Link Boxers: Crisis Communications with a Non-crisis, Web 2.0 Cheating, and iPhones as Far as the iCanSee

Somehow, we’ve been doing this for a year now. Somehow, the academic year is rapidly coming to a close. And somehow, a column with as silly a name as this has survived a year too. Better write something fast before the editor notices.

The RIT Umbrella Scare

On March 16, a scary incident at Rochester Institute of Technology turned into an object lesson in just how fast the Internet churns through news.  Reports started flowing in local news outlets that a gunman carrying a rifle was loose on the RIT campus, prompting a lock down at the school. In the approximately 1.5 hours before the incident was resolved — the rifle was not a rifle, but student’s umbrella with a samuri sword handle — Internet sent news of a campus gunman around the world. The New York Daily News, Fox News, even Europe’s Sky TV tweeted breathlessly, expecting a campus rampage. When it became apparent there was no danger, the incident just as quickly became an internet joke, with people reporting that police had The Penguin in custody, umbrella-seller ThinkGeek tweeting about their product and t-shirts appearing on RIT students.

RIT, for its part, handled the situation adroitly, with consistent updates on social media, and traditional outlets. And in cases such as these, too much information is far better than too little: I’d rather be overprotective then end up losing someone’s life because a situation wasn’t taken seriously. But the situation provides all of us some caution as to just how incredibly fast social media can exacerbate a situation.

Colleges Fear Student Cheaters are Outsmarting Them

In a development shocking almost no one, except maybe the editors of the Sun-Sentinel, college students are using technology to cheat. The paper reports that Florida colleges view cheating with cell phones and YouTube videos as more scary than the traditional cheating that has been going on for hundreds of years. The paper even cites several YouTube videos with information “such as creating a fake label of a 20-ounce Coke bottle that replaces nutritional information with test answers and formulas.”

Is technology really causing an increase in cheating? The article doesn’t present conclusive facts.  But the paper predicts “long-term consequences for society.”

“Do you want to drive over a bridge designed by an engineer who cheated his way through school?” the paper quotes Jen Day Shaw, dean of students at the University of Florida as saying. “Do you want to be operated on by a surgeon who cheats? If the students don’t learn honesty and good values here, what are they going to do in the real world?”

However, instead of hysterics about technology, perhaps better policing from academics is in order. If one wonders where students get the idea that it’s okay to cheat, professors don’t really have far to look. Perhaps in the words of the old drug PSA, they “learned it by watching you.”

The day is coming…

How many iPhones will it take to circle the earth? 350,613,120. And it will happen sooner than you think, says this article. The author also wants people to stop building crappy apps, and looks forward to a day when that happens too.