Commodore 1530 cassette deckIn 1982, I was seven years old, and I was typing away on a Commodore VIC-20 computer. In order to load programs onto its whopping 5 KB of onboard memory, I would press play on the attached cassette deck and wait. (Here’s an interesting YouTube video if you have an extra 15 minutes to spare and want to learn more about how these tapes worked  After a few minutes, I typed “RUN”, and I could start gaming. A couple of years later, we upgraded to a Commodore 64 computer and traded in the cassette deck for a disk drive. ‘LOAD “*” 8,1’ is still etched in my memory 30+ years later — the command line to load a program from the external 5 ¼” floppy drive.

In the 1980s I vividly remember spending every waking moment possible playing video games and experimenting with commands on those same early computers, and I also remember my mom lamenting how much time I was wasting when I could be playing outside with friends. (Of course, the fact we lived a country mile from anyone within a year of my age didn’t help matters, nor did the nonexistence of cell phones and the Internet). I remember the redneck fixes my brother and I schemed up to troubleshoot computer problems, mostly involving lots of stripped wires and aluminum foil. My favorite, though, was our fix for an overheating disk drive. An RV vent fan was rewired and repurposed to blow air through the drive housing. Our pre-MacGyver (he didn’t start until 1985) ingenuity meant that our gaming sessions with disks of games (downloaded by our city cousins from online BBSes and then traded during annual summer visits) could last much longer (further extending the brain rot, according to my mom).

In 2016, my seven year old has at his disposal an iPad, a Nintendo 2DS, a PC and a Mac, an xBox One, a WiiU, and many more electronic toys and tools.  He’s entering complex commands to modify online Minecraft worlds on his personal server, participating in Skype and Xbox Live party chat sessions while gaming with family and friends throughout the state, and all of this with an iPad nearby streaming YouTube videos or customized Pandora music stations.

When I experience the inevitable technology problems that arise each and every day, I find that my patience runs much deeper than my child and many of those around me at work. Using technology has never been “easy” though it has never lost its fun. When the floppy disk drive overheated, often a hour or two into a game (no cloud saves = start over at the beginning), it was frustrating but not paralyzingly so. Instead, it was more about figuring out how to make the new technology work again. There were no online tutorials, no YouTube walkthroughs, no Genius Bar. My parents didn’t offer assistance as they truly had no idea how to help. There was lots of troubleshooting and slight electrical shocks, but little assistance.

When the power goes out now, I scrounge up a few LED lanterns and relish the chance to play a board game or catch up on a long neglected book. When the lights flicker off, my son more closely resembles the title character from Suzanne Collins’ picture book, When Charlie McButton Lost Power, a fun little story about the depths of despair a little boy is dragged into during an extended (all-day-long!!) power outage.Charlie McButton breaks down

My son does not have the same skillset and mindset that I had as a child. I’m a product of my generation and my surroundings, as is he. This is not to say I’m right and he’s wrong. He is merely used to being surrounded by technology that works easily and in high-definition, often with a mere touch or voice command. When he wants to hear a song or watch a show, it’s available on-demand. Wait time is barely a part of his vocabulary. When a device fails, it often means it’s time to throw it out and buy a new one. Few MacGyver fixes will work anymore.

Generational differences are some of the most misunderstood, disbelieved, and underestimated differences in life today. Much is made of economic differences, and racial & political differences are in the forefront of news today, but generational differences are a powerful and deep undercurrent in American culture. Today there are more generations (four) together in the workplace than ever before in human history:

Traditionalists (born before 1945)

Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964)

Generation Xers (born 1965-1980)

Millennials (born 1981-2001)  (some have broken down “Millennials” into separate Gen Y and Gen Z groups, with the 2001 date extended)

* Though the exact beginning/end dates for the generations are often quibbled over, for the sake of simplicity I’m following the dates put forth by Haydn Shaw, author of Sticking Points and Generational IQ.

What this means is that today we have to learn how to work with/collaborate/learn from/teach/etc. with peers from a wider age range than ever before. And while we know that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, and we know that Husky & Cougars are much different creatures, what we often don’t understand is why different generations act so differently. I can’t recommend highly enough two books by Haydn Shaw : Sticking Points & Generational IQ. Both books go into far more detail on generational intelligence and with far more eloquence than my blogging skills allow.

“Generational intelligence requires us to understand the ideas that shape the other generations. But there’s another part to generational intelligence. Not only do we need to understand other generations’ assumptions, we also need to understand our own… We struggle to love people we don’t appreciate or understand. When we understand other generations, we will quit judging them and start learning from them. Generational intelligence doesn’t make the key teaching of Jesus to ‘love one another’ easy, but it does make it easier.” (Shaw 2015, 19 & 21)

“The easy route is to fall back on stereotypical assumptions about other generations—that Millennials are entitled, or that Boomers can’t change. That’s ageism. It allows us to assume we’re right, which makes us feel good for about a minute, but sets us up for failure in the long run. The solution is generational intelligence, the powerful ability to escape ageism, understand other generations, anticipate their reactions, and to lead and influence across generations.” (Lynch N.D.)

So how do generational differences affect communication and peer coaching relationships? A healthy peer coaching relationship is built on a foundation of honesty and trust. Falling into believing and then acting based primarily on blanket generational stereotypes will snuff out trust before it ever has a chance to germinate. A successful peer coaching model is also dependent upon active and open communication.

In his 2013 book, Shaw lists twelve “sticking points” or places where teams get stuck on generational issues:

  1. Communication
  2. Decision making
  3. Dress code
  4. Feedback
  5. Fun at work
  6. Knowledge transfer
  7. Loyalty
  8. Meetings
  9. Policies
  10. Respect
  11. Training
  12. Work ethic

It should come as no large surprise that the vast majority of these sticking points need to be addressed in a healthy peer coaching model as well, preferably prior to diving into the peer coaching process. Most are ongoing issues, and their impact can be lessened through active listening and open communication, through establishment of healthy and balanced norms, and through maintenance of positive and empathetic attitudes.

By age I’m considered a member of the Gen X population, a smaller population that the generations before and after represented in the workplace today. Much of the generational differences are rooted socially in rural and urban migration patterns since the early 1900s. Growing up in rural small-town America and subsequently moving to the greater Puget Sound region has helped to somewhat uniquely mold my understanding of the generational and societal differences. With Shaw’s words guiding my readings the past weeks, I found myself exploring Gen X and Millennial issues extensively (see the lengthy resource list at the end of this post for more information and resources).  A quick place to start is where many of the articles and books pulled their data from: the Pew Research Group and their extensive and ongoing work. At the risk of oversimplifying generational labels, I felt this resource best functions as a conversation starter when working with colleagues. “Take our 14 item quiz and we’ll tell you how “Millennial” you are, on a scale from 0 to 100, by comparing your answers with those of respondents to a scientific nationwide survey. You can also find out how you stack up against others your age.”

TEDx Talks. (2011, June 10). Scott Hess – Millennials: Who they are & why we hate them[Video file]. Retrieved from
An interesting TEDx talk that focuses more on the differences between Gen X and Millennials. I’m particularly interested in his point of view, as I found far more resources regarding Baby Boomers & Millennials, and less on Gen X (my generation).  Many of the TED Talk videos that are centered around generational issues (particularly ones focused on Millennials), in my opinion, seemed to have more of a narcissistic quality to them. Ignoring the exploitive title, I felt like this video represented an honest look at some of the important differences.

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Retrieved from University of Minnesota website:
Finding resources from reputable sources that were not just rehashing the same research has been a frustrating process during this module research. This report/presentation from the University of Minnesota seems to summarize research well, and also presents some great potential discussion topics (e.g. Attitudes regarding respect and authority; attitudes toward supervision; possible implications for employers)

While there are four separate and distinct generations represented in the business world today, in the educational world we get a bonus fifth generation… the kids. “Generation Z” some have already labeled them, though their label is not yet written in permanent ink. What does their generation look like? How will technology and their world shape them? How will they see us when they enter the workplace? These generational differences are not explored nearly enough in our professional development and teaching, but I’m looking forward to starting conversations with colleagues in the months and years to come. I’ll just have to speak up a bit now and then, now that all of the Plan I folks have retired and the rest of us Plan III folks will be teaching well into our 80s and 90s.


ISTE Coaching Standards

ISTE-C Standard 1: Visionary Leadership

  1. Implement strategies for initiating and sustaining technology innovations and manage the change process in schools and classrooms

ISTE-C Standard 2: Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

  1. Coach teachers in and model incorporation of research-based best practices in instructional design when planning technology-enhanced learning experiences


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Baer, D. (2016, October 13). Boomers don’t work any harder than Millennials | Science of Us. Retrieved from

Brack, J., & Kelly, K. (2012). Maximizing Millennials in the workplace. Retrieved from UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School website:

Buckley, P., Viechnicki, P., & Barua, A. (2015, October 16). Understanding Millennials and generational differences | Deloitte University Press. Retrieved from

Collins, S., & Lester, M. (2005). When Charlie McButton lost power. New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons.

Hymowitz, C. (2015, June 10). Gen X was right: Reality really does bite | Bloomberg. Retrieved from

Johnson, S. A., & Romanello, M. L. (2005). Generational Diversity. Nurse Educator, 30(5), 212-216. doi:10.1097/00006223-200509000-00009

Retrieved from

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Pew Research Center. (2010, February 24). How Millennial are you? Retrieved from

Shaw, H. (2013). Sticking points: How to get 4 generations working together in the 12 places they come apart. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

Shaw, H. (2015). Generational IQ: Christianity isn’t dying, millennials aren’t the problem, and the future is bright. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.

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TEDx Talks. (2016, August 31). Why half of what you have heard about Millennials is wrong[Video file]. Retrieved from

TEDx Talks. (2011, June 10). Scott Hess – Millennials: Who they are & why we hate them[Video file]. Retrieved from

Tolbize, A. (2008). Generational differences in the workplace. Retrieved from University of Minnesota website:

Vozza, S. (2014, March 11). 4 steps to bridging the workplace generation gap | Fast Company. Retrieved from

West Midland Family Center. (n.d.). Generational differences chart. Retrieved from

Wiedmer, T. (2015). Generations Do Differ: Best Practices in Leading Traditionalists, Boomers, and Generations X, Y, and Z. Delta Kappa Gamma Bulletin, 82(1), 51-58. (pdf saved from Ebsco)

Wikipedia. (2016, October 8). Generation gap. Retrieved October 15, 2016, from

Williams, A. (2015, September 18). Move over, Millennials, here comes Generation Z | The New York Times. Retrieved from