A survey of teachers and seniors at Mother Lode high schools shows proof positive that the class of 2012-13 is a generation steeped in the electronic age — more familiar with Facebook than face-to-face contact or actual books.
Since 1998, the Beloit College in Wisconsin has released a “mindset” list to reflect the worldviews of the school’s incoming freshmen and to help professors better understand them.
According to local teachers, this year’s seniors cannot imagine life before microwave ovens, digital music and Google.
“They don’t know what an encyclopedia looks like,” said Summerville High School ASB adviser Deena Soto. “Half of them don’t know what the inside of a public library looks like.”
She also said students are constantly communicating with each other through text messages and Facebook.
“I don’t think they could live without Facebook,” she said. “I hear ‘Facebook’ 5,000 times a day.”
Diana Harford, principal of the Connections Visual and Performing Arts Academy at Summerville, said that the students rarely go an entire day without using their earbuds but that they do not see the point of owning a CD player since they can listen to music on their iPods, cellphones and computers.
Bret Harte Union High School English teacher Amber Pappe said students are not just using their iPods to play music. Some students ask her if they can read books on their iPods during in-class reading time.
Harford said that operating a telephone with buttons is unfamiliar to students but entering reminders and dates into their cellphones as opposed to writing them down is second-nature.
Amy Avritt, a math teacher at Bret Harte, said that one of her students takes pictures of the chalkboard with a cellphone to record assignments.
She also said there is a generation gap when it comes to idioms, and Pappe agreed.
appe said her students did not know what she meant when she described something as “corny,” but that they understood when she used the word “cheesy.”
“They definitely looked at me like I’m crazy,” she said.
Pappe tries to keep up with her students’ technology-driven lifestyles by posting upcoming assignments on a blog, and she has heard of teachers “tweeting” assignments. She also knows teachers who allow their students to text them with questions.
“We didn’t even call our teachers, let alone send them an email or send them a text,” she said.
She added that it is difficult for students to turn off their phones during class because they are used to having access to information 24 hours per day.
But even though the answers are a Google search away, Pappe said this year’s seniors probably could not name the individual members of the Beatles, explain who Bob Dylan is or describe the “I Love Lucy” television show.
This demonstrates an oxymoron Pappe pointed out — while the students’ world has grown tremendously with advancements in technology, in some ways it has also shrunk.
Summerville grade level coordinator John Contreras said this year’s seniors have no idea that Paul McCartney was in another band before the Wings.
“Times are going to change when they get older,” Contreras said. “The next generation is going to say, ‘What are you talking about?’”
He also said that they stand in front of a microwave yelling at it to hurry and they do not realize how lucky they are to have always owned a such a convenience.
And according to Summerville Secondary Co-Administrator Mitch Heldstab, the students do not know what a typewriter is. Pappe said she was talking about tape recorders one day and realized the students probably had never used them.
Pappe said today’s students are fortunate to not see the same social barriers as students several years ago may have seen, such as the lack of opportunities available to women.
Summerville seniors weighed in on which of the claims held true and false.
Daniel Britt, 17, said he never uses a CD player and instead mostly streams his music from Pandora, a website that learns users’ tastes and plays songs accordingly. He does, however, listen to classic rock on the radio.
He frequently enters memos into his phone since he rarely carries a pen and paper, and he has no idea who Paul McCartney is.
He owns an encyclopedia set, but they collect dust on his shelf because he prefers to direct his questions to the almighty Google.
He can go an entire 24 hours without checking Facebook or blaring music through his earbuds, but he sends text messages every day.
Contrary to his teachers’ beliefs, not only does he know what a typewriter is but actually owned one. And he cooks with an oven and a stove, not just a microwave.
Josh Whylidko, 16, admits that it is uncommon for him to go an entire day without using his earbuds or checking his Facebook and he does most of his research on the Internet instead of going to a library.
But the rest of his answers may surprise teachers. He uses the CD player in his car, often writes notes on paper and fires up the oven or the stove when he fixes a meal. He’s also used a typewriter, but that’s because a teacher brought it to one of his classes for fun.
He also knows that Paul McCartney was a musician, but he has no idea what bands McCartney has played in.
Some seniors said that the things they are familiar with, their teachers know very little about. Others said their teachers seem to be up to date.
“I think teachers don’t know a lot about iPhones,” said senior Chase Johnston. “I think if you handed a teacher an iPhone, they wouldn’t know how to use it.”
But Bret Harte senior class president CJ Singh said even though some of his teachers have old cell phones, they make fun of themselves for it because they know they are behind.
Senior Sheamus Vaughan-Warde said the teachers seem to be well-versed in technology because many of them are young, but said they make pop culture references that many of their students do not understand.
“One of my science teachers brings up old TV references and there are like two or three people in the class that laugh at it,” he said.
But Singh said that some of his teachers watch the same shows as the students.
“Some teachers even quote ‘Jersey Shore’ in class and it’s like, I haven’t even seen this episode yet, how do you know about this?”