Monday, July 6, 2009

Book Review Mondays

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Totally Wired
by Anastasia Goodstein

Book Review by Richard L. Weaver II, PhD.

In Totally Wired, Goodstein has written a superb book. It is so good that I wrote an essay using her book as the centerpiece. The essay is entitled: "Being totally wired means being more communicative and expressive." If you are a parent and you have a teenager, please read this book. This is the essay I wrote in its entirety:

I want to admit upfront in this essay that I am not totally wired; however, I spend a great deal of time at my computer, and I have written extensively about the Internet and its effect on various aspects of communication in my textbook, Communicating Effectively (McGraw-Hill, 2009).

What I want to do in this essay, more than anything else, is simply to document what is happening in our society. It will be outdated, of course, almost as I tap on these keys, but what a benchmark it establishes as technology races forward. This is an essay that will be entertaining to read ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now simply for the contrast it provides to what is happening at that time. Although teens will be totally wired, the technology will be different.

I am indebted to Anastasia Goodstein and her book, Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2007). I sought this book for the insights Goodstein could provide in helping me write the ninth edition of the book referred to in the first paragraph above: Communicating Effectively. The characterization of teens that follows is Goodstein’s.

When totally wired teenagers today get out of bed in the morning, the first thing they do—before breakfast and before showering—is to fire-up their “at rest” computer to check for messages on their favorite community sites. They open iTunes to accompany them while getting dressed and listen to songs from CDs their friends burned for them. Before going downstairs for breakfast, they check their cell phone for both voice and text messages from their friends.

Totally wired teenagers will call or text their friends on the way to school so they know where they are and where to meet them when they arrive. To protect themselves from having their cell phones confiscated during classes, they turn them to vibrate, but they use them between classes to keep in touch with their friends and plan activities for immediately after school.

Schools have many computers, and students own their own laptops as well. Students use school computers to check their Web e-mail messages, do research for school projects, type projects and papers, and make PowerPoint presentations. Students, for the most part, are more comfortable with computers than most of their teachers, and often students end up answering their teachers’ questions and helping them figure things out.

In English, the teacher created a special website just for his classes that includes the syllabus, course expectations, brief project outlines and papers that must be downloaded, and a FAQ (frequently asked questions) link as well. One feature of the website is an ongoing, up-to-date blog which students are required to respond to using their special class names that only they and their teacher know.

This English teacher has received high ratings on not just because of his use of the computer but how he integrates the computer into classroom activities, maintains a daily question-and-answer page on the website where students can keep up with any aspect of the course about which they have questions, and a “contact me” link where students can contact him directly regarding problems, suggestions, or personal insights.

The algebra teacher, unlike the English teacher described above, does not receive high ratings on She assigns too much homework (according to the students), sometimes embarrasses them when they don’t know answers, and calls on them when they aren’t paying attention.

Totally wired teenagers often are incredibly busy after school hours. In addition to athletics, homework takes up time, but spending time on the computer dominates. They update their LiveJournal (LJ) entries, post comments on their friends’ Ljs, instant message (IM) their friends and relatives, check their own website blog, add a new entry to it as well. They go to their MySpace profile to keep in touch with distant friends. They may even keep tabs on boyfriends’ or girlfriends’ online profiles, sometimes leaving flirtatious comments, posting recent pictures of themselves or cute photos of them together. Although they like having boyfriends and girlfriends, they realize such contacts take time.

Much time is spent, too, interspersed within all of this, sending and reading e-mail messages and text messages. If there is even a little time remaining, they may surf the Internet, enter a chat room, post a note on a message board, hang out on community sites, or just go back through all of their contacts to see answers to their questions or more recent posts. Sometimes they just relax and review what they have done.

When they are away from home, it is not uncommon to receive cell phone messages from parents who are just checking in. When they are somewhere they know their parents would not like, they lie and tell them they’re somewhere else. As long as they answer their cell phones when their parents call, they get away with it. When at parties, it is not uncommon to receive text messages from someone across the room, telling them to check out someone else, or talking about someone else who is in the same room.

When they hang out with friends, they go see movies, rent DVDs, play video games or watch others play video games, just talk as they watch for text messages or communicate with someone else on their cell phones, or listen to their iTunes or MP3. They find such multitasking comfortable and easy, and most students perform multitasking when they do their homework, work at their computer, or watch DVDs.

Today’s teenagers spend enormous amounts of time socializing with friends, love listening to music and playing games, actively use their computers for socializing, doing homework, and researching papers and projects, and find it easy getting information of all kinds from the Internet. Because of the Internet, gossip travels quickly just as negative information and mean pictures. Writing diaries, once considered a personal form of expression, has become public documentation and sharing diaries, emotional experiences, and likes and dislikes is common practice.

“There are more opportunities for teens to express themselves and distribute their work as writers, artists, videographers, or podcasters (Internet radio hosts who create audio recordings you can download from the Web)” (p. 13), writes Goodstein. There is no doubt that totally wired teens raise new issues of privacy and safety, but it may be, too, they are becoming more communicative and expressive at the same time. We live in a far more verbal world than ever before.


Through our reading, researching, and writing, And Then Some Publishing (and our extended family of readers) mine volumes of books representing a wide variety of tastes. We use the books in our writing, test and try suggested techniques, and we read for enjoyment as well. We wouldn't spend the time reviewing the books if we didn't get something out of it. Read more reviews on other fantastic books at our website.

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