Internet access has spread to a quarter of the U.S. population seven times faster than electricity did and five times faster than the telephone did, according to the most recent Digital Decade Survey conducted by technology retailer Best Buy. The survey reveals how technology use among college students has changed in the past ten years.
About one billion people will be connected to the World Wide Web by the year 2001. The influx of internet technology and other digital devices affects every aspect of a college student’s life, from papers to partying.
According to the survey the most widely used research tools in 1990 were general library materials, such as encyclopedias, research guides and card catalogs. Ninety-two percent of freshmen used these general library materials to gather research for term papers. Today the internet is the most popular research tool for freshmen – 85 percent of them use it. The survey shows that 74 percent of students using the internet also use general library materials.
But despite the increasing pervasiveness of the internet in society, GW students have found that some professors will not accept internet sources in papers.
Some professors are very skeptical and they are still not convinced that the internet has accurate sources, sophomore William Tagg said. But Tagg said professors are smart enough to figure out which sources are legitimate.
Internet usage extends far beyond the classroom. While the telephone is still the most popular way for freshman to keep in touch with family and friends, the survey shows that more than half of today’s freshmen also use e-mail to touch base with home, compared with only seven percent of freshman in 1990.
Senior Stuart Fleishman finds e-mail to be the most impressive development of the digital age.
It’s not like a cell phone, so it doesn’t cost money, and you can e-mail anyone in the world, Fleishman said.
In recent years GW has jumped on the technology bandwagon. Last May, GW appropriated a $600,000 budget to implement a new e-mail system – a move seen as recognition by GW that e-mail had gone from a useful tool to a necessary one.
Aside from e-mail, GW has also provided students the opportunity to use the internet to receive course materials through Prometheus – the University’s Web-based classroom. Basic administrative procedures have also been moved to the internet, such as registration through GWeb.
Seventeen percent of this year’s college freshmen are registering for classes online or via e-mail, according to the Digit Decade survey. This represents a four-fold increase since 1990, when only four percent of freshman registered online. While the increase in new technology use for education is clear, the proliferation of technology for personal use among students is astounding.
Supplies seen as basic necessities for college freshmen today are much different than the ones ten years ago. According to the survey, more than half of today’s college freshmen bring a laptop or personal computer to college, compared to 13 percent in 1990. More than twice as many freshmen – 44 percent – entering school in 2000 will own a CD player compared to 20 percent of freshmen 10 years ago.
As cell phones, pagers, portable MP3 players, digital cameras and many more new digital devices continue to flood the college market, they could present more problems for students.
Today’s students have more options than ever to assist in their procrastination. Many of these options have led social scientists to believe that the digital age is taking away from people’s interpersonal skills, which are seen as important in the work place and society.
But some GW students hold a more optimistic view about technology on campus and in residence hall rooms.
Being in touch with the technological age keeps us all informed, Tagg said.
Others believe the move toward new and better technology is inevitable.
Dorm rooms that are wired are great, the whole world is going to be that way pretty soon, Fleishman said.
Fleishman’s advise for those who feel uneasy about using new technologies is simply to remember that technology is a good thing. You just have to be responsible with it.
The options are clear: either join the digital revolution or get left behind in the dust of yesteryear.