Mount presents ‘Adolescence in the Digital Age’ conference

November 18, 2013

Newburgh, NY -

CARD Conference 2013

Mount professors Frances R. Spielhagen (left) and Paul D. Schwartz (right), CARD co-directors, discuss “Social Media and Adolescent Risk Behaviors.” Other presenters included Ludmila Smirnova, professor of education (seated, far left) and Alex Valentin, director of information technology (seated, far right).

Educators from Mount Saint Mary College and beyond examined the challenges “digital native” adolescents face – and how to use technology to teach them – at “Adolescence in the Digital Age,” the fourth annual conference of the college’s Center for Adolescent Research and Development (CARD).

The conference consisted of five powerful presentations: “Social Media and Adolescent Risk Behaviors” by Mount professors Frances R. Spielhagen (education) and Paul D. Schwartz (psychology), CARD co-directors; “Digital Resources for the Common Core State Standards” by Ludmila Smirnova, professor of education at the Mount; “Cyberbullying and Other Web-Based Crimes” by investigator Christopher Jones of the New York State Troopers; “Digitalk: Literacy Concerns in the Digital Age” by Kristen Turner, associate professor at Fordham University; and “What’s New on the Digital Horizon?” by Alex Valentin, director of information technology at the Mount.

The proliferation of technology – from computers and cellphones to ever more elaborate video game consoles – has created a complex digital world for today’s adolescents, explained Spielhagen.

“The social interactions which have nurtured people to adulthood have changed in definition, thanks to Facebook and Twitter,” she said.

Thus, there is a “remoteness” not present in other generations, said Spielhagen.

“If you think of all the traditional psychologists, they say that maturity comes from connectedness. So how do we define that connectedness, and how do we define that interaction?” she asked. “That might be a challenge for our digital natives moving forward.”

At least, that’s what it appears to be.

“I wonder if, in fact, adolescents still have their ‘best buds,’ and they are redefining what it means to be connected,” Spielhagen said. “That’s the question we’re all facing: What does this mean?”

What it could mean for educators, according to Smirnova, is a new way to reach their students.

“Our students have changed as learners,” she said. “With the right preparation and understanding, teachers can use the power of student learners, enhanced by technology.”

For example, Smirnova demonstrated a program called Nearpod for mobile devices, which can engage students with classroom surveys. The program produces instant results, so it can be used to assess prior knowledge before beginning a new unit, or as a way for students to express opinions during a roundtable discussion.

Valentin presented a brief study on social media, blogs, wikis, and other tools “to enhance your classroom and teaching experience,” he said. “Apps can be fun and open new roads to connected learning.”

Spielhagen and Schwartz recently edited “Adolescence in the 21st Century: Constants and Challenges,” consisting of topics presented at prior CARD conferences. The upcoming book features chapters written by Mount Saint Mary College faculty and others, on topics such as communication between adolescent daughters and their mothers (Debra A. Hrelic, PhD, RNC); the changing definition of what it means to be literate (J. David Gallagher, PhD); how to increase religious tolerance in adolescents (Margaret Murphy, OP, PhD); the case study of a child born with a positive toxicology to crack cocaine (Rae Fallon, PhD); how service-learning projects can prepare students for the workforce (Moira Tolan, PhD); and increasing communication skills in adolescents with autism spectrum disorder (Irene Van Riper, EdD).

CARD was established at Mount Saint Mary College in 2009 by Schwartz; Spielhagen; Sarah Uzelac, associate professor of psychology; and Amanda Maynard, associate professor of psychology.

Initiatives include:

  • Providing services related to measurement development, administration and analysis for school districts, agencies, and other entities, including publication of research related to these instruments;
  • Hosting research conferences to promote collaboration among researchers, educators, service providers, and policy makers working with adolescents;
  • Developing educational outreach programs for other educators as well as the general public and parents;
  • Creating web resources for a “one-stop shop” for all things adolescent for general public, parents, and educators, including text recommendations, research updates, other websites and online forms/groups; and
  • Developing a collaborative research agenda for center faculty.

For more information, visit