Sunday, October 28, 2007

Today's Student

I want to share this thought-provoking video posted recently by Paul Stamatiou. It's from Professor Michael Wesch from Kansas State University, and is called "A Vision of Students Today". I'd like to say that a lot of the points this video brings to the table are very true, while some are questionable. I'll post the video first, and then say what I think. If you're going to read the rest of the entry, please watch the short video first. Otherwise you'll just ruin it, and this is worth looking at.

First of all, the whole "boo hoo I only get 7 hours of sleep a night" is completely ludicrous. Seven hours of sleep for me and everyone I know is a very good night. In reality, most students hit the hay somewhere between 2 and 3am, and start the day somewhere between 7 and 8. Also, in the point about being $20 000 in debt post-graduation, it's very important to note the following point, which was, "I'm one of the lucky ones". That is to say, you'd be lucky to finish owing only that much. Most people will be stuck with quite a bit more.

Most importantly, the attention they bring to to abusing laptops in the classroom seems to point a blaming finger at the technology itself. There's no doubt that there are lots of people Facebooking in class or doing other unrelated things. (On some campuses I know it's common to see people playing WoW in class.) But there's an equal number of people, at least in my classes, who are earnestly taking notes, following along with PDFs, using Wikipedia to quickly look up an unfamiliar term, etc. I use my laptop for all of these things in class on a daily basis, in addition to keeping my schedule straight and up to date using applications like iCal. I wish more people at Guelph were savvy enough to use Google docs to create collaborative notes like we saw at the start of that movie. Maybe I should get on my high horse and encourage this.

The point is, you're the one to blame if you don't have the self-discipline to pay attention and take notes instead of throwing a sheep at somebody on Facebook. I've made a concerted effort this year in a bunch of my classes to sit closer to the front, where the hard workers are most prominent and distractions from chattering bozos are at a minimum. And yes, you might end up sitting next to that annoying guy who puts his hand up in lecture every week to share an anecdote about his cat which he thinks is somehow relevant, but hey, it's not like you're going to (most) lectures to make friends.

One more comment - on the multitasking point - how true it is. While perusing the WoW forums the other day, I read an amusing story about a Hunter, (big surprise there!) that made their group wipe during a menial dungeon encounter. (For the uninitiated, that means the group all "died" and lost real time and game money.) Their reason? "Sorry guys, I'm trying to do a little studying for my exam in the morning and I stopped paying attention for a moment." Classic.

Now I want to segue to something else. In that video, we saw a fair number of Macs, which, culturally speaking, is a noteworthy part of the "vision of students today". I think it's a fair assessment that probably about a third of the laptops I see around campus nowadays are MacBooks, (or MBPs). To tell the truth, I'm a little irked that they're gaining popularity so quickly. And I can't honestly say if that's more because of the materialistic desire to stand out, or the sense of deflowered elitism I get when I meet more and more new Mac converts who don't know who "the Woz" is, but are happy to be looking hip. Windows Vista is the new Paris Hilton - the thing everyone loves to hate. And, honestly, I don't think there's that much to hate about it. Yet even if there is, it bothers me when people are all over the Hate-Vista-Love-Mac bandwagon but can't tell you a thing about either one of them, aside from "Macs are just so cool."

Am I far too elitist for my own good? Probably.

The other, more legitimate reason to be concerned with Mac Mania is the realization that the popularization of Macs will compromise the sweet, easy, Norton-less world we've come to know and love. By the way, it's not just me giving my unprofessional opinion - I'm getting this straight from Tech otaku Leo Lapporte's mouth. It's not as if Apple products have strong-like-bull security features built in. (Just look at Apple TV and the iPhone.) The reason Macs don't have virus problems is because - who uses a Mac? Yeah, nobody. Oh wait, no. Scratch that. It's all changing now. If everyone and their mother starts running OS X, you can be sure people will start writing viruses and other malware for it, and the next thing I know I'll have some abomination of software called iNorton going, "IM IN UR MENU BAR, HOGGIN UR RESOURCES"

Oh, and congratulations to Kat on her new MacBook. I won't pretend I'm not jealous of its Core 2 Duo-ness and the fact that she's running Leopard, but goodness knows she's probably the most deserving new Mac convert I know. May the Force be with you, may the RAM behoove you. Namaste!

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At 4:14 PM, Anonymous Paul said...

Well, what a large post, I don't quite know where to begin (lie). That video was kind of depressing I thought. It's like, why do we even bother to live! We may as well just die booo hoo. I'll probably address some of the points in a fragmented way, so here goes. 7 hours of sleep does sound reasonable, I'd sympathize with them if they were saying like, 5 hours so you're on the money on that one. The 20000 bucks thing is more US specific from the way I see it. Tuition these days is about 6k for a year for me, so thats 24k after 4 years. Most people are going to have paid a substantial amount of that from parent funding, scholarships and of course, working.

I'm going to avoid any pc/mac flames here, and again agree with you on the whole steve woz part. To me, people that are getting macs are getting them as 'fad' items. Not because they're discovering their 'greater' functionality or useful features. I'd be somewhat interested to hear what some people have to say if I asked them 'why did you buy a mac?'. I'd imagine most wouldn't respond saying something like '...because stacks are such a sweet feature!'

Anyway, it does annoy me to a certain extent that so much time in education is spent on things that you won't really use other than as conversation pieces at cocktail parties.

Lastly, hopping back to the computer stuff, if I can remember, lots of people hated on windows XP until it was the mainstream standard, and after a brief look, there really isn't much wrong with vista that you can't customize around.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Dave said...

Haha, conversation pieces at cocktail parties. It's funny because it's true. Oh man. Yeah man, agree with pretty much everything you said. Most of us are definitely paying more than 6k/year though. (not living at home, etc.)

At 8:25 PM, Anonymous Kat said...


Hey, I still don't have an iPod. Or any mp3 player. The trendy bandwagon always passes me by.

I just realized there's no delete key on my keyboard. Or rather, the delete key is backspace. So much to get used to.

At 11:51 PM, Blogger J.F. said...

There's never such a thing as too much elitism. Revel in it, and scorn the rest.

At 11:29 AM, Blogger Dave said...

@ Kat:
Deny, deny, deny. iPod or not, trust me, you're on the wagon. But that's ok, I think it's headed someplace neat.

I'll drink to that.


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