“eMail’s for old people” — Benoit College Mindset List

Zac March, director of UM’s eLearning Initiative, sent out a link to an article on how the class of 2014 thinks about technology. This article is based, in part, on the Beloit College Mindset List, published every year since 1998.

What I thought was most interesting about the initial article from www.ecampusnews.com was the conversation it stimulated among the eLearning folks (even more interesting was the conversation took place through email).

Several folks commented on just how old the class of 2014 made them feel based on their mindset (myself included–at 36 years old, I graduated high school right when these students were born).

And yet, the phenomenon of students regularly communicating with each other is actually very old. What we find difficult to grasp is the speed at which students are able to communicate with each other (basically real-time communication all the time). In centuries past, people thought nothing of sending dozens, maybe hundreds of letters a month to their friends and family. The correspondence among America’s founding fathers alone fills numerous thick books and they were also busy running their own business interests and farms (not to mention our country).

Our parents and grandparents were also not strangers to prolific letter writing. I can’t speak for anyone else, but both my mother and grandmother love writing letters–once they discovered email, nonstop communication ensued.

As far as the actual list goes, I do have a few bones to pick with the authors of the list.

  • “The males among them are likely to be a minority” — Maybe at another school, but not at Missouri S&T. However, I have seen other studies that are showing that female enrollment in colleges and universities is rising while male enrollment is dropping.
  • 6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other blood-suckers at Hemery High. — This makes no sense (Buffy the Vampire Slayer hunted vampires at Sunnydale High, as anyone who actually watched the show would know). The authors of the list clearly need to do better research when referring to pop-culture icons.
  • 21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn. — Do college freshman actually know who Woody Allen is? Why would they even care who he “has always been with”?
  • 31. The first home computer they probably touched was an Apple II or Mac II; they are now in a museum. — This may be true for my generation, but PCs were rapidly coming into vogue in the early nineties when these students were born. Most of my classmates in college had a PC in their dorm room, not an Apple II or Mac. Again the authors display a lack of research on their part.
  • 53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn’t he?  — This was old news even when I was a child. Again, why would incoming freshman even care?

Although there are some points on the list that seem like they don’t make a whole lot of sense, most of the items are the “cultural touchstones” between my generation and the incoming generation. Things do change over time. Get used to it.