Gen z can't use file structures

Gen Z are far enough away from the referent for our architectural metaphors –they have never used a filing cabinet and it is not an innate human skill – that technical tools are extremely difficult to use.

Q: Is there information behavior data that supports these anecdotes?


Chin, Monica. “File Not Found: A Generation That Grew up with Google Is Forcing Professors to Rethink Their Lesson Plans.” The Verge, 22 Sept. 2021,

[Catherine Garland] asked each student where they’d saved their project. Could they be on the desktop? Perhaps in the shared drive? But over and over, she was met with confusion. “What are you talking about?” multiple students inquired. Not only did they not know where their files were saved — they didn’t understand the question.

Gradually, Garland came to the same realization that many of her fellow educators have reached in the past four years: the concept of file folders and directories, essential to previous generations’ understanding of computers, is gibberish to many modern students.

Plavchan now also spends a lot of time teaching his students about directory structure in his courses, along with other basics, like file extensions and terminal navigation. Guarín-Zapata begins his semesters with a similar tutorial. “I start with a little talk about a mental model of a computer, what a computer is,” he says. “We have memory; we have a hard drive; we have an interface; we have a file structure.”