Lumbering Jack asked this on the old boards:

" In what respect(s) do you think this site's failure to "keep up" has hurt us, and how will the new site address these perceived problems?

{I'll admit my bias, here. My wife has recently become addicted to Facebook (mostly for purposes of playing Pet Society). All I can see from my exposure to that "social networking" site is a vast sea of people, bound together by nothing more than vague chains of acquaintance, twitteringTM on about nothing in particular.}"

I answered him there, but I figured I'd cross post over here as well. Keep in mind that this is only my opinion.

I don't think any of our regulars are leaving because we haven't switched formats, but I truly believe that we not gaining any ground and that a good part of the reason is because a simple message board is not what newer users are looking for.

This year I'm not a regular classroom teacher. I'm the technology coach for my high school and my job is to help teachers effectively incorporate new technologies into their lesson planning in order get the students to higher levels of critical thinking. I've had to do a lot of research, and I started a grad program this Spring specializing in 21st century teaching skills. It's really opened my eyes to what's going on in our society.

One of the biggest revelations to me was that the old notion that we have X-number of brain cells and we'll never have more is wrong. Our brains do continue to grow and change based on external stimulus throughout our lives. What this means to young people is that due to computers and other forms of technology, their brains are actually formed differently than people of our (about age 30 and up) generation. Where we are hardwired to accept information in a linear, chronological fashion. Younger people are hardwired to accept information in a more "random access" manner. This is such a pronounced difference that experts have coined a couple of terms to describe the difference. "Digital Natives" are people who have been hardwired to accept information based on the way it is accessed through technology. Those who are geared towards linear informational access are called "Digital Immigrants." I'll use these terms now because it seems less patronizing than "old folks" and "young people." :)

Digital Natives can multitask far better than most Immigrants can. This is why sites like Facebook and MySpace look so "busy" to Immigrants. There IS a lot going on, but that's how the Natives process the information. Looking at a simple message board to many if not most of them would be like watching the hour hand on a clock move.

And it will only get more pronounced as time moves on. It's a cliche to say that it's incredible how quickly things change, but it is. For example, guess what percentage of students in an average high school have email addresses?

Answer: 35%

Does that stun you because you were expecting it to be higher? It did me when I found it out. The reason it's so low is because digital natives consider email to be the "old way" of electronic communication. I had to make my daughter get an email account as she prepares to go to college. Heck, I'll bet all the immigrants here know of at least one person their own age who considers email to be too new-fangled for them. The natives have picked up email, sniffed it, and tossed it aside.

And here we are using a format that's over ten years old. In technological terms that's pre-Cambrian.

That's my rationale for pushing for the change. Whether you agree with it or not, I hope that it clarifies where I stand a little.

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Comment by Emerkeith Davyjack on February 28, 2012 at 7:08pm


Comment by Doctor Hmmm? on May 30, 2009 at 5:40pm
Apparently, I've turned into Lumbering Jack. I'd ask The Lovely and Talented if she minds, but she's too busy playing Pet Society to notice. ;)
Comment by Captain Comics on May 28, 2009 at 1:37pm
I'm thinking the mini-sections, groups and so forth can continue the depth we had on the old board, where two or three people can thoroughly hash through a subject. I'd hate to lose that, but I'm confident we won't -- I think people like me and you, b_dog want that, so it will happen. For example, Rich and I are working over the new Flash pretty thoroughly over on my blog. But the site also offers the hit-and-run surfing I see the twentysomethings at work enjoy, plus the social-networking options that were more difficult on the old site. I hope we're adding options, not trading one kind of experience for another.

Plus, it sure makes the tech easier to run!
Comment by the_original_b_dog on May 28, 2009 at 9:47am
Thanks. I'll check those out.
Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 9:33am
Here's a couple of articles by the guy who came up with the terms "digital natives" and "digital immigrants." His name is Marc Prensky, and he's pretty much the guru in this field right now. I don't think these have the email figures I was talking about, but he does talk about "neuroplasticity"--the theory that the brain physically changes based upon stimulus. They're both PDFs:

Prensky Article 1

Prensky Article 2
Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 9:29am
I'll try to find the articles I read that gave the percentages if you wish, b_dog.
Comment by the_original_b_dog on May 28, 2009 at 9:20am
Amazing. I still think of e-mail as an essential component of the computer age. Working in the communications biz (an old-fashioned newspaper), I'm fascinated by how people receive information. Knowing that e-mail isn't high on the list of younger people is making me do some rethinking.
Comment by Rich Lane on May 28, 2009 at 8:15am
Probably a better way of phrasing it would be 35% use email. If they need an email address to sign up for this and that, they will quickly create a Yahoo! or Hotmail account, get activated and abandon the account. I know of several kids who have three or four Yahoo! accounts and check none of them. They have that many precisely because of what you questioned. They sign up for a site, forget the user name of the email account they last used and create another one.

My daughter has a couple of email accounts and she uses neither of them. When she is signing up for stuff for college next year, she directs all correspondences to MY account because she knows I check mine. Even my son Pat uses his infrequently. If I send him something important via email, I then text him to tell him to check his account if it's something I feel he needs to see immediately.

If you want to get hold of a digital native at this point in time, text him or her; don't email.
Comment by Lumbering Jack (M'odd-R8-Tr) on May 28, 2009 at 6:04am
So if only 35 percent of kids have e-mail, how do they sign up for ANYTHING? You can't sign up for this site, facebook, and eBay that's for sure. Do you mean that only 35% use their e-mail as a social interaction vs. a "business" thing?
Comment by Figserello on May 28, 2009 at 3:15am
"I suppose saving the site in toto wouldn't be in the cards, would it?"

I've heard the folks on other boards discussing this and it seemed to be feasible from what they were saying. But I'd be very sad if a way wasn't found to do this...


.... and I miss the smileys


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