Student articles contain errors
A recent dust-up between Wikipedia and Canada’s largest university raises questions about how collaborative the popular website that bills itself as “the free encyclopedia that anyone can edit” truly is.
The online information portal recently took a professor from the University of Toronto to task for one of his classroom assignments.
Steve Joordens urged the 1,900 students in his introductory psychology class to start adding content to relevant Wikipedia pages. The assignment was voluntary, and Joordens hoped the process would both enhance Wikipedia’s body of work on psychology while teaching students about the scientist’s responsibility to share knowledge.
But Joordens’s plan backfired when the relatively small contingent of volunteer editors that curate the website’s content began sounding alarm bells. They raised concerns about the sheer number of contributions pouring in from people who were not necessarily well-versed in the topic or adept at citing their research.
Two Canadian entrepreneurs plan to try
Crowd funding websites, notably Kickstarter and Indiegogo, are used to raise cash for everything from charitable causes to music projects. Recently, more than 60,000 fans of Veronica Mars used Kickstarter to raise nearly $5 million to produce a movie based on the TV show. It was an impressive use of the concept, which involves small amounts of money from many donors.
FundUni, based in St. John’s, Nfld. is the creation of Kyle Hickey and his brother Trevor, who both attended Memorial University. Though in its infancy, FundUni aims to help both current and prospective students launch tuition funding campaigns. It will work like this: participating students will post a video detailing their stories and ambitions. “The more compelling the better,” says Hickey. Students can offer rewards to those who contribute to their tuition funds. For instance, Hickey, 28, says an art school student could offer a painting or art lessons in exchange for much-needed financial support. The brothers are seeking an initial crop of five students to test the concept. They hope to promote the site across Canada within a year.
Overcrowded campuses should worry about MOOCs
Three out of five. That’s how many of my younger brother’s second-year arts courses at the University of Guelph are online this semester. He would have rather taken in-person classes, but was assigned to make his schedule after most other students and found the offline sections full.
Two out of seven. That’s how many days of the week he bothers going to campus now. With a shortage of study space, like at so many Canadian universities, there’s no point in going to school when he doesn’t have classes. He doesn’t really need the library; the journals are online.
So his $6,500 tuition gets him two days per week on campus. The rest of the time he’s working alone in his townhouse miles from campus because the university doesn’t have the space for him.
Before he informed me of this, I was pretty dismissive of those who argue that cheap or free Massive Open Online Courses, taught by hotshot professors from Harvard to UBC, are a threat to universities as we know them. The argument, made daily it seems by some columnist or another, is that MOOCs are such a good deal that they’ll cause an exodus from residential campuses.
After hearing the frustration of my brother at paying so much for so little, combined with the news that colleges are testing out formal credits for MOOCs, I think universities should be worried.
LeadSift is evidence of hot Atlantic tech sector
The student founders of LeadSift, a company whose software combs through Twitter and Facebook data to generate sales leads, set out last fall in search of $500,000 of investor cash.
It was an easier than expected hunt.
The Halifax startup pulled in $1.13 million, including $500,000 from OMERS Ventures (the venture capital arm of OMERS, one of Canada’s largest pension funds), as well as a contribution from Dan Martell—Canada’s 2012 angel investor of the year, according to KPMG and Techvibes.
The LeadSift foursome, international students from Dalhousie University and Acadia University, could have raised more money, but decided to cap their fundraising round and ultimately turned away some interested investors.
But eating disorder foundation fights back
The Internet has been great for spawning subcultures—Star Trek geeks, fantasy football fans and progressive rock nerds have their own corners of the net to meet up in. Unfortunately, not all communities online are positive, and some are even harmful. For those who have been affected by an eating disorder, this article may contain triggers.
A quick search on Pinterest, Instagram, or Tumblr for the terms ‘thinspiration’, ‘ana’ (short for anorexia) and ‘mia’ (short for bulimia) brings up tens of thousands of disturbing posts. Photos focusing on concave stomachs and protruding hip bones, with overlying text reading mantras such as, “I won’t be beautiful until my thighs don’t touch,” “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels” and tips suggesting to “Throw out food from the fridge so you can tell people you ate earlier”.
Elections bring music videos, apps, streaming & more
Student elections are underway across the country. Increasingly, student politicians are turning to social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube to get their messages out. On top of that, in an attempt to attract more students to polling stations, those who administer campus elections have also taken advantage of these tools. Here are five innovative examples from 2013:
1. YouTube music video. At Western University, Ashley McGuire, Blake Barkley and Jordan Sojnocki teamed up to run for the University Students’ Council executive. Along with a sleek campaign website and a detailed platform, the trio created a music video and uploaded it to YouTube. What’s impressive is that, since posting it on Jan. 28, the video has received 10,500 views. However, members of Team McGuire were not successful in their election bids.
2. iPhone app. Team Whelan (Patrick Whelan, Amir Eftekharpour and Sam Krishnapillai) ran against Ashley McGuire’s team at Western University. This team’s electoral victories may have been aided by their iPhone app. I tested it on my iPod Touch 4G. To my surprise, it ran flawlessly. Under the Get Involved tab, users are able to join the team’s mailing list, suggest an idea and become a volunteer. The team’s platform is also easily accessible via the app.
3. The QR Code. When campus election season comes along, buildings are plastered with posters. So how are student politicians attracting students to their websites? Simple! They’re incorporating Quick Response (QR) codes to their posters that make it easy to access their sites without even having to type in a URL. Apps such as ScanLife, QR Code Scanner and Optiscan use one’s phone camera to scan a two-dimensional barcode. Once scanned, the app brings users to the site. Sarah Lavers, Kelsey Marr and Anastasia Smallwood all ran for president in the recent University of Prince Edward Island Student Union election and incorporated QR codes. Smallwood came first.*
4. Blogs. Platforms such as Blogger and WordPress allow users to create blogs free of charge. Student politicians have seized the opportunity to communicate directly with their electorates. Candidates like Caroline Wong, who ran for and won the position of president in the University of British Columbia Alma Mater Society elections, used WordPress to create her campaign website.
5. Video streaming and recording. When organizing all-candidate debates, election officials will never accommodate every student’s schedule. In an attempt to make these debates as accessible as possible, election officials have taken to live streaming and/or filming the debates and posting the videos to YouTube. Free video live streaming websites such as USTREAMand Livestream allow anybody with a video camera or an iPhone to stream free of charge. The Argosy, Mount Alison University’s student newspaper, posted videos of candidate speeches to its YouTube account.
Brandon Clim studies political science at the University of Ottawa. Follow him @climbrandon.
*Due to an error in editing, this post incorrectly stated that Lavers came first and Marr came second in the UPEISU election. In fact, Smallwood came first, followed by Lavers and Marr.
University of Ottawa hosts a “hackathon”
Fuelled by energy drinks and pizza, future engineers from the University of Ottawa spent 24 hours one recent Saturday hunched over keyboards for the campus’ first-ever ‘hackathon.’
Student Antoine Grondin organized what he said was the first event of its kind at U of O.“I was frustrated that people in my class don’t tend to code on their own,” he said, adding that he wanted to make people who enjoy coding realize “they don’t have to wait for an assignment.”
More than 20 students participated in the contest during which teams of up to four tried to out-code the others. Each team got a programmable tank, an animated robot that drove around the computer screen. The tank could be customized by adding more code to do things like dodge bullets, drive in patterns or change colours. After the 24 hour period was up, the tanks competed on a virtual battlefield. The last one standing was the winner. Students had to predict opponents’ moves and tell their tanks how to react.
Why these narcissistic self portraits have to go
I bet you’ve done it before or at least tried. Don’t worry, you wouldn’t be the only one. It seems that almost everyone does. Even Rihanna encourages it. But I think you should be a little ashamed. I’m talking about the “selfie”—that awkward photo that people take of themselves. Camera in hand, arm extended as far as it goes, head tilt, serious eyes and a pursed lip. Click. I’ll bet about 15 tries later you’re satisfied with one, and with a click of a few buttons you’ve uploaded it to all the social media platforms you’re connected to.
Last week, Anna Maria Tremonti discussed the selfie revolution on CBC’s radio show The Current. She had three guests—all writers—each with a very different opinion. Tremonti asked whether taking selfies is empowering, narcissistic or just fun. The first guest, Sarah Nicole Prickett, not only likes and takes selfies; she said that they should be considered another medium of art and photography. She added that because 20-somethings are having a tough time getting jobs, they have no choice but to sell and brand themselves. Selfies just happen to be a part of that.
Self photos from shirtless guys, actresses and an astronaut
The anonymous compliment trend that started at Queen’s
From the 2013 Student Issue, on sale now.
Four Queen’s students chatted in the house they shared, lamenting the end of summer. “We were depressed school was starting again, there was lots of work to do, the weather was getting cold,” says Rachel Albi, a 20-year-old history major who spent her summer working at Disney World. The foursome wanted to do something together to feel better—but without moving. “We wanted to stay inside,” she laughs.
Just 10 minutes later, and inspired by her little sister’s efforts toward a similar project at her high school, Albi and her roommates—music students Jessica Jonker and Erica Gagne, and English major Amanda Smurthwaite—took to Facebook. Their creation, Queen’s U Compliments, launched on September 12th.
The premise is simple: “Basically, we made a profile, of a person not a page, so that we can tag people,” explains Jonker. Users, friends or otherwise, message compliments to Queen’s students which are tagged and posted anonymously. “That way, the compliment shows up on our wall and their personal page,” she says.
Literature and life lessons help to understand activists
In Timothy Findley’s The Wars, a young officer, Robert Ross, defies orders and releases horses confined in a barn. It is WW1 and he is in an area of France being shelled by Germans. Releasing them is a way of saving them as the structure is an obvious target. Ross is an officer with the Canadian Field Artillery and it’s his love of animals and justice that motivates him. It’s also his last act before desertion.
Findley’s assertion was that Ross’ actions were heroic in context. His liberation of the horses is cast against the shadowy psychopathy of WW1, a psychopathy so hideous it kept high-ranking military men from touring the front. Had they done so, the carnage of the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele might not have materialized. More soldiers, from all forces involved, might have made it home.
The Wars is timely because it seems conventional ideas about heroism are atomizing before our eyes. More relativistic ways of seeing things, perhaps brought on by the pervasive use of the internet, are transporting us to a world where the bad guys are everywhere and they’re usually in charge. It’s created some odd bedfellows and even odder instances of cross-pollination. The Arab Spring, a political uprising with some very discernible causes, was replicated in Quebec by the Maple Spring, a student uprising that had a lot of us here scratching our heads. Many were puzzled by the students’ adoption of a name whose power was clear but whose basis for comparison was wildly inaccurate.
Dawson College explains expulsion
A student expelled from a Montreal college for hacking into its computer system says he is considering a job offer from the firm that provided the cyber information program.
Ahmed Al-Khabaz says he has been offered employment by the president of Skytech Communications.
Dawson College held a news conference today where it justified its expulsion of the computer science student, saying he breached its code of professional conduct.
How online dating taught me to wary of my web presence
One man who messaged me on Craigslist was in his third year of engineering at the University of Toronto and he seemed like a decent guy. We arranged to meet a few days later and, naturally, I decided to put his name into Google.
Imagine my surprise when his name and phone number brought up multiple crude profiles on gay male escort websites complete with headshots.
Of course I was worried that he might be a male escort. But another part of me was worried for this stranger. What if he was set up by someone out to hurt his professional reputation? Given all the horror stories I’d read about identity theft on the Internet, that conclusion didn’t seem like a huge stretch.
I didn’t grow up engulfed in the social media machine. I got my first cellphone in my first year of university. I got Facebook at 16, and I’m still not sure about the fascination with Instagram. But I’m painfully aware that every single thing we put online is a tool, whether it’s a photo or something we write. Anyone can take these tools to construct an image of us, and these images may not be flattering. In fact, some of them can be damaging, hurtful, or malicious.
Hard to know which celebrities have ghost-tweeters
About 290,000 people follow Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Twitter, perhaps to read what he has to say about the country’s affairs or to glean a little personal insight into what makes him tick.
Thing is, most of the messages that are sent from his account aren’t really his.
Harper only “occasionally” sends out tweets himself, according to a spokesman.
Much like many other high-profile Twitter users, most of the short-form messages that appear under Harper’s name and avatar are actually crafted by ghost-tweeters charged to work social media on his behalf.
“I assume if it’s an institutional individual — if it’s a CEO, if it’s a big personality, a singer, or it’s a politician — then they are not doing it themselves,” said Greg Elmer, director of the Infoscape Research Lab at Ryerson University studying social media.
Surprisingly, neither chose engineering
The voyage they planned for the toy figure was originally conceived as a fun project for two high school friends who shared a love of science. By attaching cameras to a weather balloon and styrofoam container, the 18-year-olds from Toronto hoped only to capture pictures of the earth’s curvature.
But the lego figure they included in their makeshift craft on a whim catapulted the test flight to greater heights than Ho and Muhammad ever imagined. Footage of the plastic figure soaring 24 kilometres above the earth garnered instant praise once it had been posted to Youtube, and the teens found themselves dead centre on the public radar.
Students: Be proactive and prepare for The Hunger Games
William Johnson is coordinator, off-campus outreach and engagement at Carleton University in Ottawa, Ont. where he’s responsible for event management, student engagement and communications.
When I speak to students about career development and social media, I want them to take away that they need to be proactive if they want to increase their chances of post-graduate career success. In 2012, there are far too many university graduates annually for current students to put off thinking about their post-grad life until the day after their convocation. If you want to make a smooth transition from pupil to professional, you must constantly be seeking ways to set yourself apart from the cohort.
1. Realize you’re still a hot commodity
You need to recover the pride and excitement you had when you were first accepted to university. While recent public sentiment might suggest that the degree is losing its value, there are over 600,000 more jobs for graduates in May 2012 than pre-2008 recession (a sharp increase in employment prospects). Despite this increase, employers are still paying individuals with degrees premium wages, according to Statistics Canada and the Boudarat, Lemieux and Riddell study. A university degree may not be for everyone, but higher employability and income can almost certainly be the result for everyone obtaining one.
Prof. Pettigrew on how some students can’t use computers
There’s a lot of talk about how today’s student is a “digital native” and how educators have to adjust to their mad high tech skills. Born and raised with electronic technology, the high tech world is as natural to today’s students as a first language.
Of course, what exactly that implies, is anyone’s guess, and some commentators have begun to point out that maybe this whole digital native thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe being raised with technology doesn’t mean students have the skills we think they do. Mary Beth Hertz, for example, has noted that just because students know how to use computers doesn’t mean that they know how to use them well.
My experiences this year have begun to make me think Beth Hertz is right. Maybe more right than even she imagined.
Strange as it sounds, I’m worried that this generation of students increasingly doesn’t know how to use computers. Before you scoff and say “Ridiculous: today’s students are all about technology. They grew up with it. The eat, breathe and sleep technology” consider the following, admittedly anecdotal, evidence.
Exhibit A: A student who is required to submit her paper in Word format comes to me and says she doesn’t have Word on her computer. I tell her that she can create Word files for free in Google Docs, or she can download Open Office for free and save her files in Word format that way. She can’t manage to do either. Later, she drops the class.
David Purdy is an instructor at King’s in Halifax
Like many great online discoveries, it was boredom that led David Purdy to Wikipedia in 2006. Six years later, fewer than 50 people have created more articles than him. Purdy, a Haligonian raised in Paradise, N.L., has more than 4,500 articles and 130,000 edits to his name.
Purdy was on an engineering work term in Calgary, Alta. when he first came across the free encyclopedia. “It was the peak of the oil boom and there were drive-by hirings,” he says. “My supervisor was constantly getting promoted and being replaced by someone else. No one really cared about the work term student,” he adds. “At the point where I was really bored out of my mind and could not find any work for anyone to give me to do, I discovered Wikipedia.”
After four years at Memorial University he transferred into English literature. “When [engineers] look at something they want to know how it works. When I look at things,” he says, “I’m more interested in the etymology of the words used to describe the thing or the history of the thing.”
Two are in Ontario
Startup Genome has released a global ranking of Startup Ecosystems and three of the top 20 entrepreneurial cities are in Canada. The ranking is based on eight components: startup output, funding, company performance, talent, support infrastructure, entrepreneurial mindset, trendsetting tendencies and ecosystem differentiation. Toronto is eighth, Vancouver is ninth and Waterloo, Ont.—the only small city on the list—punches above its weight class at 17th. Here are the top 10:
A 2002-themed party causes one man to reflect on identity
It all came back to Facebook, eventually. Twice during the night, someone apologized for deleting me from their list of friends. Twice I said I didn’t care. But I get it. It’s important, and especially so on that Saturday night. Facebook was, ultimately, the reason we were there.
The invite had been a long one, but the premise was straightforward enough, if slightly strange.
“Hello to my DEAREST friends… who have found themselves a DECADE older (or at least a few years older)!!” a Facebook invitation shouted at me sometime in October. “For many of you, 2002 marked a few big things in our lives. Possibly your high school graduation, as well as your first year at a post secondary institution. 2012 brings us 10 years from those days as innocent, uncorrupted youth to where we are now…a DECADE later.”