Yahoo, as part of its “Born Digital” series, asked students and parents to write about how college has changed over a generation. Here’s one perspective.
FIRST PERSON | I am 21 and a junior at the University of Central Oklahoma in Edmond, Okla. I am pursuing a history degree with a minor in creative studies, specifically creative writing. I hope to graduate sometime between the fall 2014 and winter 2015.
My parents met at George Mason University, where they graduated from in 1988. My mom received a bachelor’s degree in psychology, and my dad received a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education. He later went back to school for nursing at the University of Charleston in Charleston, W.V.
In several courses I took, some of my classmates were around the same age as my parents; some were older. In two of these courses — fundamentals of public speaking and early western civilization — we needed to use PowerPoint and Desire2Learn (D2L) to pass. For every speech and presentation in these two courses, we created a PowerPoint slideshow. We would take exams, quizzes, and access reading material through D2L. I noticed that most of those older students had great difficulty understanding PowerPoint and D2L, which I completely understand.
As I progressed through middle school and high school, it took me some time to get the hang of creating PowerPoints, and it wasn’t until I enrolled at UCO that I ever used the internet for school, outside of researching for papers of course. I grew up in the age of computers and internet, and those students did not.
When my parents attended college, computers were still evolving and slowly starting to take over the world. This change in lifestyle could be compared to the change that took place in society before, during, and after the Industrial Revolution. Personal computers had just started to become available in the workplace. They did not have a personal computer at their disposal for research, and so they used books from the library and microfiche, which I have only used once in my college career and it was an absolute pain in the butt. In order to write papers, my parents used typewriters, where as I can use my iPad, MacBook Pro, a plethora of desktop computers available at school, or even my cell phone.
My mom, who this summer went back to school to get a master’s degree, posted a quote on Facebook: “Respect your parents, they passed school without Google.” She later admitted over texting that she had to use Google for her research papers during her course this summer.
On-campus housing and dining has also changed technologically since my parents attended college. When I lived in the dorms, I had cable and internet provided by the school. Cable was not available to my parents when they lived in dorms. I can swipe my student ID when I am paying for lunch on campus, but my parents could only use cash or checks. My student ID can also be used to pay for textbooks. Alternatively, we also have debit cards that we can use when there’s no more money on our student ID account.
Practically every college student has a cell phone in their pocket or purse 24/7. I rarely go anywhere without mine. We use them to Google information, access our email, send texts to friends, and play games. We don’t even need alarm clocks anymore because we have them on our cell phones. My parents only had access to landlines when attended college and lived in the dorms.
Today, almost everything a student uses for school is technological — cell phones, tablets, computers, cable TV, and debit cards.