I Believe the Children are the Future

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We recently received an e-mail from a man named Kashif Khan who told us, “I am feeling proud while writing this to tell you about my younger brother Babar Iqbal who has again made the world record by becoming the youngest Certified Wireless Network Administrator (CWNA) in world at the mere age of 10 years and two months.”

At first brush, it seemed like a hoax, but a quick visit to the Associated Press of Pakistan (didn’t know this existed) confirmed this to be true.

Iqbal also has the CWNA, and at 9, he was a Certified Internet Web Professional Associate (CIWA). He also maintains a Web site (at two different domain names — smart) and according to his brother, he runs “two company Web sites in Dubai,” as well.

OK, I know I write for a tech magazine, but when I was 10, my interactions with computers were limited to getting on my parents’ first PC and marveling at how Word files scrolled up and down. My idea of an e-learning module was a Speak & Spell.

Not to come off like Andy Rooney in the pages of CertMag, but technology has grown in such leaps and bounds in the last decade, I wonder whether human minds will ever function the same.

When I was a kid, what I could learn about my interests was limited to what I could glean from the pages of magazines and books that were physically available to me (or maybe on microfiche at the library).

Before going on a family trip, my mother would chastise me for bringing along so many cassette tapes that listening to the sum total of the hours of music they contained would take longer than the trip itself. “But, Mom! What if I get in the mood for Zeppelin’s seventh album while we’re at Aunt Judy’s?!”

Now, I go to and from work every day with more than 10,000 songs at my disposal, and the moment I hear about something, anything, I can walk over to a computer and quickly absorb every detail about it.

Any child today will grow up in this the world, and stories like those of Iqbal are symptomatic of such a seismic shift. Information technology, particularly as it applies to communication, never will be the same, not even close. And although that’s probably a good thing, watching it happening can be a little dizzying.

The Internet made its full emergence in our society right at the time I entered college. From my perspective, it was completely dynamic: “You’re in college now — these are called e-mails, these are called Web sites.”

My freshman year, I went to see Henry Rollins speak on campus. He told the student body, “Did you know this new thing called e-mail has made it so people call regular mail ‘snail mail?’”

Now, it’s a cliché to even point this out, but in the decade since then, e-mail has rendered the practice of writing letters and sending them via postal mail an antiquated notion (like churning butter).

But it seems even e-mail is becoming antiquated. Last year, The Chronicle of Higher Education published a study titled, “E-Mail is for Old People.”

According to the study, “Teens who participated in focus groups for this study said that they view e-mail as something you use to talk to ‘old people,’ institutions, or to send complex instructions to large groups. When it comes to casual written conversation, particularly when talking with friends, online instant messaging is the clearly the mode of choice for today’s online teens.”

A college student interviewed for the study said he checks his campus e-mail account only once every couple months.

It will be interesting to see how this affects mass communication. Will the aforementioned institutions be forced to grapple with this change by communicating with students, employees, etc., through online instant messaging, or will “old people” continue to foist these old-timey e-mails on the youth of today? (Ah, subject lines and attached documents — they hearken back to the days of railroad travel and chimney sweeps.)

Universities might adapt to this shift by setting up instant messaging services, but it’s difficult to imagine the business world following suit. I can’t see sending a cover letter and resume as an IM, and there are even employers who still insist you fax them these materials. (What is this, the ’80s?).

In this job, I receive e-mails literally all day long. But in a world in which 10-year-olds are getting certifications that might prove challenging to adults, all this likely will change and change fast. So, send an e-mail to Iqbal if you’re feeling overwhelmed. Better yet, IM him — he’d probably prefer that.

–Daniel Margolis, dmargolis@certmag.com

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Daniel Margolis


Daniel Margolis is a longtime professional writer and editor. Daniel was managing editor of Certification Magazine from 2006 to 2012.

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