More On Digital Cheating

Link to: The Chronicle: Daily news: 10/27/2005 — 02

I first saw the announcement of these electronic study guides and naively thought of how valuable it would be to students to have audio excerpts of some of the key parts of the literature they were studying.

I keep making these mind trips back to the year I spent as a 12th grade English teacher. I remember using the Monarch Notes extensively to help my students follow the complexities of the Dante’s Inferno. (This was long before resources like TeachersFirst helped translate the complex allusions and obscure references into activities that would engage 12th graders.)

This Chronicle article focuses on the more negative aspects of the technology to enable electronic “crib sheets”:

The guides released by SparkNotes and iPREPpress are compatible with most iPods — including the new video-playing model and the iPod Nano, which has a screen about the size of a postage stamp. That could be bad news for professors, who may worry that such small devices could easily become digital cheat sheets in the hands of unscrupulous students.

Mr. Goszyk conceded that iPods loaded with study guides could be smuggled into classrooms. “I think anytime you’ve got something — whether it’s technology or just a slip of paper — that you could sneak into the classroom, those people who are going to want to cheat are going to cheat,” he said.

Professors whose reading lists include works like Pride and Prejudice or The Odyssey may have to police their classrooms carefully on exam day, Mr. Goszyk said.

Will Richardson offered an alternative to more careful policing in the piece I wrote about yesterday.

… they take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.

If we can figure out assignments that help stduents do that, we don’t have to worry about postage stamp screens displaying the contents of the Cliff Notes

A Notion Even More Idealistic Than Honor Codes

Link to: Weblogg-ed – The Read/Write Web in the Classroom :

Will Richardson has some thoughts on ethical issues that challenge our current thinking about good and evil in the world of blogs, wikis and other social sloftware. At the end of a presentation he was giving, one of the particpants commented that her school was having problems with blogs because students would post questions and answers to tests between periods so that later classes would know what to expect. (When I was teaching 4 sections of 12th grade English 35 years ago, it probably took all of 5 minutes after the end of my first class for my test questions to be in the public domain. Now it only takes a minute.)

Will’s first response is telling.

What a great use of the technology, not from an ethical sense, certainly, but from a collaboration and information sense. This is the new reality of a Read/Write world where knowledge is accessible, number one, and knowledge is shared instead of being kept closeted, number two. These kids are finding ways to share the information they need to be successful at what they are doing.

Back in the olden days, my students and I had this ongoing dance about tests. I knew that they had the questions from previous classes. They knew that I knew and that I was clever enough not to ask the same questions. They spent an amazing amount of time trying to figure out what was left that hadn’t been asked yet. By the time three classes had reported out, those in 7th period had it pretty well knocked.

Will says that making four tests isn’t the answer.

The answer, I think, lies in teaching our students how to correctly and ethically borrow the ideas and work of others and in demanding that they not just use them but make those ideas their own. That they take the ideas we have tried to teach them and connect them to and show us that they can teach it to someone else with their own spin on it, their own remix.

I like this vision, unconventional as it might be, but getting large numbers of faculty to buy into it will be an enormous challenge. Running papers through is certainly easier.

Do University Honor Codes Work?

Link to: Freedom to Tinker » Blog Archive » Do University Honor Codes Work?

Ed Felton has an interesting post in light of last night’s discussion about the ethics of and class requirements to submit papers. Felton responds to a string of comments to a post by Rick Garnett on a popular “blawg” (blog for lawyers and law professors) based on his experience at Caltech and as a facutly member at Princeton. His assessment is that honor codes require enforcement if they are to survive. Students will support the code if they believe that the system is fair, unbiased and adequately enforced. However:

One has to wonder whether it makes much difference in practice whether a system is formally honor-based or not. Either way, students have an ethical duty to follow the rules. Either way, violations will be punished if they come to light. Either way, at least a few students will cheat without getting caught. The real difference is whether the institution conspicuously trusts the students to comply with the rules, or whether it instead conspicuously polices compliance. Conspicuous trust is more pleasant for everybody, if it works.

My own experience with strong honor codes at two institutions suggests that they are much more effective at helping manage the level of cheating on exams than they are in helping control plagiarism for papers outside of class. One of the touchiest parts of many honor codes is the expectation that students will turn in their peers who cheat. As an undergraduate at Hamilton, I can still remember the moral dilemma when my roommate fell asleep in the middle of our first Government hour exam. Was waking him up considered “giving assistance on this exam” and therefore a violation of the honor code? I did wake him up (roommate loyalty code trumps honor code), but I can remember at least a few days of worry that some one would report me.

Drupal Number Two in Multi-User Blogs

Link to: Blogsavvy: Professional Blog Consultant

Drupal came out number two in James Farmer’s survey of multi-user blogging engines. As we’ve been noticing in our work with Drupal in class, one obstacle to making it number one is the complexity of the vocabulary and the huge array of modules available to extend the functionality of the application.

Perhaps the most significant stumbling block for a first time installer however is to get around the conceptual differences between a ’story’, ‘page’ ‘blog’ and so on and that to a large degree this simplicity is based on a pretty solid understanding of this kind of vocabulary and the Drupal system.

WordPress Multi-User was number one in the list.

Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Link to: Weblog Usability: The Top Ten Design Mistakes (Jakob Nielsen’s Alertbox)

Jakob Nielsen, one of the ‘net’s leading experts on web usibility, site design, and designing effective user interfaces, has posted some suggestions for improving the readibility of your weblog. Blogging management systems frees writers from many of the compexities of web design, but following some relatively simple practices can make it easier for new readers to find their ways around your blog and increases the chances that they’ll return.

Some of the suggetions–like posting your picture on your blog or providing a detailed “about page”–might not be appropriate for anonymous blogs, but other suggestions remind us of ways that almost anyone’s writing could be improved.

Your posting’s title is microcontent and you should treat it as a writing project in its own right. On a value-per-word basis, headline writing is the most important writing you do.

Other tips concern navigation–like the effective use of categories.

Categories must be sufficiently detailed to lead users to a thoroughly winnowed list of postings. At the same time, they shouldn’t be so detailed that users face a category menu that’s overly long and difficult to scan. Ten to twenty categories are appropriate for structuring many topics.

On the main page for each category, highlight that category’s evergreens as well as a time line of its most recent postings.

Those of you who are doing mid-course assessments of your weblogs may want to think about some of these issues and suggestions.

Classnotes: Blackboard Acquisition of WebCT

Link to: Stephen’s Web ~ by Stephen Downes ~ Blackboard Acquisition of WebCT

Hi All,

I’m sure that all of you have seen the news about the Blackboard WebCt merger. (Thanks to Mary who got the news from WebCT some hours before those of us in the Blackboard world.) Stephen Downes has pulled together a comprehensive summary of reactions from across the blogosphere.

Few folks on the lists that I’m reading see much positive from this for current BB or WebCt customers. Most think that this is just one more step toward monopoly pricing in the IMS market. Others see it as a great opportunity for Sakai or Moodle to make inroads into the market.

What are your predictions on the impact?

Reading Blogs for Professional Development

One of the students in my planning class asked me to share the blogs and news I was reading for my own professional development. I wanted to go beyond merely sharing my blogroll, and give some thought to the process that I go through to try to distill some valuable learning from my own blog reading time. In order to do that, I needed to slow down and read blogs more mindfully during one session, watching myself and being more aware of my actual thought process as I clicked through the blogosphere. (I had lots to work with, since I’d been out of town for 4 days with only Blackberry access to the internet.)

I began my reading session after getting back with Gardner Writes, required reading for anyone with an interest in academic computing at the university level. Gardner is a multi-talented commentator who is quick to identify emerging themes and memes that others often miss. He’s also actually involved in teaching undergraduates, which brings an air of pragmatism to his posts.

Continue reading “Reading Blogs for Professional Development”

Drezner Denied Tenure

Link to: :: Daniel W. Drezner :: So Friday was a pretty bad day….

One of the articles we read for our “should graduate students blog?” discussion was Confessions of a Scholar Who Blogs by Daniel Drezner at the University of Chicago. Last week, the political science department voted to deny him tenure. Lots of analysis and a host of comments. Was his blog the reason?

[Wait a minute, you can’t leave it at that. What happened? What the hell happened? Why didn’t you get tenure? Was it your failure to anchor yourself within a clearly established theoretical paradigm? A lack of respect from peers in your IPE subfield? Too much output? A declining respect of your subfield by your tenured colleagues? The departmental turn away from mainstream political science scholarship? Your political orientation? Jealousy of your public intellectual status? WAS IT THE FRIGGIN’ BLOG??!!–ed.]

My answers in order: I dunno, perhaps, probably not, maybe, I guess so, a little, could be, I seriously doubt it, and who the hell knows? Any decent social scientist must allow for multiple causes, so it’s not necessarily an either/or question.

Educause Core Data Survey

Link to: pub8002.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Educause has released its annual core data survey, the leading source of comprehensive statistics about the state of the world of campus IT organizations. The summary report, which is well over 100 pages long, is posted on the Educause website. Educause members can log into a password protected web site to get extrordinarily detailed comparative information about peer institutions. Approximately 890 institutions participate in the annual survey.

I haven’t finished any sort of detailed analysis of the results, but a few things jumped out at me:

  • Voice over IP: 24 percent of institutions said they were using Internet telephones; with an additional 38 percent studying it.
  • Online Music: 25% of respondents are offering or plan to offer an online music service (Napster, Rhapsody, etc.) The number of institutions limiting bandwidth or utilizing packet shaping technologies continues to increase.
  • Classroom Technologies: More than 50% of classrooms now have LCD projectors; more than 40% have computer consoles.
  • Teaching with Technology Centers: 75% of all institutions and 87% of doctoral institutions have designated teaching with technology centers.

Collaborative Writing/Planning Tools

Link to: » Online Document Collaboration Tool – 37Signals’ Writeboard

Lifehack points to a web-based application called Writeboard that might be a better way of writing collaboratively than any of the tools we’ve considered so far–wiki, blackboard forum or sending multiple word documents among 7-8 recipients. This another lightweight application from 37Signals which produces the BaseCamp project management system and Backpack list manager. 37Signals is dedicated to producing highly focused software to perform very specific tasks with a minimum of fuss and bother. For example, Backpack is described as “a wiki without the wacky”, and one customer refered to BaseCamp as “the iPod of project management.”

Some have called Backpack “a wiki with out the wacky.” Others have called it “blogish.” Others have said it’s a project management tool for all the little things in your life. Some say it’s a application that helps you get things done. Some have called it Basecamp’s little brother. Call it what you will. We call it useful and hope you do too.

Both Writeboard and BaseCamp might be worth a look as tools to help us in our project management.