We all know about the generation gap. How our parent's just don't understand, or that the hard core rock-and-roll of the 60's became the easy listening of today. The culture remains the same and while parents shake their heads, there was always a basic understanding of what and why their children did what they did.
Then in a flash, the computer became personal and the Internet went global. At one time kids would go down the street to play with their friends, now they log on and chat with their friends in Germany or Egypt. The adults look with disbelief at the teenager who was up till 2am "online" or "playing games". Any song ever written can be found, downloaded for $0.99, and stored on a device smaller than a man's wallet.
This is a world that magicians and prophets could never have imagined and yet we experience it as if it were normal.
The largest generation gap ever has been created, most educators were able to know a time before technology and information became so cheap and pervasive. Our students however, never knew a world without Apple and its iPhones, YouTube, text messaging, online gaming, and all of the other wonders of the digital age. For many of us this is cool technology; for our students this is their life.
Do you want a guidebook? We are all still humans, but it is a very different environment that we are in and if we wish to adapt and acclimate we need to know what the new world is like.
Cory Doctorow is willing to be your guide.
For years, Cory has created exciting and intelligent glimpses into our world and the strangeness within. Whether serving as a champion for openness of information at the Electronics Frontier Foundation, co-blogging the incredible Boingboing, and writing fascinating stories that share what our world has and could become.
A man who practices what he preaches, all of his works are available for free on his site www.craphound.com. He even takes it one step further with a Creative Commons licence allowing for derivative and reinterpretations of his stories. This means you can have your students freely (as in speech and pizza) rewrite their favorite stories, create plays, videos, and then post them for the world to see with Cory's blessing.
Here is my review of Cory's newest book:
For The Win - The economy hit bottom in a way that even the world's greatest minds could not wrap their heads around. It seemed like more than ever, the economy was just a game that we had forgotten the rules and slipped up. This game is made ever more clear and surreal in "For The Win" when the reader is thrown into the world of the MMORPGs (Massive Multiplayer Online Role Player Games, e.g. World of Warcraft).
We have seen the hours that Europeans and Americans will spend in those games, but how many of us understand what they are doing? The excitement of earning more gold, experience points, rare items fuels an economy that mirrors that which we participate in everyday. Sadly, there are always those who are willing to exploit others to make money. Bosses run shops where children play the games day and night, taking gold and items to sell to the wealthier players.
The workers use the power of the Internet to find others with a similar plight, and the story takes us from the streets of India and Singapore, to the suburbia of Orange County, CA (think Disneyland). Videos and stories of the conditions reach critical mass and the need to organize for a fair deal emerges.
The story will show you how our economy became so precarious with explanations of Credit Default Swaps, macro/microeconomics, unions, and modern indentured servitude. There are other books about the difficult conditions of the worker like Sinclair's The Jungle, but you will find your students unable to put down the book as every page teems with references to the world they know all too well.
I enjoy books that I can discuss with my students where I learn from them and vice versa and this is certainly one of those books. You will be amazed at how much your students will want to talk about issues that seemed so far away up until now and I hope that you will share those experiences with others in the comments below, on Cory's website, and anywhere else to get the word out about this all too important and exciting glimpse into our crazy world.
Download a free copy of Cory Doctorow's For The Win
Purchase a hard copy to read and share
Purchase an audio version for the plane, car, or beach.