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Misuse of technology: From photocopying to Googling

Khawaza Main Uddin

When an undergraduate student of a Dhaka-based university was asked to write a short narrative of his understanding of the New Media in simple and lucid language, the first paragraph of his write-up stunned the teacher - it was so rich intellectually! But the well-crafted opening lines, courtesy of Google, were followed by flawed sentences formed by the clever boy. He could not anticipate that others, too, could use the search engine to ascertain if his description was copied and pasted from great works by somebody else. This writer came across this experience last year.

Such cases are quite common these days. Whenever, in recent times, we assigned someone - both fresh graduates and professionals - to write an article on contemporary business issues, many of them came up with well-written pieces which apparently lacked the touch of their originality. They not only stole the ideas but also did not bother to take the trouble of typing. They simply copied the text, line after line as they were composed. When we requested them privately to contextualise the essays, most of them turned their faces away from the members of our team forever.

No doubt, today's youths are technology-savvy and equipped with a variety of facilities and sources to learn and pursue higher education. Internet has presented us with enormous resources, offering opportunity to enrich the collection of information and treasure of knowledge. "Therefore, why should I overload the disk of my brain with so much of information that is already stored with the net?" remonstrates an intelligent colleague of ours. He has a cynical view that the upcoming generation will not know the Bengali saying: "Bookish knowledge and the wealth under the possession of others are not useful whenever they are needed."

Embracing the trend of being happy without constant learning through reading books and observing the surroundings, society and the world, many members of this generation have been afflicted with a disease, the name of which is plagiarism. Still, we believe, this is not an entirely new phenomenon as a generation bears the torch of its predecessors. Unfortunately, our whole generation has been exposed to the culture of 'copy and paste', leading to unlearning how to reflect on one's ideas, experiences and the social realities.

The misuse of Google and many other online reference points has been another dimension of photocopying of notes for the purpose of appearing in the examinations. When we are trying to follow creative curriculum, the learners are proving their creativity in preparing home tasks by easy means of searching for tested knowledge documented electronically. Their guardians and teachers do not or cannot detect the practice of plagiarism; rather, swimming in the sea of worldwide web, some of them have already been overwhelmed by this infectious disease.

A famous professor submitted the keynote at a regional conference last year, compiling three papers found on the net but claimed them to be his own 'original thoughts', let alone making any attribution. The local correspondent of an Indian newspaper was caught 'red-handed' for stealing a research paper written by another author. Why don't we recall the most recent case of Fareed Zakaria, who had to seek apology for publishing a plagiarised copy? An Indian journalist friend jokingly said, "When you make a blending of thoughts and narratives of a number of authors, the output becomes a research paper. But if you quote only one writer and somehow forget to give credit, it is treated as plagiarism!"

However, the developers of Google haven't been able to become as Googlers as the peripheral users. Our reliance on online resources nowadays for writing even one's autobiography proves to be bankruptcy of learning. It was there in the early 20th century and we have still been plagued by the crisis of education, a heightened one perhaps, in view of lack of dedication to learning in society.

Photocopy was an essential component of the study for most students during our university life. Fortunately, some of us were compelled to read textbooks and other books in libraries and take handwritten notes. After many years, we strongly feel we have been immensely benefitted from that painstaking exercise. Some of our friends who borrowed notes from senior students, thanks to Xerox machine available on and around the campus, even secured better marks, having no regret ever since the system permitted them to become successful in getting a job at that point in time.

Economist Sajjad Zohir compared the culture of memorisation with photocopier and regretted the absence of universal-type free learning environment at universities. "Our generation, engaged with campus violence, not only left a parochial atmosphere that deprived the newcomers of education proper but also pushed them into the virtual empire of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter," he wrote in an article on Photocopier, Education and Knowledge in a journal published recently by the Economic Reporters' Forum.

The colonial and post-colonial education system of creating clerks has of late been replaced, to some extent, by the one which produces hundreds of thousands of graduates including market-oriented BBAs and MBAs. As quality is not an objective, we witness a serious mismatch between the skill requirement of the job market and the capacity and delivery of the graduate jobseekers.

Where is this education driving us to? We cannot but fear lest the outcome of Digital Bangladesh is creation of 'thoughtless slaves' of technology. In the past, many of the 'photocopier generation' obtained degrees but did not develop creative thinking to deal with unique challenges of everyday life. Now, in a shift to the next level, youngsters have surrendered to the Internet for their pursuit of knowledge. The combined result of past and present deeds is degradation of values. That has been manifested in the fraudulent practice with mobile phone devices during the recent admission test at Dhaka University.

Knowingly or unknowingly, we are being deprived of possible fruits of technology - better referencing, more transparency, stronger public voice and higher productivity. As did photocopying in the past, the present dependence on website-based knowledge is failing us to think independently and damaging creativity and talent of our youths. We are not producing good teachers to create enlightened citizens.

 

Source: Misuse of technology: From photocopying to Googling | VIEWS & OPINION | The financial express. (2017). Print.thefinancialexpress-bd.com. Retrieved 1 March 2017, from http://print.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2014/09/23/57637

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