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The First "Internet Class" Goes to College

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Just in time for back-to-school, Beloit College has released its annual "Mindset List," listing some of the cultural experiences and expectations of the would-be Class of 2015. The 18-year-olds that comprise this year's incoming freshmen were born in 1993 -- the year that Mosaic introduced its popular Web browser and that The New Yorker published Paul Steiner's infamous "On the Internet, Nobody Knows You're a Dog."

This incoming class literally grew up with the Internet. They are "the first generation to grow up taking the word 'online' for granted and for whom crossing the digital divide has redefined research, original sources and access to information," according to the college.

Beloit College has published its Mindset List every August since 1998, when the school's then-Public Affairs Director (now Emeritus) Ron Nief and Professor of English Tom McBride began to mark the historical and cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of the school's new freshmen. The list remains a fascinating way for instructors -- as for the general public -- to think about the worldviews of their students.

This year's list has also prompted librarian Doug Johnson to update his Mindset List for Librarians Entering the Field in 2011" -- a list that includes the end of typewritten library card catalogs and mimeograph machines, tools that new librarians and teachers entering the profession this year will never know.

Of course, not all students who enter college this year are 18 (just as not all teachers and librarians entering the profession will be in their early twenties). And not every student will share these experiences. Even if "there has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway," not every student has had access. Nonetheless, the list is an interesting look, in general at least, at a generation, and as teachers and parents, it's important to think about how the mindsets of our students and children color what they see and know (and think they know).


A Sampling of the Mindset List for the Class of 2015:

  1. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
  3. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
  4. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
  5. Video games have always had ratings.
  6. Music has always been available via free downloads.
  7. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.
  8. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
  9. They’ve always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
  10. Charter schools have always been an alternative.