Maybe it's just the release of Beloit College's "Mind-Set List," a list of news items, pop culture references, and technological advances that happened 18 years ago and thus have always existed for incoming college freshmen, but the generation gap between the big desk and the little desks in the college classroom seems to be on everyone's minds this week. As usual, social networking applications seem to be both a tool universities attempt to use to bridge the gap, and a reminder to students just how wide the gap is.
First off, Inside Higher Ed informs us that a new Facebook application called "Schools" is being marketed to universities as a way to allow their students to connect in a safe environment where their identity and school enrollment have been verified. Included in the application are tools that professors can use in the classroom, such as a name game that allows students to learn their classmates' names. Unlike other Facebook applications, the university has to purchase and implement "Schools," rather than allowing individual students to adopt it.
If this application takes off, and even if it doesn't, more undergraduate students (and probably some graduate students, too) are likely to experience Facebook and other social networking sites as a "creepy treehouse," a term the Chronicle of Higher Education shared with academia in its news blog yesterday. That crawly feeling you get when your professor friends you on a social networking site, even though you don't have any incriminating photos or information on your profile? That's the creepy treehouse, built to look like a place for kids to play, but really used by adults.
So, remember when you're attending college this fall that your professors come from a different world, a world where: