Transparent (adj): easily detected or seen through.
“Was blind, but now I see.” – Amazing Grace
Facebook is finally starting to roll out a new feature called Timeline. This allows people to not only see your status, but to go back in time and see your whole (digital) life on Facebook. It’s another way they are exposing our information to the world. So who will use this?
In the US we live in a marketing culture. Everything we see around us is the result of a design process to make us feel a certain way. In the last 20 years marketing has changed from an art to more of a science. Companies have come into being that do nothing else but try to compile information on people. This information is gleened from a variety of sources, some open and some not. People are starting to really understand what companies know about us. It’s spooky in a way. However, the tables are turning.
The way to gather data is you need sources, you gather it, then you analyze it. Of course data means nothing if you can’t make use of it. You can use it to drive decisions and to forecast trends. The tools to do this have, until recently, only been in the hands of governments and huge corporations. Today however, the Internet allows information to be passed around and gathered in social networks. There are several examples of this.
A few years ago, a person lost their cell phone in a cab in NYC. A friend of the person set out on a process of using the Internet to track down who found it (and kept it). It’s an amazing story that got national attention. (see Lost Sidekick)
Earlier this year a website called Wikileaks began publishing highly classified State Department communications to the public. Not only were these embarrassing, they were dangerous in some ways.
A few weeks ago a person on YouTube found out that a hidden piece of software on many cell phones called Carrier IQ. It appeared it was logging everything you typed on your phone and sending it to the company. Naturally people freaked out. The actual story is somewhat less horrifying, even so, the fact somebody on YouTube can cause this much trouble is interesting.
Here is a satellite picture of the new Chinese Aircraft carrier on sea trials. Previously, only governments could get images like this. Now there are commercial companies doing it.
Some cities are being completely covered in cameras for police purposes . Add Google Street view to the mix and all of a sudden there is information everywhere.
So how will all this information affect education?
- Students will have a lot more access to information about colleges than the marketing brochure they get sent. Even now there are whole websites setup by disgruntled former students. While they don’t sway many people, prospective students will take it into account. When you buy something from Amazon.com, do you read the reviews? I do. We are entering a time where everything will be reviewed.
- Teachers will have to get used to students doing research on them before getting into class. They might know your jokes and they will certainly know what previous students have said on how to pass your class. For good or bad, your reputation will proceed you.
- The newest generations of college students are used to creating adhoc working groups to solve problems. How to get a good grade in your class is a problem to them. What is disturbing is many students don’t care how they pass as long as they do.
- There are a lot of tools now to catch plagiarism but what if it’s not plagiarism? There are places now where you can pay for an original paper or report. It’s outsourcing, plain and simple. Of course, it’s not learning.
- Things like funding for universities, donor lists, expansion plans and faculty compensation will all become increasingly available to everyone. Students will be able to break down the actual costs of their tuition and make a determination of if it’s worth it. With all the unemployment and with tuition continuing to increase, I think prospective students will be gathering as much information they can get.
- Teachers have to get used to being challenged on things they say. When a student has a laptop, the teacher isn’t the smartest person in the room. It will finally force teachers into a different role; more of a guide than information provider. Many teachers won’t like this. That’ s ok, they won’t be around forever.
- I have mentioned this before, but businesses will be gathering all this information before hiring new employees. They aren’t going to be just relying on a degree anymore. This significantly weakens the whole college system.
Information is power and it’s not just in the hands of the powerful anymore. The primary beneficiary of the Internet is the individual. Universities aren’t the only voices in the academic world. As they say in legal notices, “govern yourself accordingly.” Because somebody will find out.
So what do you think? Please leave me a comment, but keep in mind, it will never go away.