Where's the Contents page?

“Look at this!  There is this huge picture on the front and yet this magazine is nothing about that!”  Two students approached me with the same observation almost simultaneously.  I responded, “You need to check the contents page to determine on what page the article is printed” 

“Where’s the Contents page?”

I felt hopelessly dated as my students thumbed through the National Geographic genuinely clueless as to how to find the cover page article embedded deep within the monthly periodical. 

I had instructed students to take a “National Geographic” from the stack of science-based issues situated on the shelf beneath the fish tank.  They were to leaf through a magazine searching for any article that might be linked to global warming.  My intentions were to have them see how pervasive the effects of global warming might be by immersing themselves in some great photography and evaluating whether the scenes/people/organisms in the images might be affected by climate change.  I didn’t think it would evolve into a lesson on using a magazine! 

I actually had to explain that they needed to look at the first couple of pages of the magazine, locate the Contents page, and search for a title that matched the cover on the front of the magazine.  This task required several seconds of processing to make a connection between the images on the cover accompanying the headline “Saving the Alps” to the title of the article listed inside as “Meltdown in the Alps”.  It was fascinating.

It was evidence of how the world of reading, education, and knowledge acquisition is rapidly evolving.  My students know the power of the Internet and the method of finding the newest and latest information.  Why would they ever have need to refer to a magazine?  Well at a minimum, they were enthralled with the images and the turning of the pages today.