The Sixth Graders

Sixth graders, are just 10 years from the workforce, I wonder if we’ll be ready.

I’m now in Dallas, about to speak to 250 marketers (then do workshops) who all work for a company that’s about to ramp up their social marketing activities and put community first. Brands foster communities is a trend we’re seeing, just as Oracle boldly launched it’s Oracle Mix Ideas which allows anyone to submit comments right on the corporate website.

On the flight over here from SF, I sat next to a young lady (mid 20s) who is a teacher to sixth graders (12 year olds) in San Antonio. As I almost always do, I shifted the conversation over to the internet and she shared with me how this next generation of digital natives is coming at us fast and strong

The Sixth Graders:

  • All of her sixth graders were literate, although not all of them had computers at home, so she couldn’t issue mandatory web assignments.
  • Many of them used the internet for research, she allowed them to cite wikipedia as a supplement–but they had to cite other websites.
  • Many students turned in their ‘papers’ as digital blog posts on blogspot.com.
  • The art of writing in cursive is deteriorating, many of the students could not read her cursive writing, soon it may go the way of shorthand.
  • The sixth graders would often groan and roll their eyes when asked to do a writing assignment –yet when she listed off the internet as one of the methods they could produce the project, they quickly got excited –and lightbulbs went off.
  • Plagiarism is still an issue, but she and her colleagues have sophisticated ways of checking papers by copying and pasting them in Google, or using proprietary software.
  • I asked her if she sees an increase in web technologies as they get older, and she says “yes, soon the parents won’t restrict and monitor their usage, as they go to high school and college”.
  • I asked her if this helped them to be more or less social, she replied: “Both. They still are shy in class presentations as kids are from any generation, but they express more of their personal being online”
  • During tests, if the students didn’t know the answer to the questions, they would write “IDK”.
  • Now this certainly wasn’t a scientific study, but I’m sure you can find stories like this from sixth graders all around the United States, and perhaps around the world. Give them a six years, and it’ll be interesting to see how their online behavior impacts their college admissions: “10 percent of admissions officers from prestigious schools said they had peeked at sites like Facebook and MySpace to evaluate college-bound seniors. Of those using the profiles, 38 percent said it had a “negative impact” on the applicant, according to Kaplan Inc”.

    If you have experience with the modern day sixth grader, I’d love to hear your observations in the comments below, if you don’t have any stories to tell, forward this to someone who can.

    Warning, if you ask me any questions, and I’m unable to respond with a good answer, I may just respond, “IDK”