Network your brain: The Net beyond Facebook

by Rozaidah Saat
                                                                                      

What would the world be without the Internet and can you imagine a day without Facebook?

These two questions never fail to trigger interesting responses from my Net-generation and techno-savvy students. Among the responses is the metaphor of living in the Amazon; remote, dull and boring – and mind you, they are not referring to the popular online bookstore.

These students were born in an era where the Internet is a basic utility packaged with search engines, online stores, social networking sites, virtual life and other online applications.

The days when students needed to search for assignment materials through library catalogues have been replaced by Google Search or online library databases, where every resource comes with a click of a mouse and the process fast and fun.

Flash back to the year 1969 when the Internet was first came online, was used mainly by computer experts, engineers, scientists, and librarians, and there was nothing ‘friendly’ about it. In those days, there were no home or office personal computers and anyone who used the Internet, be they computer professionals, engineers, scientists or librarians, had to learn a very complex system.

However, as Internet technology evolved from a static web to web 2.0, and from Netscape browser to Google Chrome, the social networking frenzy has superseded the Internet chat room frenzy. The most popular social networking site is undoubtedly Facebook founded by Mark Zuckerberg and his college roommates.

Seven years after Facebook was launched, an Internet World statistic reported that Asia marked the highest growth of all regions and remains the biggest Facebook user with more than 59 million users within the last 10 months. According to SocialBakers.com, Malaysia is ranked 17 worldwide for the highest number of registered Facebook users as at July 2011.

Hence, it is not surprising that a group of local fourth formers who attended my outreach session on ICT applications a few weeks proved to be very well exposed to the Internet and social networking websites. However, it was disturbing to note how ignorant they were about the productivity tools available on the Internet.

Online productivity tools comprise an essential learning kit for the first year commerce students at Curtin Sarawak next to their mandatory ‘oxygen’, that is, Curtin’s Learning Management System (also known as FLECS). Our curriculum is designed in such a way as to maximise the students’ exposure and use of the online resources to develop their knowledge of the activities, techniques and tools used in developing and implementing information technology in organisations.

With so many amazing tools accessible on the Net, the students can stay connected and complete their tasks quickly, and thus be able to enjoy their lives to the fullest without guilt.

There are numerous productivity tools besides Facebook and Twitter. They come with different names, in different forms and shapes that can be used as class helpers, storing widgets, tracking gadgets and time management tools.

Freemind, for instance, is a free software that help students create interesting notes in a minute and serves as a jumping-off point for students to undergo electronic mind-mapping for brainstorming.

Another note-taking tool worth trying is Evernote, which offers web-based, desktop and mobiles applications and is easily synchronisable.

Google Documents is my personal favourite and a critical tool for my students to submit their assignments. It provides the same environment as Microsoft Office with a great degree of sharing and collaborative features, which students and teachers can make use of for group projects or reports.

For task scheduling and reminders, Remember The Milk (RTM) and Soshiku are excellent web tools which make setting up reminders very easy.

For storing of large files, Drop Box or Drop.io offer free, private, real-time file sharing and collaboration options for students.

The list of such tools is exhaustive, and technologies like these are not necessarily limited to students only. A housewife can now utilise social networking sites to reconnect with her former schoolmates around the globe and businesses can save a lot of time in processing tasks and improving supply chain management through an Electronic Data Interchange.

The Internet revolution and social networking should not only change the way people live their lives or do business, but also change the way people think. Hence, a Net-generation student should be able to utilise the tools available on the Net to improve his or her productivity – and not the opposite.

As William Feather said, “In education, it isn’t how much you have committed to memory or even how much you know. It is being able to differentiate between what you do know and what you don’t. It’s knowing where to go to find out what you need to know and it’s knowing how to use the information you get.”

Rozaidah Saat is a lecturer in Business Information System at the Department of Accounting and Business Information System, School of Business, Curtin Sarawak. She is a member of The Institution of Engineering and Technology (The IET) and a registered member of the Board of Engineers Malaysia (BEM). She can be contacted by e-mail to rozaidah.s@curtin.edu.my

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