Technological Perspective & Student Learning

Everyday we are inundated by articles that pronounce major shifts in perception based on our use of technology.

Once recent article is NPRs announcement that Beloit College's annual "mindset list" is out. It's a series of historical and cultural references that will supposedly bewilder incoming college freshmen. A few facts about the class of 2019:
  • They have never licked a postage stamp.
  • They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement.
  • The announcement of someone being the "first woman" to hold a position has only impressed their parents.
  • Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.
  • The Lion King has always been on Broadway.
  • TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks.
  • The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.
  • The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.
  • They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.
  • Google has always been there, in its founding words, "to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.
This list is always interesting for what it reveals about the way that the incoming freshmen class views the world. And for educators, we have to keep in mind the cultural references that might go over their heads - the article uses referencing Watergate as an example. 

In addition, a rising majority will also read on their phone. A recent WSJ articles discusses how publishers are reimagining books for the very small screen. As noted, "Ever since the first hand-held e-readers were introduced in the 1990s, the digital-reading revolution has turned the publishing world upside down. But contrary to early predictions, it’s not the e-reader that will be driving future book sales, but the phone."

In a Nielsen survey of 2,000 people this past December, about 54% of e-book buyers said they used smartphones to read their books at least some of the time. That’s up from 24% in 2012, according to a separate study commissioned by Nielsen.

The number of people who read primarily on phones has risen to 14% in the first quarter of 2015 from 9% in 2012.

A question that is still being resolved is "whether deep, concentrated thinking is possible amid the ringing, buzzing and alerts that come with phones." Are our brains being rewired to account for all of this multi-tasking? Will this be modern-day evolution? It should get us thinking about the way our students will access, learn, and synthesize material - particularly in the legal research context. 

After all, some of these freshmen will our 1Ls before we know it. 


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