[rant]So, if you organize a study-group online instead of in meat-space, the old fogies who still remember dinosaurs go all berserk. A student is threatened by expulsion for organizing a Facebook group for studying chemistry. Moreover, as each student got different questions, nobody did the work for others, they only exchanged tips and strategies. See the responses:
Yet students argue Facebook groups are simply the new study hall for the wired generation.
Yes, they are.
How much of this is a matter of administrative fear of the internet?
Today, that sense of “honor” seems horribly old-fashioned. To most students it will not seem like cheating if they ask their friends for help with the assignments and share information. That’s what happened on the Facebook study group.
Old-fashioned is too nice a term. It is outdated and anachronistic.
Honestly, do you not see the difference between studying together and exchanging answers on a graded assignment?
The problem is in a stupid professor who thinks in terms of “graded assignments” in the 21st century.
This all stems from the old German universities of a couple of centuries ago, where getting a degree was essentially a hazing process. Toughening the individual. For what? For replicating and preserving the hierarchy, both within the academia and in society as a whole. The educational systems around the world, at all levels, are still based on such outrageous ideas.
No individual can know everything needed knowing. No individual can make the necessary societal changes on one’s own. So why teach them as if it is all up to an individual? Both learning and social change are communal processes. What we need to be teaching is how to be a member of a community, how to network, how to contribute, how to share, how to pull together in order to increase the global knowledge and, by using this knowledge, to increase the global welfare.
Science is supposed to be a collaborative activity. Why is it organized (and taught) as if it was a competitive activity? How does that affect science? Negatively, by increasing secretiveness and sometimes outright fraud.
The Web is changing all this. The teenagers already grok that the old selfish notions of intellectual property are going by the way of the dodo. They naturally think in terms of networks, not individuals. And thinking in term of newtorks as opposed to a linear, hierarchical, individualistic focus, is necessary for speeding up the advancement of knowledge and societal good.
In other words, it is not important what each individual knows or does, it is important what the interactions between individuals can do, and how the group or community (or global community) learns and acts upon the knowledge.
Thus, education, especially science education, from Kindergarden through post-doc and beyond, should be organized around collaborations, teaching people and letting them practice the networking skills and collaborative learning and action. Individuals will make mistakes and get punished by the group (sometimes as harshly as excommunication). They will learn from that experience and become more collaborative next time. The biggest sin would be selfish non-sharing of information.
If I could, I would not give individual students grades on their individual performance at all. I would give a common grade for the entire class. Each individual will then get that same grade. If the last semester’s cohort got an A, do you think that this semester’s group would settle for anything less? And how do they get an A? By pooling their resources, sharing all the information, closely collaborating on all assigned projects, and coaxing/teaching/punishing individuals who are not pulling their weight. Neither the reward nor the punishment would be meted out by some outside self-appointed ‘authority’, but by peers – the people who matter the most.
Then, they would take this approach to the Real World, where such things really matter, where sucess is that of a community, not that of any individual.
So, if you do not get this, if you are not mentally ready for the 21st century, if you still harbor the outdated competition-based, individualistic mindset, you should not be in the teaching business. Quit today. Save yourself the embarassment of being laughed at by your students. Save your students from having to deal with an authoritarian. Save the society from promulgating the counter-productive, anti-social methods of knowledge-acquisition and knowledge-use.[/rant]