Monday, January 25, 2010

Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds

The Kaiser Family Foundation has just released a new report on the media uses of children and young people aged 8 to 18 years within the U.S. The report--
Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds
--surveyed a national sample of over 2,000 children and youth, and took into account young people's tendency to multitask with media (finding that on average young people spend 7.5 hours a day engaging with over 10 hours worth of media (e.g., they might listen to music while chatting via instant messenger and working on photoshopping an image to be posted to a discussion board later).

I haven't had time to read the full report, but skimming through the key findings reveals some interesting trends:

The report seems to focus on hours of media use, rather than kinds of media use (e.g., "computer" is a category of media use, but to what extent this is broken down into what young people are actually doing with the computer remains to be seen)--although this could be the fault of my cursory reading at this point. There also seems to be a strong emphasis in the report on media consumption--it'll be interesting to see what the body of the report has to say about children's and young people's media production.

Texting is good for kids!

Clare Woods, of Coventry University, has been conducting a number of studies of texting practices among 8 to 12 year olds, and is finding a strong correlation between texting and kids' phonological awareness and literacy development. This is a nice fly in the ointment for those educators who insist that textisms--those abbreviations, phonically-spelled, and iconic symbols used in text messaging--are killing written English. As Wood points out, "If we are seeing a decline in literacy standards among young children, it is in spite of text messaging, not because of it.”

A full report isn't available yet, but will be interesting reading when it is!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A long time between posts

For anyone who happens still to stumble in here, it's been an unconscionable time between posts. There are no good reasons, although there are plenty of excuses. The page proofs from hell. Finishing up all but the minimum of paid work and happily entering "untirement". A bout of good strong Mexican flu. The coffee harvest. Too many overdue pieces of contracted writing that had to be produced and delivered before "untirement" generated a total weakness of will with respect to writing for publication. A mountain of interesting things to be done back here in Mexico, such as building a deck and finishing off the relaxation space up on the roof ahead of the coming summer -- when she who now brings in almost all the bacon begins sabbatical. And so on.

Today was fun. In the morning and early afternoon I finished husking the bulk of the coffee beans from the first picking -- ready for roasting. There were still a few hours of daylight left so I went on out to the coffee land to do a bit of weed clearing by hoe, in the area at the front of the land where we've been making a few small decorative gardens amongst the coffee plants. As I arrived the neighbour's young son -- he'd be 5 or, at most 6 (doesn't seem to go to school yet ...) came out and walked over to the land with me. I asked if his dad, David, was working, and the lad said he was off picking coffee.

We wandered over to the workshop/toolshed on our land and I opened it up and got out some implements. A hoe to hoe the weeds and a large bucket on a rope to get water from the well to do a bit of watering where required. I loosened the soil around a few plants in the gardens and headed off to get some water. The boy followed. I brought the water back and watered the plants and did this a couple more times. The boy said he was goiing back to the house so I said "OK,, see you tomorrow (cos I will go out again for a full day tomorrow). I started some weeding and a few minutes later the boy was back. He had his machete strapped on his hip, but he had brought a small (maybe 2 litres) plastic container (from Mum's kitchen no doubt) to which he had attached some cord -- enough to draw water from the well. He proceeded to water a few plants, making several trips. I got on with some weeding and with transferring a few small plants. He said he was going back to the house. So I thanked him for the watering and gave him some pesos.

He went back home -- maybe 50 metres away and with reasonably clear line of vision to their house through various coffee plants, trees, a fence line, etc. So I could see he got home safely each time. I continued working. 5 minutes later he was back again with a small hoe (David's) and a few wee plants. He starts digging in an area between some coffee plants and plants his wee plants. Heads off to the well and gets some water. And then does a bit of weeding. Every now and then he'd say something -- usually asking if I had seen that bird that had flown by.

I was intrigued with his unprompted propping up of a plant that was growing along the ground because of its weight. He found a branch that had divided out into three smaller branches and he cut those branches off, leaving like three "finger stumps: at the end. He used these stumpts to wedge the plant stem so it sould stay secure.

Now, of course, all this time my head was mulling a swag of competing thoughts. Whilst working in Australia, of course, I'd had to have a Blue Card, that gave permission to be around kidz in school areas when on research trips and the like. We all know the issues and the protocols. Yet, like many of us, no doubt, I grieve for what has been lost over the past generation or two when it comes to the practices of safety. Moreover, this right now is Mexico, where in the cities kidnappings are a genuine concern among the social classes who might be able to pay ransoms. On one side of my head were all these kinds of things buzzing around. On the other side was a certain knowledge that the boy's Mum would know where he was, and a pretty strong feeling that she would not be worried. David has become our main work support on the land, and when it comes to coffee picking the whole family pitches in. But above all these thoughts was a contagious feeling of joyful privilege and humility at being accorded a level of trust that made me privvy to watching a very young child enact being in non-pretend adult roles.

It reminded me of that magical sentence in Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society, where Illich silently chided himself for referring to a peasant's son as "nino" and thereby bringing something between the father and son that is not customarily there in their lifeworld lives and roles. There was a smaller sized person there doing exactly what I was doing right there, and what his father will be doing right there the same time tomorrow. And I could not help thinking that part of the mix in the whole situation was a powerful confidence and trust on the part of his Mum that the boy would know exactly how to practise safety. I haven't felt myself in the presence of such dignified circumstances in a long long time. It felt like the most outrageous privilege; something special beyond words.

Something worth rekindling a blog for.

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