- Picking from last week’s story, which dwelt on lecturers’ complaints about some students’ habit to ‘download’ research work from the Internet and pass it off as their own, this writer describes how others ‘google’ for answers, even in the exam room, and says that lecturers are also not so innocent
I had not been to the university for 10 years, so some things came as a shock to me when I returned.
Google, I came to learn, had made a grand entry into institutions of higher learning.
It was exam time and as soon as the question papers were given out, and I got busy trying to write my answers. A student next to me pinched me: “What’s the meaning of this?” she asked, underlining a phrase in the question. “Let’s discuss,” she implored.
I wondered how we could discuss an examination while time was ticking away.
“Just check what I’m writing and pick what makes sense to you,” I said and resumed writing.
I cast a glance at her script, and guess what? The girl was copying everything as I had written, word for word.
“Don’t copy everything. We could both land in trouble. Paraphrase!” I admonished.
The girl decided I was too much of a bother and began rummaging through her handbag. She was trying to find her mobile phone.
Hell broke loose when she could not locate it immediately. She panicked.
“Have you seen my phone? Where is it?” she asked everyone around, a look of utter desperation on her face.
She was almost drawing the attention of the invigilator with her frantic search and whispers. Then she found it, right inside her handbag.
She sighed with relief as she “googled” the question and resumed her copying, this time from her phone, while casting furtive glances at the invigilator.
She is set to graduate soon as a high school teacher.
She will probably be teaching your son or daughter some sort of English and literature.
How she will teach them to think and prevail on them not to cheat in examinations is anyone’s guess.
Suffice it to say that Google has done a lot of damage to the thinking capacity of a generation of scholars.
Therefore, do not be so easily dazzled by the many First Class honours degrees being churned out by universities these days.
In many cases, Google should simply wear the gowns. The information and communication technology era has revolutionised learning in Kenyan universities, and indeed the world over.
There is information on virtually any subject under the sun at the click of a mouse.
While this has been hailed as a milestone in history, it has changed the way students conduct their research, do their assignments, and present “their work” to the examiners.
Students are hardly poring over voluminous classical texts in the library in search of knowledge, as was the custom before. They have turned to the Internet for their academic solutions.
Desktops, laptops, and the palmtops have generally replaced the book, as it were. Todaro, Karl Max, and Shakespeare gather dust in university libraries, unread.
Do the lecturers mind when one quotes Internet sources in the bibliography?
“Why should they mind? It’s part of our reading. Internet sources are derived from books,” replies a literature student, Mr Dennis Maranga, in defence of the practice.
I ponder about Maranga’s answer as I stroll along the pavements that cut across the lush green university grounds.
I have always had reservations about the idea of taking notes, memorising them, then reproducing them in examinations as a measure of wisdom — for this is what much of our education system is about.
Now with the entry of Google, it is no longer necessary to remember anything.
All you need to do is type your assigned question on Google, and voila! You can copy the answer.
Hence Prof Henry Indangasi’s recent lamentations at a workshop at Moi Girls High School, Isinya.
“At university, you tell them to come up with a research topic and all they do is rush to the Internet,” he complained.
But you know what? Many lecturers are in it too.
The once yellowing well-researched notes have been discarded for clean white hand-outs with material that has largely been downloaded from the Internet.