Crazy things U of T Students say

Last month I was a seminar Leader to 20 first-year University of Toronto’s students from the “Engineering Strategies and Practice I” program.  My theme was “Is Web 2.0 eroding the need for engineers?”  From this theme, I developed 6 sub-topics, in which each student presented their opinion to their peers on one of the topics. 

The Q&A section following each presentation was at times lively and interesting.  However, it was around three of the topics that I was most impressed by the insightfulness and freshness of their questions, and at times, the naiveté of their comments.  These questions and comments were interesting to share:

On the Topic “Is Talent a limited resource?”, some students had some noteworthy opinions:

“Talent is limited per generation.”
“Talent can be learned.”
“Talent is an innate ability you’re born with”

“Do people have the opportunity to be exposed to their talent?”
“Is it better to work on your weaknesses as well as your strengths?”

The topic “Is there a difference anymore between Professional vs. Amateur?” generated many excellent comments and questions:

“Professionals get paid, amateurs don’t”
“Professionals have a certificate to prove their credibility”
“Professionals (are recognized by) achieve(ing) a certain level of experience and knowledge”
“Amateurs can’t guarantee quality of information”
“Would you hire a Professionals or amateur?”
“Would you buy a car in which an amateur built, or a professional? A: “I want a professional with experience to build my car.”

And lastly, blending this topic and the Talent topic, two interesting questions were made, “Do all professionals have talent?” and “Does it take a certain amount of passion to be a professional?”

The topics “What is the risk of having so much open content? “ and “Is there a problem? Why be concerned?” (regarding the theme of the seminar) tended to blend together in my mind, drew many comments and questions about Wikipedia (probably because I raised Wikipedia during week 1).

Students discussed if internet sourced content could/should be trusted because it could/does contain misinformation, politically oriented, unknowingly wrong by the author, or in some instances, actually correct.

“Encyclopedias only provide basic information”
“Wikipedia is the largest collection of human knowledge”
“(Wikipedia) has so much more content (than encyclopedias)”
“Wikipedia can replace encyclopedias”
“Do we know less about more subjects?”
“Wikipedia’s in-house editors will correct errors or vandalism.”
“Wikipedia (consists) of opinion on facts, vs factual”
“How long will Wikipedia last?”
“Wikipedia is free, therefore no cost barrier “
“(The internet) has a lack of regulation and standards”
“If it is written on the net, people will believe it’s truthful.”
“People can’t discern truth from fiction.”
“The internet’s strength is also its weakness”
“People giving credibility to unknown (people)”
“Misinformation is powerful and influential”
“Is Wikileaks good or bad? In response: more important to share knowledge than censor”
“Is there a solution (to identifying) false information on the internet?”
“Can we create a program to verify incorrect facts on the internet?”
“How do we know Wikipedia information is reliable?”

Lastly, on the topic “Why can/can’t ‘1,000’ 1st-year engineering students have more collective knowledge than a single P.Eng?” came these noteworthy responses:

“Society has leaders and followers.”
“First-year students last professionalism for teamwork”

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