An article and a powerful conversation: two updates on code name FOEcast

Where does the FOEcast project stand in mid-June 2018?

(If you haven’t followed FOEcast, it’s a project to create plans for a future of education and technology initiative.  It’s open, participatory, ongoing, and transnational.  Here’s a good intro.)

A bunch of things are going on.  More and more people join the Slack channel.  A writing project is under way.  And more!

First, EdSurge published an article about FOEcast.  In it Jeff Young summarized the story so far, interviewing myself and Tom Haymes. It’s a nice intro to FOEcast.

I do like one of Tom’s quotes:

“One of the criticisms of the Horizon Report was it was a little bit too tech-focused and it was a little bit too schlocky about how it portrayed the impact of technology,” he says. His hope is for something that would focus less on painting a picture of future technology, and more on, the major issues that higher ed is going to have to deal with because we’ve adopted this technology.”

Second, we held an ideation exercise at the Emerging Learning Design conference hosted by Montclair State University.  (Readers might recall that we’ve conducted several of these in 2018, including one face to face and another online.) A group of thoughtful learning designers were corralled into a room and led through a design thinking process by this hairy maniac:

Bryan at ELD 2018 by ustStormy

We used versions of the questions from the February-March ideation week.

Things began in typical design thinking fashion, with values.  I asked the crowd: what value do future of ed tech projects like the NMC Horizon Report bring to you?

People answered with key points:

  • They give a sense of what’s coming and help us stay current
  • Such projects are departure points for conversations
  • They introduce key concepts
  • Some appreciated the use cases for strategic planning purposes
  • The scale appealed: bite-size chunks evaluated by peers, which made it great to share with Provost and administration
  • Others like the  multidisciplinary approach
  • Other resources cited can be useful
  • Another value: multiple stakeholders can be involved – i.e., students, teachers, ….

Next we asked: what methods or strategies do you use to learn and think about the future of education?

  • Face-to-face conferences
  • Looking back to ed tech’s past to be able to say more about the future (Audrey Waters cited)
  • Exploring the stories people tell about the future of education (I think this was another Waters link)
  • Playing with things (hardware, software, practices)
  • Related: play within a construct and objectives
  • Being around kids and watching the dynamics
  • Research on Gen Z
  • Through a variety of media – social media, movies
  • Keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s new in the world of business – new career opportunities    
  • One emphasized the need to create the future (Peter Draker)

Then we pushed the group to be creative, asking them to brainstorm what kind of project they wanted to see.  What should be in the ideal project?

  • Infographics / visuals
    • For example, a timeline or story map
  • A digital knowledge base of aggregated media to stay ahead
  • Crowdsourcing information in a virtual environment – features, practices, contact info
  • Examples of proof of concept, case studies
  • It should be concisely shareable with faculty
  • ” ” ” connected to a deeper dive on a particular topic
  • Multiple ways of access would be great – i.e., email, wiki, web (both push and pull technologies)
  • Related: multiple options/points
  • Openness is good (some concern about a process being effectively a black box)
  • Links to individual contributors’ blogs
  • A group which serves as a space to get things started
  • Research-based evidence

In retrospect, that was a really rich session.  It was great to bring in so many people who hadn’t participated before.

Between this ELD session, our April ASU work, the February-March online ideation, and our ongoing conversations, FOEcast is assembling a treasure trove of ideas for future projects.

What do you think of these developments?

(photo by Melissa Hicks)

Posted in education and technology | Tagged | Leave a comment

Discussion question: why is Facebook succeeding financially?

How is Facebook doing these days?  After repeated scandals, a tidal wave of criticism, a much-pilloried Congressional appearance, bad publicity, rumors and reports of declining user numbers and/or participation, the social media platform… is enjoying its stock trading higher than ever.

Here’s Naked Capitalism’s most recent chart of Facebook’s value against that of other tech giants over the past year or so:

No so good as Amazon, but recovered nicely from a few months ago.

You can see that Facebook’s market value took hits in February, March, and April, but then climbed right back up.  In fact, today’s high value seems to be Facebook’s best ever.

My question for you all is: why is this happening?

After all, 2018 has been a terrible year for Facebook.  Why is their stock growing, rather than collapsing?

Here are a few starter ideas, either from me or from other observers. Please add your own:

  • Investors are impressed by Zuckerberg’s damage control.
  • Advertisers feel that they can still make money on the platform, despite popular anxiety.
  • Facebook is too big to fail.
  • Other platforms – Telegram, Mastodon – just aren’t good competitors.
  • People are jumping from Facebook to Instagram, which Facebook owns.  Most users just can’t escape.
  • Facebook keeps offering new services, like Memories, which people and therefore advertisers like.
  • This earnings spike is only a short-term blip.  It’s the calm eye of the storm before the hurricane wall blasts Facebook to smithereens.

What do you think?


Posted in technology | 6 Comments

This week’s future signals: search, trains, pizza, and neoliberalism

It’s a crazy week, between selling the house and conducting two professional trips, but I have time to share three stories with some forecasting potential.  Consider them signals from possible futures.

ITEM: Google launched a college search function.  That’s how their blog post describes it; so far the reality seems to be a kind of web card or tile with various information bits attached.

For example, searching on Stanford brought this up on the right half of my Chrome browser window:

Google college search ex_Stanford

The linked blog posts offers examples from Yale, UCLA and Spelman College. Searching for Community College of Vermont brought up… nothing, besides the ordinary Google search.

Where does Google source this information?  To begin with, publicly available research:

This new experience uses public information from the U.S. Department of Education’s College Scorecard and Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), a comprehensive data set available for 4-year colleges.

Then Google did some extra research on its own, without named partners: “We also worked with education researchers and nonprofit organizations, high school counselors, and admissions professionals…”  This is also ongoing, it seems: “we will continue to focus on how we can better improve access to information about educational opportunities.”

What are the implications here?  Obviously this is important for college and university recruitment, development, and marketing branches, given Google’s enormous lead in the search space.  Note as well that it builds on the federal College Scorecard, created by the Obama administration in its drive to improve American higher ed, and now in the hands of the Trump-DeVos team (and what are they doing with it, hm?).  How does Google handle this information?  With which experts and institutions are they partnering? Good questions.

How strongly will Google try to compete with the whole college admissions information industry?

How can users, be they individuals or universities, interact with Google to learn more or lobby for changes to any given information and its presentation?

Note, too, the way this instances the triumph of mobile over desktop: “We’re starting to roll out this new experience today on mobile with some features on desktop as well…”  Desktop is second place, clearly.

ITEM: Domino’s Pizza has launched a road-paving project.  Yes, you read that correctly.  As Yahoo News put it, “Domino’s Pizza unveils U.S. infrastructure project filling potholes”.

Dominos pavement

On Twitter, reactions touched on literary antecedents:

Jonathan Swerdloff expands on this on Facebook, offering a fine quote:

“When it gets down to it — talking trade balances here — once we’ve brain-drained all our technology into other countries, once things have evened out, they’re making cars in Bolivia and microwave ovens in Tadzhikistan and selling them here — once our edge in natural resources has been made irrelevant by giant Hong Kong ships and dirigibles that can ship North Dakota all the way to New Zealand for a nickel — once the Invisible Hand has taken away all those historical inequities and smeared them out into a broad global layer of what a Pakistani brickmaker would consider to be prosperity — y’know what? There’s only four things we do better than anyone else:
microcode (software)
high-speed pizza delivery

–Neil Stephenson, Snow Crash – Published June 1992

And more:

What is the significance of this strange story?

As the above tweets suggest, this could be one example of private enterprise expanding its role in hitherto public spaces.  Towns and cities failing to repair damaged roads has become a public problem of late.  A good question is: why?  Is there a systematic reason for American roads’ decline, if they are, in fact, worse?  Does it tie into the sense that the nation’s infrastructure is failing?

On Facebook Jim Lai offered another read.  He noted that Domino’s is partnering with AAA to develop some kind of autonomous car pizza delivery service.

For the test, the Ford vehicles will be driven by humans but they will not be interacting with customers. Domino’s deliveries in the test program started in the Miami area last week.

“The last 50 feet of delivering goods is a real challenge,” said Jim Farley, executive vice president and president of global markets for Ford. “This will help us better understand how customers interact with vehicles when there is a delivery by an autonomous-drive vehicle.”

How would paving relate to this pilot?  Perhaps Domino’s and Ford deem American roads too prone to damage to allow reliable (semi)autonomous driving.

ITEM: back to Google, but on a very different front, that of the digital divide.  Google announced it had rolled out high speed WiFi to… 400 Indian train stations.

Google Station is now attracting 8 million users per month, each consuming around 350MB of data per session on average, according to Google VP Caesar Sengupta, who heads up the company’s “next billion users” team…

Why does this matter?  For one, it reminds us of the huge digital divide, despite its near invisibility from just about every technology conversation, including those in education.  Google Station is a creative solution.

For another, it tells us that, as I keep telling people, the future involves persistent trends and objects from the past.  Railroads are about as unsexy as dental surgery, at least in the United States, but they remain vital for certain functions and populations.

For a third, Google Station is yet another example of a private company expanding its efforts in what might have been a public space, or one served by governments.

VentureBeat reminds us of India’s position on the global digital stage, both as a nation with an important tech industry as well as one that’s the target of significant international investment.  How many people are paying attention to this?

Trains, pizza, pavement, search: it’s fascinating to see neoliberalism continue its 21st century progress.  And vital to see how this shapes the future of education.

Now I have to start my first road trip this week.  Let me know what you think of these stories and potential trends in the comments below.

(thanks to Naked Capitalism, Steven Kaye, and multiple friends across Facebook and Twitter)

Posted in trends | Leave a comment

Starting up phase two of the Future Trends Forum

I’d like to announce a new development in the Future Trends Forum, and invite everyone’s participation.

We launched the Forum more than two years ago, and it’s been very successful on a variety of measurements: number of participants, sheer amount of video produced, a proof of concept that webinars don’t have to be terrible, and the development of a community.

So what’s next?

Let’s talk about the Forum’s phase two.  What can we make of the Forum over the next few years?  What new shapes should it take, as we experiment with the technology?  Especially, how can we:

  1. Grow and further diversity the community?
  2. Make the Forum sustainable?

Naturally, I turn to the community for, well, just about everything: thoughts, brainstorms, feedback, plans, dreams, cautions.  That’s how this works, and how I work.

Forum_Bryan Maria Mark Vicky

Me, Maria, Mark, and Vicky brainstorming away

Last week we held a Forum session devoted to phase two.  I was hoping to get some thoughts.  Instead, what occurred was a wide-ranging torrent of ideas, with dozens of people volunteering, arguing, and dreaming together.

Here’s the full recording.  Right after it are my notes, if you’d prefer to read rather than watch and listen.  In those notes I try to mention individuals who volunteered points, as best I could.

Please let me know what you think.  This is an open and participatory process.

We began with a design thinking question: what do you value in the Future Trends Forum?  The intent wasn’t to cheer ourselves – well, a little of that – but to derive what values the Forum provides, so we can shape what’s next to deliver them even more effectively.

Many chimed in with these benefits:

  • networking
  • exposure to cutting edge ideas
  • interaction with thought leaders
  • getting out of professional silos, to get perspective beyond one’s institution   
  • the live format can help clarify a complex idea (Monty Kaplan)

One note: I think the social benefits (networking, thought leaders) applied to both guests and fellow Forum participants (of which there’s some overlap).

Focusing on guests: which new guests and topics should we invite?

A ton of responses came in.  Here’s a quick list, not in any order beyond rough chronology, and which mingles topics and people:

Certification (Nate Otto or Dan Hickey).  Degrees (David Blake).  Accreditation.  Ex-Department of Education staff (United States).  Jesse Stommel. Robert Marzano (Ed Hilton).  The impact of technology on attention management and attention spans.  AI and machine learning.  Learning analytics.  Learning spaces.  Mobile and immersive learning.  Connecting the future of education with climate change (Tom Riley).  Rick Crain.  “I would enjoy seeing you talk to the folks behind Georgia Tech’s Online Master of Science in Computer Science.”  College and university presidents.

Assessment: assessing online learning communities versus F2F communities;  alternative assessment measures (Myron Williams).

“How can we do more in education to tie core social / survival issues to what we teach? Recycling, Use of Resources, Climate Change, Famine, Refugees, etc.” (Maria Andersen)

AR/VR/MR/XR: Maya Georgievna and Emory Craig of Digital Bodies.   Walter Greenleaf.  Mursion.

(Maya and Emory are long-time Forum friends.  They were great guests on this topic back in 2016:)

More authors : Heather Staker, Michelle Miller (Minds Online) (Rita-Marie Conrad)

Working in higher education.  And how do we make change in education?

Next we turned to the Forum’s shape and structure.  What new programs or formats should we try?

How about classes or tutorials?  Maybe.  Some said yes, as a Forum class would meet different needs.  Others said no, deeming such to be off mission for the Forum.

“Appy Hour”: everyone shares their favorite mobile app. “How about a session on “bring your favorite mobile app, explain what it does, tell us what you think it will do in the future?”  (Maria Andersen and Rita-Marie Conrad came up with this one.)

Persistent themes: these stretch across multiple sessions.  We identify them, and develop new programming accordingly.  People seemed to like this.

Live video experience: how about watching an important and germane video, then discussing it together?  We could arrange for everything to screen the same video, then talk about it in the Forum.  Perhaps we can do this within Shindig itself.

Scenarios: a Forum session might involve the presentation of scenarios to the community, live.  In the session we’d respond, thinking through the possibilities and how we understand them together.   

Certificates: should the Forum give certificates for certain achievements?  Some people thought this wasn’t appealing to themselves, but others considered that institutions might appreciate evidence of professional development.

We then turned to a big question: how best to grow the Forum community?

People offered a bunch of ideas:

  • Bring a friend day! We could give gifts.   (Maria Andersen)
  • Costume day.  We can dress up and show off on video.   (Thanks to Forum friend Roxann Riskin)

(We did this once, for a holiday party:)

  • Partnering with other groups: some suggested the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) (Rita-Marie Conrad)
  • More face to face meetings: Rick Crain remarked that “I had not heard of you or the forum before the pre-conference workshop you did at EDUCAUSE last year. Keep doing things like that. Meetups at major conferences might help to strengthen the existing group.”  (We’ve done several live sessions at conferences and meetings, such as EDUCAUSE, the late New Media Consortium, and the similarly late Campus Technology.)
  • Buy in: what follows when we visualize the Forum’s success? (Tom Riley)
  • Interest groups by topic: Forum participants could identify topics they were especially interested in – say, VR – or by professional focus – such as administrators – then organize future speakers and maybe some programming along those lines, and more.  Interest group work could spread out through the year, with groups taking turns with Forum sessions.  Each one could have its own leader.  (One kind person thought this might take some organizing burden off of my shoulders)

Another topic came up over the past few weeks in conversations.  How can Forum discussions continue between sessions?

Ed Hilton kicked off this discussion by suggesting a social platform to communicate/ interact between weekly sessions.  People then suggested a variety of tools: Twitter, Slack, Telegram, BuddyPress, Discourse, Facebook, LinkedIn, G+, Instagram, Snapchat.  And email, the original digital social medium. Noreen Barajas called for a “prompted, time specific twitter chat”. Roxann Riskin summoned up “One full day of Twitter Storm”.

No clear leader emerged from that swarm.  This suggests we should poll the community for their preferred platforms.  Maria Anderson asked us to think of the three platforms we check before breakfast.  Some suggested turning to new or emerging platforms, but there was skepticism on this score.

So what’s next?

First, I want to applaud everyone who contributed their thoughts during this rich sessions.  Noreen Barajas, Rita-Marie Conrad, Ed Hilton, Monty Kaplan, Tom Riley, Roxann Riskin, Myron Williams and more were very generous.  Maria Andersen became a co-host for the session, happily generating and fielding ideas nonstop.

Second, I want to signal some thoughts that really stood out for me.  All of the guests and topics are great.  Appy Hour is golden, as is bring a friend to Forum day. The interest group idea is especially fascinating, and I’d like to follow up.

Third, we’ll poll the entire Forum community via email.  I’m going to run these ideas and more past them/you all, including the inter-session platform preference topic, and soon.

So: what do you think of these ideas, and this open process?

Posted in Future Trends Forum | 4 Comments

Five years ago this week we started something new. What has it become?

On June 12th, 2013, my wife and I launched a wild project.  We created Bryan Alexander Consulting from scratch, and hurled it into an unsuspecting world.

I’ve been updating you all about its progress ever since.  You can find blog posts from 2014, 20152016, 2016 again, and 2017, each reporting on the business.  There are other posts where I either asked for strategic help or shared information on various activities and projects.  All of this is because I have practiced openness for this BAC work ever since the start.

BAC logoFor today’s update/retrospective, I’ll switch things up and conduct the rest of this post in the form of an interview with an imaginary person.

Q: Why on earth did you do such a thing in 2013?  You’re a literature prof, for crying out loud!

A: I was working for a nonprofit organization focused on helping small, liberal arts colleges grapple collaboratively with new technologies.  After doing that for a decade, my reputation attracted interest from beyond that small (<300 campuses) sector.  I could, and wanted to work with community colleges, research-I universities, state schools, and also entities beyond the United States.

Also, the lit prof business was suffering badly.  Still is.  Living in Vermont, it was most likely I’d have ended up stringing together poorly paying adjunct jobs, or leaving education entirely.

Q: But why a business, though?  You and Ceredwyn are not business people.  Heck, your dissertation and classes were steeped in Marxist theory!

A: Starting up a nonprofit wasn’t a good choice in 2013.  For one, there wasn’t a clear framework I could set up that would make sense.  “Join Bryan’s future of education thing” didn’t look likely to fly, especially since it didn’t exist.  For another, professional development funding wasn’t too healthy then (nor has it improved since), so I’d be competing for a shrinking pool of funds.

Also, that nonprofit wasn’t doing too well.

I could have fought for grant funding, but without belonging to any organization the odds would have been poor.  Starting a business was simpler, frankly, and could get going with better odds and higher speed.

Q: Harrumph.  I suppose.  So, what’s it been like, being a consultant?  How do you actually help people?

A: Over the past five years it’s meant a variety of things.  For some clients consulting means doing research for them on spec.  They have something they want to know about, and I provide them with answers, usually through a pdf and maybe a presentation.  For others it’s meant conducting face to face conversations, ranging from leading workshops on different topics (digital storytelling, gaming, social media, mobile, class redesign) to facilitating conversations across units and silos.  Sometimes clients are happy to have conversations online, or via phone; the supermajority have wanted on-site work.  Which surprises me still, in 2018.  Then again, one client just asked for my fax number.

For a large number it’s actually meant presentations.  Since 2013 a growing amount of my time has been spent giving speeches, keynotes, addresses, and talks.  Clients ask for information, say, and a speech is the way they want it.  Others want an event or process kicked off, or a population stirred up.

This is where at least 80% of BAC income comes from now.

Q: You know, it doesn’t sound like you’re much of a consultant.

A: How do you mean?

Q: You’re not actually consulting.  Instead you’re throwing content at people.  Most of the time there’s no back and forth, not really.  Put another way, you’re not on retainer.  You’re saying people want you to present, to perform, to offer a show, and then go away.

A: Well, that’s not exactly true.  My presentations are very interactive.  And I am in regular contact with all of my 100 or so clients.

Q: But these are one-and-done events.   One-offs.  And they’re big.  It’s you and 200 or more faculty and staff.  I think of consulting as taking place in small groups, one on one conversations.  And persistent, too, occurring over time.

A: That is the traditional model.  And you’re right about the balance of BAC work now being presentations.

Bryan Alexander at Scottsdale Community College TechTools 2011

Bryan Alexander at Scottsdale Community College TechTools 2011

Q: So what are you actually doing, man?

A: It seems like what educators and associated populations (governments, associations) really want now is presentations. When it comes to the future of education, people are interested in getting big shots of content, heavy doses of research.

Q: Why?  Can’t they get this from, say, reading articles and books?

A: I’m not so sure.

Some of my colleagues and the people I respect report that most academic audiences are new to what they share.  Demographics, technology, economics – it seems that people working in and around education aren’t finding this stuff on their own.  I’m honestly not sure why.

Also, educators still value the in-person experience.  We’ve been gradually moving online, more in our personal than professional lives, but we haven’t really made the switch, if I can generalize.  We love going to conferences, still, for example.  We pay much more attention to face-to-face teaching than online education.

Q: So why do you make so much stuff online?  That seems counterproductive.

A: It’s also hard to do, since our Vermont location has bad digital infrastructure.

Q: Tell me about it.  I’m only a figment of your imagination, and even I can barely get into your blog on what’s barely above dialup speeds.

FTTE logoA: Well, I make digital materials for a few reasons.  To begin with, all of this online work reaches out to people.  This blog gets around 1,000 hits per day.  There are 2100 Future Trends Forum subscribers about 1994 FTTE subscribers.  A marketer would say that’s decent marketing, but for me the benefits are different.  I get to learn from people.  Every time I tweet, blog, hold a Forum session, I’m opening my ideas to scrutiny and feedback.  I also receive new ideas – every week FTTE readers hurl stories my way.  I get smarter as a result, and my work improves.  The digital back and forth feeds directly into my face-t0-face work.

For another, I’m thinking of the future, unsurprisingly.  I’m betting that the digital curves are trending upwards, that more and more people in and around education will gradually become more comfortable working online.   I also hope our online experience will get better, as with webinars.  So I’m trying to skate ahead of Gretzky‘s puck. I’m also experimenting, trying to develop bits of the future by trying things out.

EdSurge offered this entertaining cartoon of me.

EdSurge offered this entertaining cartoon of me.

Q: So you’re an amphibian, moving along the tidal edge between the digital and face-to-face domains.

A: I think so.  Yeah.

Q: And you’re a consultant who doesn’t really consult that much.  Are you a media producer slash media creator slash performer?

A: Since you don’t have a word for it, my imaginary friend, perhaps you and I together are trying to suss out something that doesn’t yet exist.  Maybe this role is emerging, and because it’s so new we don’t have a word for it.  That’s often a sign of something approaching from the future.

Q: You’re definitely not a consultant.

A: Maybe this is what the future of consulting looks like.  Or part of it, anyway.  It’s happening in the open, not behind closed doors or within black boxes.

Q: Then you’re wasting your time.

A: How so?

Q: Instead of working for paying clients, you’re flinging time and professional goods in all directions, aimed at people who aren’t paying you.  This sounds… well, doomed.  Unless you’re just inherited some money I don’t know about.

A: No, Ceredwyn and I are still entirely on our own.  No rich relatives sharing goodies.  No institutions backing us.  We are independent and without a net.  (People don’t get that, and I have no idea why not.)

Q: So you’re even more doomed than I thought.

A: Not so much.  If the marketers are right, my non-paying digital work builds reputation and brand, right?  So that leads to speaking gigs, and even consulting.

Q: So BAC is basically a digital speaker’s bureau?  With one speaker?

A: That describes the majority of what BAC does.  But maybe “21st century futurist” is a better title.

Q: Do other futurists do this?

A: Some, yes,  They blog, or use Twitter, or Facebook.  They make videos.

But the truly social nature of what I do seems unusual.  The Future Trends Forum, for example, isn’t about me speaking.  I’m just the host.  It’s all about the guests and the Forum community.  The crowdsourcing aspect is critical to the FTTE report.   I brainstorm and consult with my splendid Patreon supporters every week.  Those thousands of people involved in these different enterprises – they matter hugely to me.  Dialogically. Emotionally. Together we’re making something new.

Q: That sounds both cheesy and unlikely.

A: You are too cynical, my imaginary friend.  Because it works.  That’s what BAC has become by 2018, a node among networks, an ongoing provocation for hire, a crowdsourced think tank, a 21st century experiment in futuring.

…and now over to my non-imaginary friends and networks.  Any questions from you about BAC in Year Five?

(mouthy picture of me by CogDog)

Posted in personal | Tagged | 4 Comments

Higher education is ailing. It hasn’t been destroyed – yet.

Over the past week a discussion about the future of American higher education has unfolded across the web.

Things began with the publication of new enrollment data.  I commented on this, and Josh Kim responded, as did commentators on his column.  I replied on this blog, and also reflected on the peak higher ed hypothesis.  Meanwhile Adam Harris interviewed me about all of it, a piece which somehow became the Atlantic’s second most widely read piece a few minutes ago.

Twitter conversation has built up around the topic.  Robin DeRosa found a powerful keyword which might unlock a way forward. Kyle Johnson took issue with seeing only public institutions serving the public good, and Amy Pearlman developed the point.  Wesleyan University president Michael Roth weighed in:

Joe Murphy identified a very relevant unfolding story. And Chris Mayer offered perhaps the starkest response so far:

I think two writings hovered over our thoughts throughout the discussion.  One is The Great Mistake, written by Chris Newfield, humanities professor, blogger, and terrific Future Trends Forum guest (here’s my review of the book).  There Newfield makes the case that while America once saw higher education as a public good, at least in terms of public colleges and universities, we’ve come to view it as a private benefit.  Hence the defunding of public higher ed, especially at the per-student level.  Chris urges a cultural transition so that we return to the former public good approach.

The second is what I’d like to write about for the rest of this post.  It’s an article on Alternet* with a very powerful headline:

Here’s How Higher Education Was Destroyed in 5 Basic Steps

The author is Debra Leigh Scott, a playwright and short story author, as well as the founder of Junct Rebellion.  Junct Rebellion is:

an organization established to raise awareness about the demise of the American university system, through its corporatization, its rampant practice of adjunct faculty labor abuse and its steadily eroding concern about the quality of education provided to students. Our goal is to reclaim higher education through building a coalition of educators, parents, and students.

Which sounds awesome.

In her article Scott outlines a series of steps that, as she terms it, destroyed higher education.  They include: defunding public higher education, a la a cited Newfield; attacking the humanities politically and culturally; decreasing tenure until the majority of instruction is done by adjuncts; reducing faculty governance in favor of a “managerial/administrative class”; swapping academic culture and public funding for “corporate culture and corporate money”; disempowering students by a combination of increased testing and debt.

These steps connect and combine, as with politics and labor (“This is how you break the evil, wicked, leftist academic class in America — you turn them into low-wage members of the precariat”).

Overall, I approve of this message.  Scott hits on major issues that have transformed American higher education.  I also applaud her citing Inside Job (2010), my favorite financial crash film (and hilarious critique of academia: seriously, go watch it).

However, the article has some problems which, as they often crop up in these discussions, should be noted.

First, it makes that classic slip of using the word “administration” to mean the top tier of campus administration.  For example, the article refers to “administrative salaries [such as] coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries” and “president salaries [that] went from being, in the 1970s, around $25K to 30K, to being in the hundreds of thousands to MILLIONS of dollars” (capitals in original).  However, “administration” also means all non-faculty staff.  So that includes presidents as well as custodians, high priced football coaches along with librarians, IT staff, residence life staff, grants officers, administrative assistants, development office workers, etc.  Yes, that entire population has grown… and for reasons worth exploring, such as the rise of new services (think instructional design or digital librarians), the expansion of preexisting ones (mental health and physical wellness), the effects of new regulations, the physical amenities arms race, and a rising standard of student care.

Second, on the adjunct issue, the piece blames corporate forces for adjunctifying the professoriate.  This removes the serious and unaddressed culpability of higher education itself.  Research-I universities, for example, have been overproducing PhDs for a generation, and it’s folly to think their leaders – those academics – didn’t see the results.  (We’re still doing this, by the way.)

Third, the piece focuses largely on American conservatives.  For example, “[i]t’s a win-win for those right-wingers… further benefitting the right-wing agenda.”  Elsewhere, “conservative elites have worked to defund higher education explicitly because of its function in creating a more empowered, democratic, and multiracial middle class…”  The problem with this is that it misses how bipartisan the transformation of American higher education has been.  Blue states as well as red have reduced funding for public universities.  It was the Obama administration that follow the Bush(2) in ramping up high-stakes tests – then went further, and openly tried to reform higher ed.  To pick one little example, I live in one of the most deeply blue states (Vermont), and we are either 49th or 50th in public funding for higher ed, depending on your source.

On a related point, the author dismisses the realities of state politics far too quickly.  “Under the guise of many ‘conflicts,’ such as budget struggles, or quotas, defunding was consistently the result.”  Those budget struggles have been quite real, and don’t need quotation marks to dismiss.  Many state legislatures have faced serious pressures in allocating funds.  Think of rising health care and pension costs, for example, which rise even more quickly in states with especially aging populations (like those in the northeast, home to an awful lot of universities and colleges).  Consider rising (albeit wrong-headed) fears about crime, which drive state lawmakers to spend more on prisons and police, especially in states with strong penal unions, like California.  Recall that some states underfunded some key areas, including states that received over-optimistic investment advice from Wall Street, and are now desperately trying to figure out how to proceed.  Meanwhile anti-tax feeling is widespread in red states and blue.  In this environment, increasing funds to public universities – and it’s an increase we’re talking about, since in the generation Scott covers we vastly grew the number of students taught – is enormously challenging, if not impossible.

Fourth, and now we get into language, the article just goes too far – and for someone as gloomy as I can be about the future of higher ed, that’s saying something.  It overstates its case in what must be a rhetorical use of hyperbole to shock audiences into action.  “[H]ow do you kill the universities of the country…?”  “[H]ere is the recipe for killing universities…” “Step V: Destroy the students.”  “Academia should not be the whore of corporatism, but that’s what it has become.”  This becomes self-defeating, because it’s simply too easy to disprove, and also because it can depress rather than enrage an audience.  (And can we really call academia a whore?)

No, American higher education hasn’t been destroyed.  In fact, by 2013 it taught more students than ever before in its history.  Although my readers know what’s happened since, this country’s colleges and universities still teach an awful lot of people while producing large amounts of world-class research.   Elsewhere, we find that “the scholars and intellectuals of the country been silenced and nearly wiped out.”  We have actually grown faculty numbers, despite turning most into adjuncts; they haven’t been wiped out.  As for their silence, that this occurs should shame university after university… but at the same time, so many faculty have become public intellectuals thanks to digital technology that it’s hard to count them.  Scott’s own voice, for example, had been heard.  Both silence and speech are true for faculty, and it’s just inaccurate to only mention one.

“[T]he entire [academic] institution has been hijacked, and recreated as a machine through which future generations will all be impoverished, indebted and silenced.” “All”?  According to the last data I’ve seen one third of students graduate without any debt at all.  Partly that’s due to rising income and wealth inequality, as well as to inexpensive programs (hello, community colleges!).  Again, I’m not trying to downplay the true problems – I’ve been writing about them for years! – but want to make sure we see a more precise and useful picture in order to better get at higher ed’s future.  I don’t mean to police tone, but instead to suggest ways of more effectively mobilizing an audience.

And again, I don’t want to set aside this article.  Scott hits five major steps that we all need to see.  I’m glad her piece reached the Alternet audience.

Where does that leave us?  Large areas of American higher education are suffering.  Their business model might not work any longer.  Student debt is unprecedented, dangerous, and continuing to grow.  Partly in response, enrollment has dropped, which is placing even more pressure on campuses and their flailing business models.  These and other trends are weakening parts of this sector’s ability to thrive or even survive.  We may have passed peak higher ed.  American academia is sick, if not ruined, and the course of the disease, as well as its possible treatment, are uncertain.

We need to keep thinking hard about this – and thinking together, as with the web-mediated discussion with which I began this post.  That’s the best way to inform our actions if we’re going to turn around an ailing academic enterprise.

(Amy Pearlman and George Station recommended adding the Debra Leigh Scott article into our discussion.  I appreciate their weaving new threads into the conversation.  Thank you.)

  • The column seems to be a reprise of a 2012 blog post.  I’m not sure why it’s being run now.  If I had more time, and a better understanding of the publication history, I could dive into what’s happened over the past six years.(HT Trevor Griffey)
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“Here’s How Higher Education Dies”: I am interviewed in the Atlantic

This week I returned to the Atlantic Monthly, courtesy of an interview with the staggeringly metal headline:

Here’s How Higher Education Dies

Many thanks to Adam Harris for good questions and much patience.  Adam focused on the question of peak higher ed and explored its ramifications well.

I’ve been in the Atlantic before, but writing about a somewhat different topic.

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Pushing back on peak higher ed: a discussion with Joshua Kim

Last week I reviewed the peak higher education idea twice.  First there was an update on the now six-year-running enrollment decline.  Next I reflected on my peak hypothesis in light of recent history and emerging factors.

Around the same time as those blog posts went up Joshua Kim wrote a thoughtful critique for his Inside Higher Ed column.  There Josh posited a contrary view, finding the peak higher ed model too pessimistic, and offering instead a series of arguments for a growth-oriented academic future.  I responded with some comments, and would like to expand a bit.

Before I begin, I want to thank Josh and the other interlocutors for staging a thoughtful conversation.  Between my blog, the IHE column with its comments, and Twitter notes, it’s been a pleasure to explore ideas together.  The connective, communicative promise of the web still lives!

Joshua M. Kim, Ph.D. Director of Learning and Technology, Master of Health Care Delivery Science Program (2011-1403080064.jpg is modified version of 2011-1403080065.dng)In his column Josh offers a series of pushbacks against peak higher ed.  The first involves seeing enrollment data as not significant enough to worry about at this stage, being epiphenomenal :

I don’t make too much of year-to-year changes in enrollment. As Alexander notes, annual enrollments are driven by any number of cyclical and exogenous factors. These factors range from the economy (low unemployment depresses enrollment), to changes in regulations and the competitive landscape. Here the story is the collapse of the for-profits, and the rise of nonprofit online options.

Kim then goes on to mount what he calls (and numbers) four arguments.

  1. Enrollment isn’t declining, but being spatially redistributed across regions and different institutional types.
  2. Graduate schools are in higher demand than ever, especially at the master’s level.
  3. Online learning is poised to boom.  “[O]nline education — in all its forms — will grow dramatically over the next few decades.”  In fact, “[m]y bet is that the combination of high-quality low-residency education and lower-cost online-only programs will power a 21st-century renaissance in postsecondary education.”
  4. Enrollment is changing in another way. Adult learners are rising (“We have already moved past the idea that college equals a four-year residential experience for 18- to 22-year-old recent high school graduates. We have probably reached peak traditional higher ed”) as are students who study but don’t take degrees (“We need to think about counting those learners who are participating in nondegree programs”).

I think there’s a lot I agree with here, actually.  #3 + #4 appeal to me greatly.  Some of my readers know I’ve been advising many institutions to expand the age range of students they teach, for instance.  But I am not sanguine about these changes happening in a timely fashion.

Academic inertia is, of course, a feature, rather than a bug.  Our institutions are literally conservative in many ways, conserving knowledge and approaching change often in a slow, incremental style that the great conservative Edmund Burke would admire.  Depending on the campus, different populations can slam on the brakes, including trustees, governments, students, faculty, or senior administrators.  When it comes to Josh’s third point, faculty resistance to technology-mediated instruction – be it thoughtful or shallow – has been a staple of campus life since the 1980s (in my experience).  Regarding adult learners, switching up a given recruitment, teaching, and support strategy is difficult if not agonizing.  Meanwhile, it’s not a sure thing – the stats I cited last week had adult enrollments dropping more quickly than traditional age numbers.  So American academic can make such strategic shifts; I fear it’ll take a lot longer than it could, and that the human costs will be horrendous.

I differ with some of Josh’s other points for other reasons.  For one, I’m not seeing short-term enrollment changes, but a steady, even unbroken declining trend lasting six years.  That comes after decades of continuous growth.  We could this as a blip, but that’s a pretty fat blip.  It’s also one with a series of well established drivers behind it.  As sibyledu observes in a comment, “[s]ix years isn’t a permanent trend. But it certainly is a long one, especially given the length of the growth trend.”

Argument #1 has some truth to it, namely the ongoing demographic change in the American northeast and midwest. However, the population growth Josh finds is outpaced by the population decline, at least for traditional-age students.  As Nathan Grawe has established, growth often occurs in areas with fewer people to start with.  This does bring us back to argument #4. I note, too, that Josh quietly suggests a decline in the total number of institutions, which is a humanitarian and cultural problem in many ways for communities and for American higher ed as a whole.

The argument about grad students is quite correct, and I admire the way the author steps back from endorsing credential inflation. Yet it misses a crucial point: the recent drop in international students thanks to the double whammy of Trump and media coverage of American violence, including school shootings. International students have played a key role in American grad school enrollment.  Meanwhile, the other factors depressing enrollment – student loans, economic anxiety, etc. – are still in play.

The very active Inside Higher Ed commentator known as Unemployed_Northeastern adds one particular policy pressure that could further cramp grad school growth:

I suspect if PROSPER passes and limits graduate federal student loans to $28,500/year, that will greatly harm at least certain segments of advanced degrees. The more foolhardy law and medical students may borrow an additional $50k to $100k per year in private loans in the gamble that they may immediately have a career that can support a mortgage-sized student loan repayment, but I suspect more would-be graduate students will choose other paths.

As you can tell, Inside Higher Ed still supports comments, and their generally decent quality helps remind us that “never read the comments” is a bad general policy. Let me mention one here.  sibyledu (quoted above) asks us to rethink employer desires for education.

Will employers decide they don’t need bachelor’s degrees for their workforce? Will sub-baccalaureate credentials gain wider acceptance, and will higher education be the place that those credentials are earned?

sibyledu goes on to add more questions about the public’s attitude, answers to all of which can modify the peak model, making it more severe or ending it completely.

To sum up:

First, I think the peak model withstands Josh Kim’s genial pushback.  The enrollment decline is real and the drivers behind it are serious.  Now, will institutions respond to this problem creatively and strategically?  Perhaps.

If I can make a too-ambitious analogy, this is a bit like the the futures work on human overpopulation in the late 1960s and early 1970s.  We are both pointing out major changes to come, supported by powerful forces.  In doing so we warn involved parties that this would be an excellent time to take some big steps in response and anticipation.  Taking those steps successfully could make those forecasts look like misfires… and that’s not a bad thing, given the better real-world outcomes that result.

Second, let me reiterate the delight in seeing this old-school web-based conversation flow.  A blog post, an article in a web-friendly and open site, Twitter comments, blog and article comments: it still works.  Personally, as someone not part of an institution, I love the way this kind of discussion improves my thinking, while generating an exchange others can use.

PS: Amy Pearlman and George Station added an Alternet piece to this discussion.  I hope to find time to write a response soon – and do have time to appreciate their weaving new threads into the conversation.  Thank you!

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What the Mary Meeker slides mean for the future of education

Last week Mary Meeker published her latest trends report.  It’s gotten a lot of attention, typically; here I’d like to identify what I see as the important findings for the future of education.

(If you’re not familiar with this effort, Meeker is an analyst with a venture capital firm, and annually shares giant slidestacks summarizing her team’s research into technology trends.  Their focus is trends for business, including marketing, platform use, commerce, etc.  If you’d like more background, plus my analysis, I’ve written about previous publications in 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2013.)

What caught my eye?  First I’ll pull out the macro level findings, then technology-specific ones, then Meeker’s specific comments on education.

At the bigger level:

Almost exactly one half of the human race is online now (49%). (slide 8)  We’re about to hit that 50% milestone.  (Actually, in her live presentation Meeker went a little further: “Global internet users of 3.6 billion surpassed half the world’s population in 2018”) For educators working on online learning, we have to keep in mind that half of humanity isn’t online – so far.

For those online, the amount of our engagement with the digital world keeps growing.  Meeker finds adults spending 5.9 hours/day with digital media, the highest amount they’ve found to date. (slide 11)  One part of that behavior involves making tons of data in all kinds of ways:

(slide 189)

The e-commerce world also keeps growing, while bricks and mortar retail growth is “decelerating” (slides 45ff, 87ff)  For educators, this is interesting on a few levels.  It tells us our communities (depending on their specific natures, of course) are increasingly comfortable with online transactions, which should encourage the expansion of campus IT services across the spectrum of needs.  We might also learn some tips about user experience from successful e-commerce platforms.

Meeker sees companies gathering more data for personalization as a good thing, and deems worries about that to be a “paradox”.  As recorded by ReCode:

We tried to simplify [the paradox] into really three sentences. Internet companies are making low price services better in part from user data. Internet users are increasing their time on internet services based on perceived value. Regulators want to ensure data is not used improperly and not all regulators think about this in the same way.

Meeker also warns regulators to be careful:

It’s crucial to manage for unintended consequences… but it’s irresponsible to stop innovation + progress (35-36)

Meeker thinks users really like having data gathered on us, because it leads to greater user customer satisfaction. (190-194, 205) In other words, this is an example of the pro-data-collection side, deeply connected with finance capital.

Additionally, she deems personalization to be in “early innings”. (78ff) This might comfort campus technologists and administrators seeking to develop their own data-driven personalization projects.

This year’s report also explores household spending in a detail way.  It draws out some important changes in what Americans pay for:

Compared with recent history, we are spending more for shelter (rent, mortgages), pensions and insurance, and healthcare (now 7% of our budgets).  We’re spending less on food, entertainment, and clothing (which seems counterintuitive to what I’ve seen of advertising and tv “news” content). (104ff) . Meeker suggests these changes might drive us to Airbnb (to reduce shelter costs), Uber (to keep reducing transportation costs), and to pressuring health care providers for better service.

What does that mean for educators?  First, it’s a useful snapshot of how student families’ economic lives are changing, which is essential info as we consider how they can or cannot afford higher ed.  Second, it augurs greater community use of the “sharing economy.”  Third, there are implications for related academic programs, such as the full spectrum involved in allied health care.

On the labor front, this year’s report uses the term “on demand jobs.”  I think this means the gig economy, including freelancers and the sharing economy (Uber etc.).  The report sees this sector growing rapidly, and seems delighted. (163ff) At the same time the report’s final note is praise for immigration. (289-291)

Globally, Meeker’s report sees the US and China leading the world technologically.  I’m glad to see this, as I find most Americans not paying nearly enough attention to China’s rise on this score – well, on any score. (216ff, 237-261)

Focusing on America, Meeker sees “USA Inc.” as having serious economic problems. (278) Her model of the nation as business yields reports of losses and slowing growth.  Meeker repeats her earlier fears of rising debt. (285-288)  Why does this matter to educators?  It shows how the investment class views the overall economy, meaning what it thinks should be gone in the public and private sectors.  So watch this carefully.

At the level of specific technologies:

Mobile continues to grow.  One interesting measure of this is how advertising revenues and experience have changed.  Nieman Labs has a nice dive into the issue – basically, print has shrunk to a tiny die-hard core, tv is ahead but dwindling, while mobile booms.

the party continues over in Mobile Land, where usage has now blown well past the desktop Internet. It took until 2016 for all of digital (desktop + mobile) to pass TV in total ad dollars; it wouldn’t be shocking for mobile alone to pass TV this year or next.

Here’s a fun animated gif so you can track the changes:

Why does this matter for educators?  Because as I and others have been saying as far back as 2001, mobile is HUGE for education, and we need to catch up.

However, the number of new smartphone units shipped has stalled for the first time ever.  Apparently everyone who wants and can get a smartphone has one, and is looking to replace it at some point; the number of new users/owners has dried up.  Which gives rise to all kinds of questions, such as: what devices will the other half of the human race use to get online now?  Second, the Android operating system continues to dwarf iOS market share globally:

(slide 6) This causes me to wonder if the smartphone/no smartphone divide will endure for a long time, which has many implications for education (i.e., build a mobile app, yet some % of your students can’t access it?).  The huge difference in market share might suggest educators should lean towards Android.

Cloud computing: Meeker parallels the cloud with smartphones in terms of growth and impact. (181ff) For educators, it’s a reminder that our populations are increasingly friendly with cloud services.

Messaging services: they just keep growing worldwide. (slides 22, 187) Again, some educators are looking into using Snapchat et al for teaching.  The ed tech world could benefit by studying why messaging services appeal to so many people.

Automation: Google’s machine learning accuracy rate is at about human levels. (25)  At the macroeconomic level, Meeker thinks automation isn’t likely to lead to unemployment. (153ff) Actually, there’s surprisingly little on AI here, and nothing on robotics. (198-202, 225-226, 228-229)

Internet of Things: Amazon’s Alexa/Echo is experiencing wild growth:




Social media: it’s very interesting to see which platform leads in shopping.  For “product discovery” Facebook wins.  Unsurprisingly, Pinterest is in second place, tied with Instagram.  Twitter remains far behind, as it always has (Slide 71).

Why does that matter for educators?  It helps us understand how our communities view these platforms when we want to use them for academic purposes.  It might also give us insight into their respective economic viability.

On education

The report compares STEM graduation rates between the United States and China:

(slide 227) This reminds us that pressure on higher ed to keep growing STEM is continuing, and that it might increase its geopolitical content.

Meeker’s report also sees lifelong learning as important, because it ties into business needs and because it’s getting easier to offer.  The slides here mention web video and (without naming the category) MOOCs. (232-236) . Techcrunch finds an implicit message here: “Cheap Education to Fight Debt”.

What do you make of these trends, and of the report in general?

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Kids in America, using social media and playing computer games

How are teenagers using technology?

PewResearch_logoThis question has occupied media coverage and educators’ thoughts since the 20th century.  It has given rise to rumors, legends, myths, and policies.  Thankfully Pew Research is continuing its longstanding practice of conducting sober research.  Several days ago they issued a very useful update, which I’ll break down in this post.

To create the report Pew’s team polled more than 1,000 American teens (aged 13-17) a few months ago.

Specific platforms  – the big headline many people are taking from the report is the decline of Facebook among teens.  It fell behind Instagram and especially YouTube and Snapchat:

Today, roughly half (51%) of U.S. teens ages 13 to 17 say they use Facebook, notably lower than the shares who use YouTube, Instagram or Snapchat.

This is fascinating in a variety of ways.  For one, it gives real data to the long-prophecied (and long-imagined) exodus of young people from Facebook.  I’m not sure what impact that’ll have (see below).

It is interesting to think that the more visually-centered platforms (video, images) are leading for teens.  Yes, Facebook supports images and video, but those aren’t its core functions.  I’m also curious why Snapchat stomps Instagram in daily usage.

It’s also important to notice that the winners are not very web-friendly.  Snapchat and Instagram are very much mobile app creations (Pew also notes that “smartphone ownership has become a nearly ubiquitous element of teen life: 95% of teens now report they have a smartphone or access to one”), and the YouTube app offers a better phone experience than does the browser version.  Snap is the opposite of the web in that it doesn’t support persistent URLs (Facebook is horrible at this, too, but in a different way).

On the flip side, Twitter occupies an interesting position, with one third of teens using it.  It’s not a majority platform, but neither is it a small niche like Tumblr and Reddit. I’d like to see that broken down by demographics in all kinds of ways.  Meanwhile, Tumblr remains very marginal, for all of its cultural cachet in certain fields, like publishing.  The daily use number is truly tiny, below 1%.  Unlike Facebook, the T-platforms haven’t experienced a decline: “The shares of teens who use Twitter and Tumblr are largely comparable to the shares who did so in the 2014-2015 survey.”

Reddit use is also almost vanishingly small.  Is that platform another technology which adults are more likely to use than kids, a la LinkedIn?

I have several caveats about this part of the study.  Pew admits they don’t have longitudinal data on YouTube, since they didn’t ask teens about it previously.    And I can’t tell how many teens contribute to YouTube (with videos or comments), versus how many just watch videos there.

Platforms and time – the amount of time teens spend online, across all platforms, keeps rising.

45% of teens say they use the internet “almost constantly,” a figure that has nearly doubled from the 24% who said this in the 2014-2015 survey. Another 44% say they go online several times a day, meaning roughly nine-in-ten teens go online at least multiple times per day.

Wealth and income – one major and underreported dimension of the study is the way leaving Facebook is correlated with wealth, and active teen use with being non-rich.  The difference is actually quite stark:

Seven-in-ten teens living in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use Facebook, compared with 36% whose annual family income is $75,000 or more.

Did Facebook usage just become a class marker?  Is it the next smoking, with usage being a characteristic of the working class, the poor, and the less well educated?

And speaking of which…

Race – Facebook use, and Facebook avoidance, may now be a race marker:

white teens (41%) are more likely than Hispanic (29%) or black (23%) teens to say Snapchat is the online platform they use most often, while black teens are more likely than whites to identify Facebook as their most used site (26% vs. 7%).

So a pattern seems to be emerging.  If you’re a wealthy and/or white teen, you are likely to avoid Facebook in favor of other platforms.  If you are working class/poor and/or black or Hispanic, you are likely to be a Facebook user.

What can we learn from this, especially in education?

One way education plays out in the study is the very stark difference in how parents’ educational attainment correlates with kids’ Facebook use.  Basically, adults’ college graduation clobbers Facebook use among their offspring.  According to the Pew study’s data tables, 65% of teens whose parents achieved a “High school or less” education used Facebook.  61% of teens whose parents experienced “Some college” used Facebook.  But for those whose parents had an undergrad or grad degree, only 33% were on Facebook.  That’s a really big drop.  What does it mean that a BA, MA, PhD drives the diploma-holder’s teen children away from Zuckerberg-land?

One more interesting difference by race: “Hispanic teens are more likely than whites to report using the internet almost constantly (54% vs. 41%).”

One caveat here: what happened to Asian-Americans in this research line, Pew?

Gender – two interesting differences opens up by gender in the study.  First, a significant but not huge difference in terms of platform preference:

Girls are more likely than boys to say Snapchat is the site they use most often (42% vs. 29%), while boys are more inclined than girls to identify YouTube as their go-to platform (39% vs. 25%).

Second, a significant but not huge difference by time spent online: “Half of teenage girls (50%) are near-constant online users, compared with 39% of teenage boys.”  Interesting to think how that flies against the old idea that digital technology consists of boys’ toys.

Speaking of old ideas, the belief that boys play games more than girls do is borne out…

While a substantial majority of girls report having access to a game console at home (75%) or playing video games in general (83%), those shares are even higher among boys. Roughly nine-in-ten boys (92%) have or have access to a game console at home, and 97% say they play video games in some form or fashion.

…but those 75% and 83% numbers for teen girls are still very high, way beyond a simple majority.

My thanks to Monica Anderson, Jingjing Jiang, and the rest of the Pew team for producing another essential report.

(For the classical music reference in the title, here’s the explanation:


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