Archive for July, 2009

Chill Challenged: gTrend Teen Report Preview #1

Breaking through To Chill-Challenged Teens

What does it take to reach the teen market today? The question can’t be adequately answered until it’s understood that teens consider technology a fundamental part of their lives, not a nice-to-have accessory.  Having been immersed in technology almost since birth, teens are unable to relax without it. They are accustomed to having every moment of their time, even “downtime,” being filled.  In the new gTrend Teen Report to be released in September, we refer to this generation of teens as Chill Challenged.  During a typical day, Chill Challenged teens spend nearly twice as much time online, using their cell phones or watching TV, rather than doing homework.  With affordable, accessible technology, there are few—if any—occasions when teens are not fully engaged in some entertainment or communication device.

What does this mean for marketers? It’s clear that breaking through is infinitely harder than it ever has been.  To understand the strategies likely to work with today’s teens, contact GTR Consulting at, or 415.713.7852.

Classrooms go high-tech to engage students


Associated Press Writer

Posted: July 16, 2009

NEW YORK — Unlike many teachers, Beth Simon hasn’t banned her college students from using their cell phones or the Internet during class.

Instead, the computer science professor encourages them to text message responses to her questions and research information on the Web while she is lecturing.

“They’re going to use it no matter what,” said Simon, of the University of California, San Diego. “How do you use this ubiquitous technology that’s out there to change the dynamic of the classroom, to engage the students?”

The measure of a technology-enhanced campus used to be the number of computer labs and whether there was wireless access, but fast-paced advancements have destroyed the boundaries of classrooms, said Glenn Platt, professor of interactive media studies at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.

Some professors make their lectures available as podcasts, provide live streaming video of classes and maintain discussion boards so students can post questions. They encourage tweeting, blogging and chatting online with other students.

That’s what it takes to engage this generation, said Gary Rudman, who has a consulting firm that studies teens and young adults. His GTR Consulting recently released a report on teens and technology.

“Technology is such an inherent part of their lives,” he said. “They have come to expect it every step of the way. When they come to college, they are expecting this technology to be incorporated into their learning.”

Schools are catching on. Scott McLeod, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy studies at Iowa State in Ames, has a backchannel, an online secondary conversation, where students can share information, ask questions, such as ‘What did he just say?’ and chat about a concept while he is teaching it. Think whispering to the friend next to you in a lecture. (Many people use Twitter as a backchannel).

Some may see this as a distraction, but students are used to multitasking, he said.

Classes are changing as a result of technology. Professors are not so much people who stand and spout facts with students taking notes, said Platt. The Internet has all of the information. And students aren’t going to come to class for a lecture if it’s on a podcast.

So that means many instructors are trying to make the classroom more interactive.

For example, Platt spends class time focusing on critical thinking, problem solving and team-based learning. He puts together mini-podcasts to explain confusing concepts and encourages students to ask questions on their Twitter page to get instant answers from their peers.

Certain technologies that make instruction and learning easier are growing in popularity. In the first five months of 2009, from January to May, SMART Technologies sold nearly 65,000 SMART Board interactive whiteboards to U.S. customers, a 28 percent increase over sales in the same period last year. The board connects to a computer and digital projector allowing teachers to access computer applications or Internet resources by touching the board’s surface. Teachers use their finger as a mouse and can even write on the board with digital ink.

Professors are also using student response systems to gauge how well students grasp a lesson. The systems allow students to answer questions using a clicker, which looks like a television remote, and the results are immediately recorded on the teacher’s computer screen.

While few students take notes on PDAs – too difficult – they are using gadgets like Livescribe Inc.’s Pulse smartpen, a computer in a pen that captures handwritten notes while recording and linking audio, from a professor’s lecture, for example, to the notes. By tapping on the notes with the smartpen, students can hear the conversation from that exact moment in time. The pens cost $149.95 and $199.95, depending on the size.

Students are also getting textbooks for free thanks to companies like Flat World Knowledge in Nyack, N.Y. Professors can customize the expert-authored, online books to fit their lectures, deleting chapters or sections, for example. Students can read them for free or choose to buy from a range of alternatives that include a soft-cover black-and-white version for $29.

Flat World Knowledge, which was founded in 2007, will be releasing versions of textbooks that can be downloaded to the iPhone or Sony Reader Digital Book for fall classes.

And with leading textbook publishers Cengage Learning, Pearson, and Wiley, beginning to offer textbooks through the Kindle Store this summer, you may see more students with the wireless reading device.

So far, students seem to be embracing the interactive learning environment, so long as they can maintain one-on-one communication with their professors.

Karen Tamayo, 22, said using the clicker in Simon’s class “gave her the opportunity to think for herself first.” She also posted questions on the discussion board when she was too busy to stop by Simon’s office, and the response time was a few hours.

As with any class, students may scoff at assignments, even if they involve social networking.

Chelsea Nuffer, 21, a performance and communications major at St. Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y., said blogging for four classes was overwhelming and she ran out of things to write about. “It works for students who might not speak up in class,” she said. “For me, I’m pretty vocal.”

Internet access in class can also be distracting. Tamayo admits that she instant messages off-topic in class sometimes. For that reason, some schools have an Internet kill switch in the classrooms and some professors ban laptops altogether.

But technology is really how you look at it, McLeod said. Students who are not engaged will go on Facebook; you can’t fault them for that, he said. Some teachers, though, will successfully engage students through the use of social networking to complement and reinforce what’s going on in class.

Technology is not going to go away, McLeod said. “Everything is going mobile, so this idea that we can control students’ access to technology is disappearing,” he said. “You can see it as a distraction or a valuable tool.”

Young workers push employers for wider Web access

By MARTHA IRVINE – July 12, 2009

CHICAGO (AP) — Ryan Tracy thought he’d entered the Dark Ages when he graduated college and arrived in the working world.
His employer blocked access to Facebook, Gmail and other popular Internet sites. He had no wireless access for his laptop and often ran to a nearby cafe on work time so he could use its Wi-Fi connection to send large files.

Sure, the barriers did what his employer intended: They stopped him and his colleagues from using work time to goof around online. But Tracy says the rules also got in the way of legitimate work he needed to do as a scientific analyst for a health care services company.

“It was a constant battle between the people that saw technology as an advantage, and those that saw it as a hindrance,” says the 27-year-old Chicagoan, who now works for a different company.

He was sure there had to be a better way. It’s a common complaint from young people who join the work force with the expectation that their bosses will embrace technology as much as they do. Then some discover that sites they’re supposed to be researching for work are blocked. Or they can’t take a little down time to read a news story online or check their personal e-mail or social networking accounts. In some cases, they end up using their own Internet-enabled smart phones to get to blocked sites, either for work or fun.

So some are wondering: Could companies take a different approach, without compromising security or workplace efficiency, that allows at least some of the online access that younger employees particularly crave?

“It’s no different than spending too much time around the water cooler or making too many personal phone calls. Do you take those away? No,” says Gary Rudman, president of GTR Consulting, a market research firm that tracks the habits of young people. “These two worlds will continue to collide until there’s a mutual understanding that performance, not Internet usage, is what really matters.”

This is, after all, a generation of young people known for what University of Toronto sociologist Barry Wellman calls “media multiplexity.” College students he has studied tell him how they sleep with their smart phones and, in some cases, consider their gadgets to be like a part of their bodies. They’re also less likely to fit the traditional 9-to-5 work mode and are willing to put in time after hours in exchange for flexibility, including online time.

So, Wellman and others argue, why not embrace that working style when possible, rather than fight it?

There is, of course, another side of the story — from employers who worry about everything from wasted time on the Internet to confidentiality breaches and liability for what their employees do online. Such concerns have to be taken especially seriously in such highly regulated fields as finance and health care, says Nancy Flynn, a corporate consultant who heads the Ohio-based ePolicy Institute.

From a survey Flynn did this year with the American Management Association, she believes nearly half of U.S. employers have a policy banning visits to personal social networking or video sharing sites during work hours. Many also ban personal text messaging during working days.

Flynn notes that the rising popularity of BlackBerrys, iPhones and other devices with Web access and messaging have made it much trickier to enforce what’s being done on work time, particularly on an employee’s personal phone. Or often the staff uses unapproved software applications to bypass the blocks.

As a result, more employers are experimenting with opening access.

That’s what Joe Dwyer decided to do when he started Chicago-based Brill Street & Co., a jobs site for young professionals. He lets his employees use social networking and has found that, while they might spend time chatting up their friends, sometimes they’re asking those same friends for advice for a work problem or looking for useful contacts.

“So what seems unproductive can be very productive,” Dwyer says.

Kraft Foods Inc. recently opened access to everything from YouTube to Facebook and Hotmail, with the caveat that personal use be reasonable and never interfere with job activities.

Broadening access does, of course, mean some employees will cross lines they aren’t supposed to.

Sapphire Technologies LP, an information-technology staffing firm based in Massachusetts, started allowing employees to use most Internet sites two years ago, because recruiters for the company were going on Facebook to find talent.
Martin Perry, the company’s chief information officer, says managers occasionally have to give employees a “slap on the wrist” for watching sports on streaming video or downloading movies on iTunes. And he says older managers sometimes raise eyebrows at their younger counterparts’ online judgment.

“If you saw some of the pictures that they’ve uploaded, even to our internal directory, you’d question the maturity,” Perry says.
It’s the price a company has to pay, he says, for attracting top young talent that’s willing to work at any hour. “Banning the Internet during work hours would be myopic on our part,” Perry says.

But that also means many companies are still figuring out their online policies and how to deal with the blurring lines between work and personal time — including social networking, even with the boss.

“I think over time, an open embrace of these tools can become like an awkward hug,” says Mary Madden, a senior research specialist at the Pew Internet & American Life Project. “It can get very messy.”

One option is for companies to allow access to certain sites but limit what employees can do there. For instance, Palo Alto Networks, a computer security company, recently helped a pharmaceutical company and a furniture maker open up social networking for some employees, but limited such options as file-sharing, largely so that sensitive information isn’t transferred, even accidentally.

“Wide-open Internet access is the risky approach,” says Chris King, Palo Alto Networks’ director of product marketing. However, “fully closed is increasingly untenable for cultural reasons and business reasons.”

Flynn, at the ePolicy Institute, says it’s important that employers have a clear online policy and then explain it. She believes not enough employers have conducted formal training on such matters as online liability and confidentiality.

Meantime, her advice to any employee is this: “Don’t start blogging. Don’t start tweeting. Don’t even start e-mailing until you read the company policy.”

Martha Irvine is an AP national writer. She can be reached at or via