What have our “21st-Century Learners” grown up with?


A pet peeve of mine is much of the talk surrounding “21st-Century Learning”… not the concept, mind you, but the phrase itself. I’m usually quick to point out that many our seniors of today began kindergarten in the year 2000, so they’ve never had much formal education that wasn’t in the 21st century. That’s another rant for another time. Many of today’s high school seniors were born during or near 1995. With the help of a few web sites, let’s look back at 1995 and think about what has occurred during these kids’ lives:

Credits to CNET and ComputerHope for some of these facts

  • Of course, Windows 95 was introduced
  • About that time, Internet Explorer was introduced. The older crowd will recall that Netscape Navigator ruled the browser market and, at least to me, it seemed silly to think that this would change
  • The Sony Playstation was first sold in the U.S.
  • …so was the Iomega Jaz drive (Hey – those things would hold 1GB, proving the concept that portable storage could really turn out to be handy!)
  • The ThinkPad 701c came out – that was the one with the butterfly keyboard that expanded as the lid was opened
  • yahoo.com domain was registered
  • eBay came online
  • The USB standard was released
  • Toy Story, the first completely computer-generated movie, was released

…and on and on. This was really around the time that the Internet and the dot-com boom was beginning to take shape. There was an 1995 MTV news clip that went viral last year – no link due to Viacom copyright claims – that spoke to the wonders of cyberspace, the world wide web and celebrities looking for modem hookups while on vacation. Do you remember the early days of URL sharing on television, with reporters spelling out “H T T P colon backslash backslash W W W dot” to their viewers? Now, we see the thumb-up icon or a hashtag and everyone should just be able to figure out the rest. It’s ingrained.


Assuming they started school in 2000 or so (more facts from ComputerHope coming), that’s the year that Google became the most popular search engine. According to Neilsen, more than half of the households had Internet access (up from about 8% in 1995 according to one stat I read).  I guess my point is that the Internet and mobile technology with the world’s knowledge contained therein is at our fingertips. It’s at our students’ fingertips and they’ve known no other way. Learning is going to take place – inside or outside of those school walls – and we’d better adjust quickly to the reality that we all face. In closing, let’s look at failed predictions of the past and see how many of those were people stubbornly holding on to old concepts and rejecting the new concepts as fads. From ListVerse:

  • “The cinema is little more than a fad. It’s canned drama. What audiences really want to see is flesh and blood on the stage.” -– Charlie Chaplin, actor, producer, director, and studio founder, 1916
  • “The horse is here to stay but the automobile is only a novelty – a fad.” — The president of the Michigan Savings Bank advising Henry Ford’s lawyer, Horace Rackham, not to invest in the Ford Motor Co., 1903
  • “There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.” — Ken Olson, president, chairman and founder of Digital Equipment Corp. (DEC), maker of big business mainframe computers, arguing against the PC in 1977.
  • “A rocket will never be able to leave the Earth’s atmosphere.” — New York Times, 1936.
  • “The Americans have need of the telephone, but we do not. We have plenty of messenger boys.” — Sir William Preece, Chief Engineer, British Post Office, 1878.
  • “Fooling around with alternating current is just a waste of time. Nobody will use it, ever.” — Thomas Edison, American inventor, 1889 (Edison often ridiculed the arguments of competitor George Westinghouse for AC power).
  • “[Television] won’t be able to hold on to any market it captures after the first six months. People will soon get tired of staring at a plywood box every night.” — Darryl Zanuck, movie producer, 20th Century Fox, 1946.
  • [NOTE: This one cracks me up simply due to the fear tactics being utilized – good thing our politicians today don’t do this!] “Dear Mr. President: The canal system of this country is being threatened by a new form of transportation known as ‘railroads’ … As you may well know, Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside, setting fire to crops, scaring the livestock and frightening women and children. The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” — Martin Van Buren, Governor of New York, 1830(?).

About the Author: Jody Rose

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