Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Computer dependent

Being a college student in the 21st century is quite different from what it was like when I first went to college. Before classes started, I worried that there'd be a scene like the one in the movie Legally Blond, with Elle, on the first day of class, taking out her notebook and a purple feathered pen, while the rest of the class open their laptops. In fact, I am more worried about providing my children with laptops when they go to college, than I am about paying their college tuition. Luckily for me, at Piedmont, people do still write in paper notebooks.

The biggest difference is the dependence on the internet. At Piedmont, there's a program called Blackboard that you log into and can download all your instructor's notes and powerpoints for the lectures. In the lab I am taking, we did not have to purchase a lab manual, since instructions for each lab are posted on blackboard for us to print. Quizzes and some exams are also put on Blackboard, so we can take them at home. It's all very easy and convenient, but it does assume that every student has access to a computer and a printer.

The other day, while browsing through Blackboard, I clicked on the “tools” option and then discovered “my grades,” a feature that is sure to become an obsession with me over the next few years. When you go to “my grades” not only do you see a neat summary of all your test and quiz grades so far, you also see how your grades compare to the class average. Brilliant!

And it's not that I went to college in the dark ages. We were heavily dependent on computers too. These pictures were taken in 1990, when J and I, who were then dating, traveled to Charlottesville to visit J's brother who was in medical school at UVA. It was our senior year in college. See J disporting himself irresponsibly at the top of Old Rag? See the backpack he's holding? It contained the one and only floppy disk with my senior honor's thesis and annotated bibliography. The bibliography alone was over fifty pages long. When I got back to New York, I told my faculty advisor about how J had jumping from rock to rock and swinging that backpack over his head, on the extremely windy mountain summit, and how I'd suddenly realized I'd left my thesis in it. The advisor said, “Ah, but if you'd lost the paper, you could have gotten it back from the disk.” When I told him that it was the disk in the backpack, he turned pale. I turn pale thinking about it, even now.

That last picture was taken in The Virginian. I don't think it has changed at all since 1990.

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