Teens and Technology

This is a modified article I wrote for a fundraising blog about using fundraising prizes with high schoolers. The purpose wasn’t to be an exhaustive research project, so I’m sure there is more (let me know in your COMMENT at the end).

Cursive writing in high school…..

I was taken aback recently when a student made a Facebook comment asking the question “Why do they still teach us cursive when we don’t use it in high school?” That question includes a less than completely correct assessment of writing in high school, but he has a point. Even those very few students who don’t have access to a computer at home DO have access at school. With the library, multiple computer labs, at LEAST one computer in every classroom and even a 1-1 student to computer ratio in the “New Tech” school. Unless they are writing a paper during 4th period that is due 5th, most will opt to use a computer because they can edit better. But even then, many can PRINT better than they can WRITE in cursive.

Just yesterday, I had a student bring me a self-assessment that I had written a comment on and in asking me what I wrote (yes, my cursive is not pretty) he commented, “I have a hard time reading cursive.” WOW!

Today’s Teens are different  <===read

Today’s teens have never seen a phone with a rotary dial or a TV with a rabbit ear antennae on it. They’ve never played an LP record. I was using an LP in a class and some students helping set things up asked me, in all seriousness, “Do you put the needle on the inside or the outside?”  While adults are getting comfortable with email, teens have come to favor texting or instant messaging. Most use Facebook to communicate and keep up with their friends. They have unlimited texting and prefer texting over a phone conversation because 1) it doesn’t require “minutes” on their parents’ phone plan, they don’t have to mess with “small talk” and they can simultaneously communicate with multiple people. They do all their research for school online rather than in the library and have never typed on even an electric typewriter, learning “keyboarding” rather than “typing” skills.  They don’t surf the “world wide web” — they are “on” the Internet. They don’t own a stereo sound system as most of their music is on MP3 players, phones, iPods or computers. They prefer laptops (not notebooks) over desktops and macs over pcs, but have to deal with pcs because their parents (and their schools) can buy them for less money. Their cameras are digital, not film and they love to take pictures of themselves and of themselves with friends…..which is why the flip video camera. They’ve probably not even heard of Beta and dislike the inefficiencies of VHS and Cassettes compared to CDs, DVDs and Blue Rays and are familiar with more file formats than most older adults.

They are multi-taskers and are easily bored. For example, while working on their homework, they are texting on their phones, listening to music on their iPod and communicating on Facebook. In a wired (or wireless) classroom with computers, they are looking up links and keying in their journal assignments while the teacher is showing a Powerpoint video or giving information or lecture. One teacher who has such a classroom told me, “I have to get used to the idea that not having their eyes when I talk to them is not a sign of disrespect, but rather a result of their multi-tasking capabilities and functionality.”

In the context of things we seasoned veterans ASSUME, let me suggest a few things to consider in the area of prizes for kids.

Bad / Ineffective Prizes

WRIST WATCH: I was in front of a group of about 50 high school freshmen that had moved from the bandroom to the auditorium stage to take a picture of the group to be used in a school program. Without a visible clock, and not knowing how much time ’til the bell, I asked, “Can someone tell me what time it is?” The first response was, “May I look at my illegal cell phone to tell you?”

Out of the 50 students, guess how many of them were wearing a wristwatch. ZERO! In fact, they took it as one of those things that dates my generation that I would even ask. The only time students may not have access to their phone (and that trend is changing) is during school, during which there is a clock in every classroom or they just wait for a bell of for someone to tell them to do something — like go to the next class.

And yet, nearly every prize program out there includes wrist watches. Maaaaybe in elementary school, but dismissive at the high school level and maybe even for middle schoolers.

Read this article about wristwatches.

STOPWATCH: I recall telling students that the stopwatch was always one of the most selected items in the level. NOTE: Most cell phones now include a stopwatch.

CAMERA. Again, most cell phones have both a camera and video capability. There is a good higher end option (below) for video.

MP3 PLAYERs. Unless it is an iPod or Zune (name brand), it will not be much of an incentive. Having the wrong MP3 player is like wearing the wrong tennis shoes or jeans in Middle School. Most students find a way to get an iPod….or their phone is an MP3 player.

CD’s / CD PLAYERs / CD HOLDERs. Have you been to a store that sells CD’s? They don’t exist much any more. Where Wal-Mart used to have rows of them in categories, the local store now has one small section with all CDs lumped together. WHY? Because teens are downloading the songs they want for $1. Only us old folk are still buying CDs.

When I have offered to make practice CD’s of music the band is working on or of solo accompaniments, students ask if I can put it on their flash drive so they can transfer it to their iPod. Many of them don’t even have a way to play a CD anymore, unless it is through their computer.

CORDED PHONES. I used to use novelty phones as a prize; coke can and coke cup phones, piano phones and more. They used to be popular as a way for students to get a phone in his/her room. Today they will laugh, even at the novelty phones.

ANYTHING VHS OR CASSETTE. I have an embarrassing collection of dual cassette AM/FM radio boom boxes that I can’t even give away. If an upper end video recorder requires a cassette version of a tape – FORGET IT! Any recording device worth having now uses either hard drive or SD card for storage.

PDA. To teenagers, PDA is in their school’s student handbook as “Public Display of Affection” — and it also stands for the “Parental Drug Association”. In other words, PDA is not a good acronym to use in a school setting. Those Palm Pilots were (and still are for old people) referred to as “Personal Digital Assistants”, the proper new form of a PDA is now more commonly referred to as a “SmartPhone”.

Most phones now include all the capabilities that were in PDA’s, cameras, video cameras and MP3 players.

Current Prizes for High School Student Motivation

CASH. Still the best.

GIFT CARDS. The best would be an iTunes card as that is where most teens are going to download their music…..but a card to Walmart, Amazon or any other place that INCLUDES the ability to download music would be a hit. This could also include pre-paid phone cards that could allow someone to add minutes to their pre-paid phone.

YOU TUBE READY VIDEO FLIP. One extremely popular video camera is the Flip, or even a generic version. They come with a USB plug that can be used to go right into the computer to upload video to YouTube.


SUBSCRIPTIONS to anything that helps their networking, interconnected, wired and communication rich lives.


Thanks for reading,
John Gardner

Twitter: http://twitter.com/BandDirFundRais
Linked In: john@qdpcorp.com
Skype: qdpcorp

Want to know more about fundraising?

You Want To Make Money in Fundraising? http://wp.me/pKZd0-n
Can I Make Money in Fundraising while Working From Home? http://wp.me/pKZd0-a
Who Raises Money and Why: http://wp.me/pKZd0-H
Frozen Cookie Dough via Home Delivery: http://wp.me/pKZd0-2h


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