Happy Beloit College Mindset List Day. The list for the Class of 2014 marks our third year webcasting (2008, 2009) what has become a cultural touchstone for people in academe and frankly anyone employed in a multi-generational workplace (here’s coverage from the New York Times, Huffington Post, Wall Street Journal blog, NPR, USA Today, Chronicle of Higher Education… yeah, it’s a big deal).
Last year we were inspired to come up with our own list, The Mindset List for Educational Technology.
This year, Sonic Foundry’s Public Relations Manager Tammy Kramer (@tammykramer) had a chance to sit down with the creators to talk about how the Mindset List has changed over time as new audiences discover its relevance, and as dramatic changes in media have taken hold – the Mindset List now has a presence on Facebook, Twitter, its own dedicated website “Mindset Moment” and of course the annual webcast via Mediasite.
The following transcript is an excerpt from that interview. You can watch the full webcast here, and read the Mindset List for the Class of 2014 here.
Tammy Kramer (TK): So since you’ve expanded I wanted to ask you about the web presence that you have with the Facebook page and now you’re on Twitter, and with the new website. Does that influence your list at all?
Tom McBride: It has in the sense that with the web presence we are in touch more regularly with our fans. And so we, in fact we have a section on mindsetmoment.com called Mindset Moments. In which people can actually write in and say, you know, this is what Mom and Dad don’t get or this is what Junior doesn’t get. And my goodness, we’re grandparents and our grandson found a pogo stick in the attic and wants to know how to plug it in. You know, it’s this kind of thing. We say, just tell him it’s wireless. So yes, it has had an effect in the sense that I think we’re more on the ground kind of data about, you know, what the kids don’t get and what the students think Mom and Dad don’t get or Grandfather and Grandmother don’t get.
TK: To me it seems like you’re embracing the technology that the class of 2014 kind of takes for granted. You’re using Facebook, Twitter, you’re webcasting. Tell me about that evolution and just why you decided to get involved with that.
Tom McBride: Well I think it’s because of something that is true for this generation. And I think nobody really knows where this is going to end, but it is the degree to which old media is simply not cutting it anymore. I think it’s very clear that newspapers are in their last cycle. It doesn’t mean that newspapers won’t have a significant communications and news-gathering functions, but it’s probably not going to be on pulp. One of the things that we joked about is that in 30 years, newspapers will only be delivered 3 days per week and it will mainly be the brail addition. It’s that kind of thing. More and more people are interested in trying to sell books recognize that you can’t just go to the book editor of the local paper, you’ve really got to go to these social networks, to Facebook and to Twitter, and to some of the other new ones that are evolving. And I think that we’ve simply recognized the degree to which ultimately, communication today is electronic, it is instant, it is informal, it is through these websites. And so I guess to some extent, we’re saying, if you can’t beat them, you’ve got to join them.
Ron Nief: And we’ve recognized since the beginning this whole phenomenon of the Mindset list and its popularity. It never could have happened without the internet, the web, the cyber space. We did this one year and next thing we knew it was all over the country. We were caught off guard, we were a little shocked by it, now we have 400 to 450,000 hits on the website at the college. At the Beloit College, beloit.edu\mindset and that’s not a very easy site to get access to so we’re just making it easier for people to communicate back to us and for us to send material out. And something I realized this week, where I had to share this list in advance with a few people, I suddenly realized if I gave it to them in print, it almost assured it wouldn’t go anyplace. Electronically I have no control over it, but in print it would get to one person.
TK: Yeah, that’s been a big shift, hasn’t it?
Tom McBride: And I think another shift for us has been that as we have thought more about the list, we’ve talked to editors and others about the list, we’ve come to recognize that it’s a more flexible instrument than we realized. It never had occurred to us that we could use this particular methodology that had never been true for another generation, it’s kind of a neat way to study American history. We currently, for example, are doing a project with the Beloit Memorial High School System, in which we’re working with a gentleman there who runs the advanced placement program, who’s looking into teaching his history courses this way. It never occurred to us that this would be a fun way to do a kind of quiz about American history. It never occurred to us that this would be a fun way to do a kind of satirical advice column on the generation gap. So I think we’ve come to recognize that this is a multi-usable, a multi-useful kind of instrument. And that along with the web presence has really been a breakthrough for us.
TK: Who’s the biggest audience? Is it the class of 2014 or is it people like me?
Tom McBride: People like you, yeah, not the class of 2014. I recently received a very interesting comment on Facebook from a guy who’s now 30 or 31. He said, I was in the very first List, the 1998 list of those entering college in 1998, those who would be the class of 2002. And he said I remember not being terribly interested in this list when it first came out, but now I’ve gone back to read the original list and boy, have things changed. Now that I’m reading your new list, I feel old. So I think, you know, you don’t have to get all that much older to start looking back and start wondering, where have we gone and where have we been and where are we going?
TK: It does make me feel old, that’s for sure.
Ron Nief: Well our book [due out next summer] is looking at over the course of 150 years…
Tom McBride: 1880 to 2030.
Ron Nief: It’s the Mindset List of American History, it’s each of these generations seen through the eyes of an 18-year-old in that generation, and it’s very interesting to see how the 18-year-olds have evolved from a point where they were already adults with families and jobs without much ahead of them, to today where they’re really kids and they have everything. Suddenly in mid-century they created a group called teenagers that hadn’t existed before then. And all of the sudden they became a marketing target group that we could turn to for a particular form of wisdom.
Tom McBride: It sort of started with Rock and Roll and it’s been going ever since.
TK: How do you think webcasting fits into the whole picture?
Tom McBride: I think webcasting is a revolutionary technology that has just started to make itself felt. And what I really mean by that more than anything else is the extent to which, through webcasting, it is really possible to go places. You know, to go to conferences and conventions and seminars that otherwise you can’t go to. You don’t have to get on a plane and go out of town. You can actually attend that seminar, you know, from 9 to 10 at night. So I think that in many ways webcasting has turned out to be among the most revolutionary of the new technologies.
Ron Nief: And the fact that students are, we’ve talked about in the book, they’re most probably going to graduate in another generation from colleges whose campuses have just been pixilated. You know, views on the screen. They’re going to be depending on this for education.
Tom McBride: In 50 years a real, live professor, sitting across the table from you or at the podium while you’re sitting down taking notes, may actually be a minority; that may be the minority way of education.