Spring 2021 Student Snapshot

As you guys may or may not know, I teach technology courses at a local community college. I started teaching very early in my career, soon after getting my master’s degree in 2000.

I don’t think I really realized back then how much easier it was teaching when you felt relatively close in age to your students. At that time, I was able to relate to the majority of people in my classes. We listened to the same music, watched the same TV shows, and enjoyed the same movies, for the most part.

Well, now that I’m in my mid-forties, this is no longer the case. I have never felt more disconnected from my students, and the pandemic is NOT helping.

Every semester I find it harder and harder to relate. They don’t get my references, jokes, or memes. I fear playing music during class since it’s probably nothing they care to hear. And besides the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I don’t even know what movies are popular anymore.

It doesn’t help that people digest media in more of a vacuum now. Let me put my old lady hat on for a minute and say, “back in my day,” we all pretty much watched the same network TV, went to the same movies, and listen to what was on the popular radio stations. At least that’s how it felt. I’m sure I was in a bubble at the time, but my students were in a similar bubble. We were able to share many of the same pop-culture references.

Today, however, people can watch, listen and digest whatever media they want whenever they want it. Don’t get me wrong. It’s super cool! I love that my kids watch anime from Japan and old Tom and Jerry episodes from the ’80s. There are so few barriers to access media from anywhere and any time frame you want, which is fun, but it also means we’ve lost some shared culture. It now feels hard to find common ground when trying to connect with people and engage them.

So, long story short, this semester, I decided to create a more detailed orientation survey to get to know my students better. In this post-pandemic world, I think it’s more important than ever to make a human connection in the classroom. I need them to know I’m here and that I do want to get to know them.

Well, let me tell you the survey results were fantastic! It gave me so much insight into my students and it’s helping me create much more of a class culture.

Favorite Movies as Mentioned by Students

The movies students shared as their favorites were exciting. I was surprised the students listed a lot of my favorite as well, like:

Many of the movies they listed I have seen and enjoyed but would never rank as “favorites” of mine but based on age and release dates, I can see why somone younger than me would relate to these films more than I did.

And then there were some I’ve never seen and now I have a fun list to go through!

I’m sure I’m missing some from the surveys, but that represents a good chunk from the four traditional classes I’m currently teaching. Based on my informal survey, my students’ age range is from about 17 through 50, with the average age being 19-20, just for reference.

Now… onto the music!

Class Play Lists

Asking a college student what their favorite music is an eye-opening experience. I have never had more fun exploring new-to-me artists and songs.

I even got the whole family involved and all four of us have been listening to all the music my students shared with me so far.

Here’s a Spotify playlist from each of my current courses:

Popular Apps Among Students

I also asked my students to share what apps they most use on their phones and on their computers. The results were insightful but not surprising.

Most Popular Phone Apps

  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Spotify
  • Discord
  • Snapchat
  • Facebook
  • YouTube
  • NikeRunClub
  • Google Drive
  • TikTok
  • Safari
  • iMessage
  • Hulu
  • Reddit
  • Kindle
  • Banking Apps
  • Strava
  • Pinterest

Most Popular Desktop Apps

  • Photoshop
  • Adobe Creations
  • Illustrator
  • Lightroom
  • Picsart
  • Games
  • InDesign
  • Grammarly
  • Wattpad
  • Browsers

I must note, I’m teaching a combination of gen-ed tech classes and an interactive media class, so seeing adobe products wasn’t that surprising to me. That said, I was surprised to see students mention adobe software who are not in the interactive media class.

Memes in the Classroom

teacher memes meme
Meme and Teachers Using Memes.

The last thing I want to mention about my semester so far is my use of memes. I don’t think anything dates me more than my use of them in the classroom. I warn students from day one that I will be that cheesy teacher who finds memes to share with the class when it’s relevant to our topic. They amuse me, and I get to inquire with them if they understand the reference.

Maybe it shows more age more than I think it does, but I’ve always been fascinated with pop culture and internet/online culture specifically.

Here’s the thing, my students don’t realize that I learn just as much from them as I hope they are from me.

I may formalize this survey and use it for all future classes. It will be amusing to see how the responses change over time.

Okay, back to grading!

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