Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The mindset of incoming college freshman & why you should care

Every year, Beloit College releases a list about the mindset of incoming college freshman. There are 75 items on the list. The first seven are:
  1. The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
  2. They have known only two presidents.
  3. For most of their lives, major U.S. airlines have been bankrupt.
  4. Manuel Noriega has always been in jail in the U.S.
  5. They have grown up getting lost in giant retail stores known as "big boxes."
  6. There has always been one Germany.
  7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
It's an interesting list, but why should you care should you care about it? The biggest reason that comes to my mind is that the analogies we use and the stories we tell may be totally meaningless to them. We may think we've made a brilliant point in conversation -- or in a training situation -- and not realize that our words were meaningless.

How can you get into the mindset of this group? The easiest way is to talk to them, read what they read, watch what they want, and listen to the things they listen to. (Okay, so you may not like their music, but you should at least know something about it.) And play with the "toys" they play with -- that means trying out the games, the web sites, the Internet tools, etc. You might even find things that you like and that you want to add to your life.

If possible, then, try to incorporate images and analogies (for example) that are familiar to them. Relate events to things that they know. And use language that is relevant to them. Watch out for those phrases that "show our age."

Finally...our history is not their history. And the history that we may be digitizing may seem like ancient history to them. We need to draw connections for this group that will help them relate to our history and the history of their ancestors. Perhaps it is talking about how that event influenced modern life. Or drawing analogies to something that is occurring today. We can't assume that they will understand the context or the implications, or even why we consider the events important.

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