IL2009 – Wednesday Keynote: Teen Panel Interview

This keynote was the pivotal moment for me at Internet Librarian. Stephen Abram interviewed three Monterey teens and Ben, Montery Public’s Teen Services Libarian. He asked standard questions from an Information Futures Institute survey, but the kids didn’t know ahead of time what the questions would be.  He mentioned that the State of Idaho has a video of similar panel with 10 Millennials.

I thought this was an important meeting because it brought home the points that generalizations are both useful and useless, that there are as many similarities between “boomers” and “millennials” as differences, and that acknowledging the similarities will help bridge the age gap and allow more honest communication between generations that are traditionally defined by their differences.

Here are the questions and the combined responses, as well as a summary by Abram at the end.

Q. What’s in your backpack?
A. phone, ipod, camera, usb, textbooks

Q. How important is brand? (ex. designer clothing)
A. Quality and price are more important, especially if you’re buying your own.

Q. How do you use your cellphone?
A. Call friends, not parents; text; check in with parents; text, keep in touch with family members who live elsewhere; use as camera, take funny videos.

Q. How do you know what time it is?
A. (only one wears a watch)

Q. What do you do on Saturdays?
A. Music, homework, tennis lessons, sometimes movies/beach
connect with texting – twitter was never alive
sleep in, check email, play it by ear
start planning Wednesday – dress up in themes, go out to  open mic at East Village (poetry, songs,)

Q. Do you create things?
A. Compose and record music; compose poetry; play sports

Q. Do you expect to achieve the same standard of living as your parents?
A. Potentially – everything is much easier now; everything has to do with education, which makes more options available; there’s lots of good info online for career information; school counselors are connected. There are more opportunities now; but technology is a distraction, need to use it correctly.

Q. For homework – how do you start your research?
A. Voice recognition on computer to write essays; research online, go to the library for older texts, Google and Bing and interning at the library; Homework Help Now service at the library.
Textbooks – stay far away from the computer to avoid distractions – school has a database: type question and it adds info from colleges across the states – a professor who is online will answer, share books via ILL.

Q. When you find information, how do you judge its quality?
A. Wikipedia is accurate for some kinds of information; some teachers are stricter than others.
I’ve never had a teacher say “go ahead and use wikipedia,” but you can use the article footnotes to judge quality.
Teachers are familiar with web cheats and recognize copied work.

Q. Have you gone online to find info about uncomfortable topics?
A. We prefer to talk to someone we know – friends, or if that’s not enough, would look it up online or use local resources: library, safe places, AA meetings, like to talk to a “face.”

Q. What’s the last book  you read?
Physics of the impossible; Catcher in the rye; Phantom tollbooth

Q. What videogames do you play?
A. Videogames? No computer games; friends do WOW, Halo, and they’re dressing as game characters for Halloween.
My last gaming device: Nintendo 64; I’ve played Guitar hero; my friends have LAN parties sometimes.

Q. When was the last time you were in a bookstore?
A. A long time ago. My friend collects antique books – I go with my friends to shop second-hand bookstores often.

Q. Do you read online?
A. No – I like to highlight and annotate, so I prefer print.  I’m  looking into e-book readers, may be using them soon.
For online e-books, sites that require passwords are more valid; I still use sites from my old school; I try to back up what I find online with a book, or find multiple sites with similar information.  Blogs are opinions, I don’t use them for research, but go through to the original site.  I don’t use pages that anyone can edit; I prefer print references for research, or to use the school’s databases.  To check authority, I look at the reference pages to see where they are getting their information from; from database; I use facets to filter for peer reviewed articles, opposing opinions.

Q. What do your teachers tell you you can and can’t use?
A. It varies, depending on the class and the purpose of the assignment.

Q. Would you consider yourself Republican, Democrat or Independent?
A. I don’t know enough to choose; my opinions overlap with all; I’d need to review the issues.

Q. What worries you about the world today?
A. The environment; the unequal distribution of wealth around the world; I find it bothersome that some would rather keep all their money than give some of it back.

Q. Have you been bullied online?
A. It happens with IM, but  not as much as on Facebook and Myspace.  There’ss a lot of “he said … she said,” and  even though you can delete the comments, they stay with you.

Q. Where do you volunteer?
A. Ecuador – doctors volunteer to do surgery in poor areas, and I went with  my father to help; intern at the library – I like to see community involvement, youth services, and a place that welcomes everyone; I help at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, at marathons, and my friends and I knit for charities.

Q. Ben, do you have any insights to share?

A. Monterey Public has a strong  focus on high school – we’re a couple of blocks from Monterey HS, and we need to make that group feel comfortable. We also do a lot with middle school students.  All the students have diverse interests and talents. Some of our more successful programs were technology fairs, but there are always going to be too many groups to find something that will grab everyone.  We try to provide opportunities for people of all ages to interact with each other.  You’ve seen that each teen on the panel has at least one thing in common with people in the audience. Monterey County is trying to help its teens become culturally aware, and supports ethnic programming and festivals.

Steve: The PEW reports  there is a 70% overlap between millennials and boomers in their ideas and values.
Millennials are smarter than boomers, articulate, volunteer at 4x rate of boomers; they are engaged in issues, not politics.

I feel better, knowing these young adults are thoughtful and practical.  And fun-loving – they were not above delivering a few pokes to the audience!


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