twin boys are learning nothing on this diet of worksheets and videos, while my daughter attending school one county over has been able to attend in-person since August. Just…just basic protection measures, and they’ve been fine. I get the heavy debate in spring and summer, but thousands of schools have functioned since fall without shutting, so can this debate really still be a debate? Ugh, I’m rambling, sorry you’ve got the brunt of it!

    • The accurate report of what has happened since September is here: I didn’t tell one lie about it. We followed protocols strictly and after only two weeks techers and students started to be quarantined, giving the start to a grotesque merry-go-round. We are about 1.300 in my school, 52 average sized or small sized classrooms and half of them with about 28 students each. They are planning to keep the 75 % in-person, that mean 21 students plus the teacher. Is that safe?

      • No, it isn’t, and in reading your post I agree with a lot of what you’re saying. My daughter’s school is very small, roughly 15 kids in a classroom, which makes it far easier to space. You’re spot on that there must be a cap to classroom capacity, and that the outdoor option, while nice to think of, iiiiiis rarely ideal for cold-weather places. A friend of mine who teaches in South Dakota had to take a year sabbatical because her administrator wasn’t even having anyone quarantining whether or not they had symptoms or family members who tested positive. THAT is indefensible.

        But I do think there are ways to get people back into the classrooms, especially where the internet connection/resources are a HUGE problem. Much of rural Wisconsin, for instance, does not have reliable enough connections for people to be able to properly meet the needs of online learning. The major difference here, though, is that the population is very small, with only a few hundred in k-5, or 6-8, or 9-12. If 9-12 remain online–as many are, understandably–that means there are a lot of available classrooms in which to spread students.

        Which leaves staff, which is I know something that is a HUGE problem, having worked in the public school system, too. Teachers need to be safe, and there need to be enough teachers in order to be with the student groups.

        I wish I had answers, and I know you sure as heck would love some answers, too. I know you and I won’t agree on all these aspects, and I do hope there come some more stable plans from our states. I just know that the rural and urban situations are so, so very different, and I do NOT like how our dinky rural town copies whatever the huge school district in the big city area twenty miles away does. If anything else, their needs and resources are different, which should mean any plan must adapt as such.
        But these are my thoughts. I know I’m not perfect, and I know you and I just want to see our kids learning somehow. Here’s hoping that 2021 does see better changes before too long. x

      • We are perfectly on the same side. The same law, the same plan cannot be good for everybody. There are urban, rural, big, small schools. Some areas have problems with connections, some families cannot afford buying other devices, some others can. This is the same scene anywhere from Greenland to the South Pole. The problem is that we do not how long this pandemic wll last and for this reason governmets don’t want to invest too much money in what is perceived as a transient situation. That is why there is chaos.

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