Great to be here: Love Michael Thompson, one of the best, and also because I know how important it is for me to be informed about technology and boys, and to have the topic problematized.   I say that as a school-leader embracing technology in our schools, and as a Dad of two very technocentric boys, ages 6 and 10.     Thompson gives a shout-out to Don Tapscott’s Growing Up Digital.  

Kids today, the kids we teach, are cyber-natives; it is like the gap of immigrants and their children, MT says, an observation frequently made in recent years.  MT is concerned about boy achievement, and tells us that even in best independent schools, at co-ed schools, in the last 5 graduating classes, of the top 25% in each class, 70% have been girls, 30% boys, and in the bottom 25%, 80-90% are boys.  MT says that he will send $10 to any school that can email to tell him that is not the case.  

More about this very important talk after the jump.

MT reports being worried about his own son, and the boys at his school.   Boys do do more video and video games, but girls are on cell phones much more than boys.  One of the biggest changes in American childhood is the loss of outdoor, undirected free play by kids.     We sometimes blame the kids and the video games for this, but MT says this is hypocrisy; we are just more fearful as parents, and so prefer to have kids indoors playing video games.   MT: Much less outdoor play, much more obesity.     MT promotes a book by Richard Ginsburg, Whose Game is it Anyway?    And another shoutout for a book I love, Louv’s Last Child in the Woods.  

MT: There is good news, and technology is having good effects:  Kids IQ scores are going way up in this generation.  Third grades are able to handle more and more, more complicated information.   Kids are much less afraid of writing, now, because they write so much on computers.   There is no evidence that violent game playing translates to violence in the real world. Kids in Japan play violent video games like crazy, but not violent there at all. 

Pornography– widely available, and very likely that 10 and 11 year olds are seeing it online.  The largest viewers of online pornography are children between 12-18.  Parents must talk to children about this, sooner and better.   And yet, despite more online porn., the age of first intercourse is actually rising, and rape is declining. 

Love this anecdote: Boys program calculators to cheat on chemistry tests, and so science teachers know to have kids swap calculators (at random).   You tell the IT directors about boys programming their calculators this way, and the IT directors say “aren’t boys clever?”  I feel the same way; they are using tools available in powerful ways to advance their interests and accomplish their goals.   Love it.   The problem is not that they can cheat on the tests we give them, it is that we are giving them tests easy to cheat on.  We need to give them tests that are real-world based, and that there is no cheating option, and they can use all tools available to them to solve the problems they are confronting. 

Boys are so used to interacting, so used to instant feedback, from internet and video games, they are that much less patient with listening to adults talk, they that much more crave inter-activeness and active learning.   The new model has undermined the notion of teacher as expert.     Michael is SO right; our kids are so capable and competent now, and we have to harness that into the work of learning in our schools.   We need to now find out from boys what they know, how they know it, and mobilize their powers to advance upon the problems we want them to solve.   

MT runs out of time, but this is really good.  He gives a shoutout for a TED video that he says is really great, by Dave Perry. 

Lots more I want to write here, this was a very important talk, I believe.  MT says it was his first delivery, and it was a bit disorganized, a bit discursive, ran over time.  But every thing he said, that we need to ensure kids have more free, outdoor play, and that we need to recognize the value of video games and internet for kids’ development and learning, is SO accurate, so wise, so profound.