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Seniors got their hands on their new iPads for the first time last week. Connie Vandermay/FOCUS

Sign of the times: Perham students get their new iPads

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Compare a 2012 Perham High School graduate to a 2016 graduate, and their views on high school education may be entirely different - even though they both graduated from the same school, just four years apart.

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The 2012 grad didn't deal with flip classrooms, cloud computing and Moodle. They didn't have to worry about keeping their iPads charged, downloading eBooks and learning about educational apps.

The class of 2016, however, will be the first students in Perham to walk through their entire high school careers with iPads in hand.

They took their first step in this process last week, as iPads were distributed to students after a parent/student orientation session. The new iPad initiative, called iENGAGE, stands for the district's hope to Embrace New Growth And Generate Excellence with new technology.

Thanks to iENGAGE, teachers and students are transforming the concept of a 'typical classroom' into something never seen by generations before - iPad-based learning centers.

The school hopes to engage all students through increased use of technology, with a new ability to diversify lessons into varied mediums like audio and video options.

In a nutshell, Perham High School is adjusting the way teachers teach in order to reach an electronically-savvy generation of students.

With things like the Perham iPad initiative, it's really no surprise that upcoming graduating classes view the world a little bit differently. Changing worldviews have prompted Beloit College to compile an annual Mindset List, which shows 75 previously well-known things that this year's college freshman have probably never experienced.

This year's list was just released last week.

The Mindset List points out current trends of the graduating class, once-famous people that would no longer be recognized, and overall changes in the world's cultural climate that have affected the class' mindset.

According to this year's list, teens today see Michael Jackson's family, not the Kennedys, as "American Royalty." And these grads have never seen luggage without wheels. The list goes on to state that an exposed bra strap is a fashion statement, not a wardrobe malfunction. And Google and YouTube are go-to academic sources, not a set of bound encyclopedias.

Perham High School seniors, Paige Biegler and Hannah Brenk, looked through the list last week and tried to decipher which parts rang true for them.

According to the list, new college freshman have very little knowledge of Bill Clinton or his presidency: Biegler and Brenk shrugged and confirmed this with a laugh.

They also confirmed that most of their toys growing up were electronic devices, like the Furby. And they agreed they never listen to the radio, and instead rely on iPods and MP3 players loaded with their music of choice.

The two couldn't imagine a world where women weren't in positions of power, thanks to role models like Hilary Clinton, according to the Mindset List. And in their minds, there is no such thing as 'male careers' and 'female careers.' Women can be in the military, pilot space shuttles or run for political office, no problem.

But there were things on the list that the girls didn't feel aligned with the views of themselves and their classmates. The Mindset List's statement that teens watch television everywhere but on a TV, for example: both girls said they always watch their shows on a TV, rather than on a computer or other digital device.

And they don't rely on Comedy Central's The Daily Show for their daily news, as the Mindset List indicates all teens do. Instead, they watch the local station their parents watch, if they watch the news at all.

Perham High School teachers Cory Solberg and Sandra Wieser-Matthews also shared their views of the list.

Wieser-Matthews said students "definitely live in cyberspace," constantly involved in games and phones and everything digital, which aligns with the Mindset List's observation.

However, she noted that most kids still don't completely understand how the digital world works.

"They don't get 'The Cloud,'" Wieser-Matthews said, referring to digitally stored data that is available on any computer via the internet.

She also agreed with the list's assertion that most students don't understand references from history and past pop culture.

But she was quick to point out that her students often correct her 'old-fashioned terms.' She still calls a copy machine the "Xerox" and a seat belt a "safety belt." This aligns with the Mindset List's observation that parents often call CDs and DVDs 'tapes,' which annoys this latest generation of students.

Solberg said many of the points in history that this generation doesn't know, according to the Mindset List, aren't so much facts of history as trivial stuff that doesn't matter much anyway.

Solberg said it still comes down to this: If kids are interested in something, they will learn about it, regardless of what generation they are from.

Although Perham administrators didn't use the Mindset List as a guide for their iENGAGE plan, nevertheless, Perham High School teachers have adjusted the way they teach to help reach students in this next generation.

To read the entire Mindset List, visit www.beloit.edu/mindset.

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