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You hear two opinions from experts on the topic of what happens when kids are perpetually exposed to technology. One: Constant multitasking makes teens work harder, reduces their focus, and screws up their sleep. Two: Using technology as a youth helps students adapt to a changing world in a way that will benefit them when they eventually have to live and work in it. Either of these might be true. More likely, they both are. But it is certainly the case that these kids are different—fundamentally and permanently different—from previous generations in ways that are sometimes surreal, as if you'd walked into a room where everyone is eating with his feet.
It's as if Beatlemania junkies in 1966 had had the ability to demand "Rain" be given as much radio time as "Paperback Writer," and John Lennon thought to tell everyone what a good idea that was. The fan–celebrity relationship has been so radically transformed that even sending reams of obsessive fan mail seems impersonal.
The teens' brains move just as quickly as teenage brains have always moved, constructing real human personalities, managing them, reaching out to meet others who might feel the same way or want the same things. Only, and here's the part that starts to seem very strange—they do all this virtually. Sitting next to friends, staring at screens, waiting for the return on investment. Everyone so together that they're actually all apart.
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The test results say that Zac has mild ADHD. But he also has a 4.1 GPA, talks to his girlfriend every day, and can play eight instruments and compose music and speak Japanese. Maybe his brain is a little scrambled, as the test results claim. Or maybe, from the moment he was born, he's been existing under an unremitting squall of technology, living twice the life in half the time, trying to make the best decisions he can with the tools he's got.
How on earth would he know the difference?
As educators, the solution is obvious – we educate our students and prepare them for a society we cannot control.