Students these days apparently can’t understand the concept of the hierarchical file structure, thanks to search engines and the cloud:
"I tend to think an item lives in a particular folder. It lives in one place, and I have to go to that folder to find it," astrophysicist Catherine Garland said. "They see it like one bucket, and everything's in the bucket." Strange as it may seem to older generations of computer users who grew up maintaining an elaborate collection of nested subfolders, thanks to powerful search functions now being the default in operating systems, as well as the way phones and tablets obfuscate their file structure, and cloud storage, high school graduates don't see their hard drives the same way.
"Students have had these computers in my lab; they'll have a thousand files on their desktop completely unorganized," Peter Plavchan, an associate professor of physics and astronomy at George Mason University, told The Verge. "I'm kind of an obsessive organizer ... but they have no problem having 1,000 files in the same directory. And I think that is fundamentally because of a shift in how we access files." As The Verge points out, "The first internet search engines were used around 1990, but features like Windows Search and Spotlight on macOS are both products of the early 2000s [...] While many of today's professors grew up without search functions on their phones and computers, today's students increasingly don't remember a world without them."
This isn't necessarily a bad thing, or a reason to recoil in horror because how dare the youth of today do things differently, why the very idea. "When I was a student, I'm sure there was a professor that said, 'Oh my god, I don't understand how this person doesn't know how to solder a chip on a motherboard,'" Plavachan said. "This kind of generational issue has always been around." And Garland, the astrophysicist teaching an engineering course, has started using her PC's search function to find files in the same way her students do. "I'm like, huh ... I don't even need these subfolders," she said.