Another clash of the generations

Posted Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Recently, a student at Ryerson University in Toronto was charged with over a hundred counts of academic misconduct. His crime? Running a chemistry study group on Facebook. Now, while I’m sure there is more to this story than what the article states, the case seems fairly clear: a professor considers online communities different from offline ones. This is despite the differences being negligible for the purpose it was intended for. Though I graduated university last May (‘07), I still live two blocks from campus. I’m plugged into the college community there, and it’s definitely not the pure-offline world that a lot of the older professors seem to think it is. The majority of students at SDSU seem to have a Facebook account at the very least. Even some professors do, though they’re almost entirely the younger ones. This is not the first clash between old and new ways of thinking about human interaction, and I guarantee it won’t be the last. However, we as young adults need to work with the older generations to demonstrate three things:

  • Technology is not a replacement for traditional forms of communication, it’s an enhancement of it.
  • The Internet is not lawless, despite it being unregulated. There are rules of behavior online just as there are ones offline.
  • Education is more and more becoming inseparable from the Internet, and things such as online study groups are inevitable evolutions of that paradigm.

Ranting, raving, and threatening is most definitely NOT the way to prove to the older generations that our way of thinking on this issue is correct. Instead, we need to approach this on their level - and with their tools. We are one society, not two separate ones. Personally, I think Ryerson University’s wording of their academic dishonesty policy could use some updating. “Any academic advantage” being made illegal would seem to me to disallow reading textbooks.

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