Technology in the College Classroom: 1998 vs. 2008

As my step-sister marches toward her high school graduation next week and prepares to set off to university, I have been recalling my own university days.

I spent second half of the 1990’s in college, where spiral bound notebooks and three ring binders were staples (and yes, we needed staples, too). The only students who brought laptops to class were a few re-entry students (generally 10 years older than the rest of us and lugging around a company issued machine). Now laptops are required by an increasing number of universities.

Mobile phones were just becoming mainstream in my college years. I would estimate less than half of the students had mobile phones at that time and those who did turned them off before class. (Though, I remember being appalled when one fellow student answered his cell phone during science class.) I suspect classrooms are now filled with musical ringtones, texting, and photo sharing.

Most of us were using email for the first time on the old two color terminals at the computer lab. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter. Sure the Internet was there, but most of us were just learning how to use it. We could go online to see a syllabus for most teachers’ classes, but they still gave us handouts on the first day assuming that most students didn’t have easy access to the Internet.

It wasn’t until my senior year that the university library made its search software available online. I was ecstatic to be able to see what books were available from afar (without lines) before hustling to the library to beat any others who may be searching for the same study of supernatural occurrences in Shakespearean literature. If only they had enabled that “place on hold” functionality before my departure… oh cursed spite.

If you really want to boggle your mind, just think of what a change my college experience was from my father’s! I think he double majored in practical applications of fire and the physics of wheel creation. (Just kidding, Dad!)

The point is college classrooms are changing rapidly. Until today, I had not thought about how different my step-sister’s experience would be from my own. So, what can she expect? The following video, created by a cultural anthropology class at Kansas State University, paints a vivid picture of college in 2008.

Happy graduation, Sis! Teach me how to effectively use Facebook before you leave for college, please. I’ll bring my notebook.



  1. leafless said,

    Wednesday, May 21, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I agree. The college experience is so different than in the old days; actually, the old days aren’t that old.

  2. Lisa said,

    Friday, May 30, 2008 at 3:54 pm

    Ah, this one takes me back :-)
    When I studied abroad in 1996 I actually hand-wrote all of my papers because the UK computer terminals were so dreadful–how is that for retro!

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