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Review of Don Tapscott's, new book "Grown Up Digital."
Saturday, December 27, 2008
A year or two I bought Don Tapscott's book and associated audiobook, "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything." I loved it! People I lent the audiobook to loved it as well. It brought back memories of my "Electronic Collaborators" book from 1998. The year before that in 1997, Don wrote, "Growing Up Digital" which drew wide acclaim. Now more than a decade later, he has come out with a superb follow-up, "Grown Up Digital: How the Net Generation is Changing the World" published by McGraw-Hill (2009).

This is a stellar book. It encompasses many areas--education and learning, business/management, politics, parenting, technology, community and global volunteerism, and simply growing up with all the new and exciting information and technology that surrounds us. It is simultaneously a snapshot of today and an insightful look at where we are going as individuals, families, companies, communities, and a species.

If you want to relate to your children better, get a copy of this book. If you want to understand your workplace or learning environment better, read this book. If you want to hold out hope for our planet, flip through at least the final chapters of this book.

If you did not have the time or energy to read a single newspaper, magazine, or journal article related to technology and change this year and want to catch up, then get this book and read it when you have time (hopefully very soon). Don Tapcott has done the reading for you and will make sense of the current trends; especially as they relate to the Net Generation. With two kids of my own in the Net Gen (with coincidentally the same names as Don's kids), I definitely can relate to each chapter. Volunteerism, especially among my daughter and her friends (Chapter 10) is exactly as he states it. Politics and the Obama factor this year (Chapter 9)--presto, my son, Alex, a college junior, was all over that. Living near home longer (Chapter 8) kids returned from college last week (including Alex who was studying abroad in Seville, Spain this fall and has no plans to relocate from here anytime soon). Yes, Don Tapscott is right, a more democratic family decision making style will build strong ties. N-Fluence networks and purchasing behaviors (Chapter 7) daughter, Nicki, and her boyfriend, Corbin, scoped out a new MacBook online and gathered all the details they wanted a few days back, including much information from their friends in Facebook, and then went into Best Buy and she helped him purchase it.

Rethinking talent and the management of young people in firms (Chapter 6) son and I have chatted about this issue this many times. He wants the flexible times and challenging and engaging work which Don discusses in many sections of his book. Anyone in a management position in business today should be reading at the very least Chapters 1, 2, 3, 6, and 7.

Rethinking education (Chapter 5)--well, as a university professor in educational psychology and instructional technology (distance learning) this is what I teach and write about so it struck a chord. I have written a book, in fact, that extends Thomas Friedman's World is Flat book to education (in press for June, 2009). Hence, I not only agree with his perspective in Chapter 5, I can relate to the reading and synthesizing Don had to engage in to write such a book. It is not easy to do such a book and stay sane. It is clear that he has a great research and support team at nGenera who help him tremendously and for which he should be proud to have built.

I already have recommended Don's book to my family, friends, graduate students, and work colleagues. In fact, I bought a few copies for close friends who ran the E-Learn conference with me in Las Vegas last month. They were surprised and most appreciative. I think Don was even surprised when I told him since he may not have realized that his book was even out at the time.

There is so much good stuff packed in every chapter of Grown Up Digital, it was difficult for me to read it front to back. I read this book as follows: Intro, then back matter, Chapter 1, then back matter again, Chapter 2, Notes and Biblio again, Chapter 11, Chapter 10, Chapter 9, Chapter 8, Chapter 3, Chapter 4, Chapter 5 on rethinking education (of course of most interest to me), Chapter 7, and finally Chapter 6. I saved two of the longest chapters for last (which I likely starred almost as much content, if not more, than my favorite one, Chapter 5).

I have 100’s of starred points. Pages that stick out include pp. 34-37 (the 8 Net Generation Norms), 58-64 (stuff on how this generation lives with technology), 104-105 (how life on the Internet may be impacting your brain), 140-142 (learning must become more personalized!), 154-162 (the current talent shortage and what the Net Generation wants), 165-167 (work should be fun not just menial tasks), 173-178 (do more than recruit--build relationships, engage, and foster collaboration when at work), 208-213 (enlist consumer (and employee) support and passion when building products--prosumers), 258-264 (participatory and interactive government and marketspace), 279-287 (good people helping the world; activism), etc. I tried not to mark the book too much but as I progressed into it I could not help myself. It is that good. Sorta reminds me of my reading of his Wikinomics book last year, though that book I listened to first and then read parts that I wanted to revisit. I cannot wait for Grown Up Digital to come out in audio so I can buy a copy and then listen to it (the reverse of what I did with Wikinomics).

This book is packed with content and, yet, as Don notes in the introduction, he had to delete a ton of stuff. Nevertheless, I see many familiar names who also appear in my upcoming "The World is Open" book—Chris Dede, J. S. Brown, Michael Wesch, Marc Prensky, Barry Joseph, Nicholas Carr, Henry Jenkins, Seymour Papert, and Julie Lindsay and Vicki Davis (both of whom also appear in Thomas Friedman’s World is Flat book). I also appreciated his comments about Just-In-Time-Teaching, Butler University (where I have a daughter enrolled as a freshman), the Big Learning Picture Company (co-founded by my friend, Dr. Dennis Littky), and the new sharing generation (perhaps see my article, Sharing...the Journey). You will have to read it and find out why.

And I starred and underlined his comments about motivation of today’s youth on p. 160 and many other places—the need for meaningful learning, challenge, variety, choice, flexibility, etc. Given high school drop-out rates, not just in Detroit and Indianapolis (as pointed out by Time and Oprah), motivating young adults is perhaps the most important thing in education today. Don's book should start the conversation going here! Let's hope. Enjoy the book!
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  posted by Curt Bonk @ 5:15 PM  
  • At 10:47 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  • At 1:48 PM, Blogger Don said…

    What a thoughtful review!

    Don Tapscott

  • At 7:21 PM, Blogger MW (My Wish) said…

    Definitely a must to understand more about the generation today for a sound intructional design. I will get this book for sure.

  • At 9:43 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Thanks Don. Lori--yes, get this book. There is also a recent book I got this week titled, "Born Digital: Understanding the First Generation of Digital Natives" by John Palfrey and Urs Gasser. This is published by Basic Books. Don's book, however, has more text signals (summaries, visuals, quotes, etc.). Born Digital is just text. I prefer a book with some visuals and recaps like Don's. His book also uses color well--thanks McGraw-Hill.

  • At 8:17 AM, Blogger Intellagirl said…

    I had my hands on this book about to buy it a few days ago. With your avid approval I think I'll go back and get it.

  • At 6:48 PM, Blogger Curt Bonk said…

    Glad it convinved you Sarah. Your kids are young though. You might wait 15 years and read it and see if it still works. Smile.

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About Me

Name: Curt Bonk
Home: Bloomington, Indiana, United States
About Me: I am a former accountant and CPA and a former educational psychologist. I am now Professor of IST at Indiana University and also adjunct in the School of Informatics. I founded and later sold SurveyShare. As president of CourseShare, LLC, I run around the world training instructors to teach online and give motivational talks about emerging learning technologies. I also write and edit books related to e-learning and blended learning. See bio and vita.

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Click here for information about my recent book, The World is Open: How Web Technology Is Revolutionizing Education.

Visit the Indiana University Home Page of E-Learning Expert Curtis J. Bonk.

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