Student truths generate online hit

Film displaying undergraduates' lives and values is a YouTube success, reports Rebecca Attwood

August 7, 2008

"My average class size is 115" and "18 per cent of my teachers know my name" - these are among the stark messages from US students in a YouTube video that has become an internet phenomenon.

Cultural anthropologist Michael Wesch polled 130 of his students at Kansas State University about how they learn, what they need to learn for their future and about the state of the educational system.

The result was A Vision of Students Today - a four-minute film that has been viewed online more than 2.5 million times.

It begins with the camera panning around an empty lecture theatre, honing in on sentences scribbled on walls and furniture around the room, including the question: "What are they learning sitting here?"

The viewer then sees a lecture hall full of students, who hold up sheets of paper, notepads and laptops - all showing different messages.

"I complete 49 per cent of the reading assigned to me," one piece of paper reads.

Another says: "I will read eight books this year - 2,300 web pages and 1,281 Facebook profiles."

The average student in the class will write 42 pages for class this semester but more than 500 pages of email.

The average student sleeps seven hours each night, spends one and half hours watching TV, three and half hours a day online, two and half listening to music, two hours on their mobile phone, three hours in class, two hours eating, two hours working and three hours studying.

That is a total of 26.5 hours per day, one student points out.

"I am a multitasker - (I have to be)," another's message reads.

After reading that students will be $20,000 (£10,216) in debt after graduation, the messages then turn to wider global concerns.

"I'm one of the lucky ones," one student states.

"Over 1 billion people make less than $1 a day," another says, while text on a laptop reads: "This laptop costs more than some people in the world make in a year."

Students then admit that they "Facebook" their way through most of their classes and that while they bring their laptops to class, they are "not working on class stuff" - before the words "some have suggested that technology can save us ..." appear on the screen.

The students suggested the survey questions and wrote and edited the script themselves.

Dr Wesch is no stranger to being a YouTube star - another of his films, Web 2.0 ... The Machine Is Using Us has received more than 6 million hits.

Fintan Culwin, professor of software engineering education at London South Bank University, said there had been a "paradigm shift" in the way young people communicated, which he argued was more radical and pervasive than the widespread adoption of email, of widespread literacy 150 years ago, or moveable type 500 years ago.

"The students in that video are expressing the McLuhan truth about the medium being the message, transformed into the 21st century, and whose engagement is invisible to the vast majority of higher education educators," Professor Culwin said.

View the video at:

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