Test First Post

Hi this is Abram 🙂

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First Post in GRAD5214

Hello my name is Abram. I am a fourth year graduate student and very exited about this course.

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Introduction – Abram

Hello my name is Abram. I am the teaching assistant for the Preparing the Future Professoriate course. I am a second-year PhD student in the Mechanical Engineering department. My research is focused on acoustic metamaterials. I am very excited about the wonderful discussions and insights that we will all share over the coming semester.

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Week 13: Ethics Project

In working  on my final project I have realized that there is so much material to explore regarding open access (OA) and the variety of opinions regarding it. I sat in the front lobby area of Newman Library and asked people walking in and out about their knowledge and opinion of OA publishing. I was really surprised by how many different opinions people had about OA. Although most of the people I talked with had a positive opinion of the idea, I thought there were some very good points that were raised about their concerns with publishing in an OA. Some of these concerns were: How do you ensure legitimacy in pay-to-publish formats? How can you deal with discrimination from academics who do not approve of OA journals? What do you do if not all of the authors on a paper are in agreement about publishing OA?

I think that this would be a great project to explore in more depth and possibly explore some solutions to these questions. Furthermore, if I attempted to make this into a more in-depth study, I would create a more structured survey and ask respondents to write their own responses instead of trying to jot down what they said while we were having the conversation. I found it very difficult to catch what they were saying word-for-word and would like to avoid misinterpreting peoples opinions.

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Week 12: Personal Ethics

After reading the article in the Collegiate Times: Students to retake exam after solutions appear online, about the ethics of using Koofers.com to look at past exams, I believe that this should be a fair study tool. I do not think that it is cheating to look at previous tests to get an idea of the format and material that might be asked. In my opinion, the ethical problem is actually with the professor. Knowing that resources like koofers.com exist, I believe that instructors should provide students with the old exams as study material and write new exams so that no student has an unfair advantage. It seems to me that part of a professors responsibilities are to write exams for the classes they teach and I think that simply reusing previous exams without any changes is lazy and ethically wrong.

If the students were accessing koofers.com during the exam or had copies of the previous tests while they were actually taking the exam, however, I do think this would be ethically wrong. I understand that in the article the teacher and department did acknowledge that there was not an academic integrity violation by the students that used the previous exams to study and that they  just wanted to make sure that all of the students were given equal resources for their studying.

I think that this article raised another important point; technology and academics often have a complicated relationship. On one side technology can be a great tool for learning. It is essential that the modern student learns how to utilize technology in order to be competitive for employment. The other side, however, is that teachers need to constantly be aware of how new technology can be used to cheat and adapt their strategies to ensure that students are utilizing the available technology to enhance their learning instead of abusing the technology to have an unfair advantage.

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The Sad Buffet: Emotions and the Failure of the Education System

As an engineering student, I have definitely felt pressure to remove my feelings from the work that I do. I have also learned how to resent “the system” as well as taught that there is nothing that I can do as an individual to actually change that system. I think that the constant push to create solutions that are practical and economical directly contradict the lack of consideration for the social, emotional and larger societal effects of decision making in engineering. Parker J. Palmer’s article, “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” was a very interesting and profound argument for embracing our feelings in the professional world. Harnessing our emotional power has the potential to create the environments that we believe in and that we want to participate in.

At all levels of education, immense pressure is placed on students to achieve with the best degree, the highest grades, and the strongest portfolio in the fastest possible time. This, supposedly, is for the betterment of the student’s career. Students struggle to balance life responsibilities. Furthermore, education is served at a cookie-cutter pace. Seemingly, students have little control over the orientation to graduation timeframe. Individualized curriculum does not exist; instead, students have a sad buffet with limited direction. We are left overwhelmed. There is no room for failures and no time for feelings. This is a failure of the system not the student.

What Palmer points out is not just that these feelings are justified, but the importance of recognizing these feelings.  As students, we need to stand up and consider if instead there is something wrong with the structure of the system. I was really struck by his idea of how the education system should adjust to create the “new professional” as described in the following paragraph from the article.

“The education of a new professional will reverse the academic notion that we must suppress our emotions in order to become technicians. Students will learn to explore their feelings about themselves, the work they do, the people with whom they work, the institutional settings in which they work, the world in which they live. They will be taught to honor painful emotions such as anxiety, anger, guilt, grief, and burnout. They will be taught that such feelings are neither signs of weakness, nor sources of shame, nor irrelevant to the complex challenges of knowing, working, and living.”

-Parker Palmer, “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” 

I wish I had been exposed to these ideas early in my college career. Realizing that all of these feelings are completely normal and maybe more importantly that feeling is not a limiting factor in success. The most successful people are just as prone to feeling anxious, angry, burnt-out, etc. The difference is learning how to recognize those emotions and “riding that feeling into action” as Palmer puts it.

Feelings are directly related to passion, and when we are passionate we do better work. Therefore, stifling emotions simply smothers our passion. Now considering the recent tax bill that passed the Senate, graduate students face added financial burden. It is important for us, the students, to recognize the fault in the system, when the system does not have our interest.

If we are even partly responsible for creating institutional dynamics, we also possess the power to alter them. We need to help students understand and take responsibility for all the ways we co-create institutional pathologies.

-Parker Palmer, “A New Professional: The Aims of Education Revisited” 


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Week 10: Professional Ethics of the Acoustical Society of America

I am a student in the department of Mechanical Engineering and my research is focused on acoustics. For this post I chose to look at the ethics that the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) publishes on their website. The ethical principles that are published by the ASA can be found here: Ethical Principles of the Acoustical Society of America.

The first and most extensive section of the ethical principles that the ASA presents is focused on the ethics of research involving human and non-human vertebrates. They provide clear and detailed guidelines for the methods to handle protected subjects in research. I am very glad to see the provided guidelines. It is important that researchers carefully consider how they design experiments and how the subjects will be affected by those designs. It also made me reflect on the New York Times article that was included in this module, When Torture Becomes Science. I believe that as researches and as compassionate human beings we should consider the effects of our research on our subjects. This is not only during the design of our experiments, but throughout the experimental process. If we feel that subjects are being harmed or sense a violation of the ethical codes, we must immediately stop and reevaluate. I think that reading though the ASA’s ethical principles is a great way to evaluate the aspects of a research study that effect experimental subjects. I do not think, however, that these principles are all inclusive. Researchers must continually ask themselves if the experimental design violates the safety or well-being of their subjects.

One of the things that bothered me about the ethical principles is that it limits the scope to humans and non-human vertebrates. I believe these same ethical principles should be applied to all research animals. I think it is a classic mistake to consider invertebrate animals as lesser because of something as arbitrary as a not having a spine. Cephalopods, for example, can exhibit surprising intelligence. Imagine a case in which research is being performed on an octopus or a cuttlefish, two of the most intelligent cephalopods. Shouldn’t the researchers be expected to consider how their experiment could harm these animals? It seems logical to me that these animals deserve the same consideration as the vertebrates that are covered in the ASA’s ethical principles.

This leads to another intriguing consideration: does the intelligence of the animal subject matter at all when considering the ethical obligations of the research? I am honestly not sure of my opinion regarding this question. My initial reaction is no, there shouldn’t be any difference between the way we treat animals in research no matter what we grade their intelligence level as. On further reflection however, I think there might be some more extensive considerations that researchers should take into account when dealing with smarter, more aware animals. Thus, I believe that more careful experimental design should be taken with consideration to intelligence as opposed to the presence of a spine.

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week 9: Copyright Issues

After reading the article Copyright law affects course readings it really made me consider the way that we use material in courses and the considerations that teachers need to employ when they present copyrighted material to their class. In general I have always felt that material presented in the classroom for learning purposes should be free. As a student I have felt resentful of the textbook industry that continually produces new editions of texts with unnoticeably minor changes just so that they can continue to force students to buy new books instead of reusing the textbooks that are available used. I always appreciated when teachers would provide readings or excerpts from texts so that the financial burden was not passed to the students to pay for another book. It is also important to recognize the massive amount of waste that is produced in the printing of new textbooks as well as the waste of old editions that end up the trash or the energy required to recycle them.

On the other side of the issue, however, I understand that there is a very significant amount of work that goes into creating learning materials and that the authors, and to some extent the publishers, deserve to be compensated for their work. As educators we must deal with the delicate balance between easing the financial burden that the education system, especially in the United States, places on students and not ignoring the issues of copyrights and the compensation that the owners of those rights deserve. One of the things that the article alludes to is the complication that the age of the internet brings to this issue. The lines that distinguish copyrighted material have become blurred. The ability to search for material online and the lack of clear attribution of that material can make it difficult to decide what material is “fair-use” and what needs to have permission for use in the classroom. Furthermore, the ability to access and download material illegally has also changed the system. In this case, I don’t necessarily think that it should be the teachers job to regulate how their students acquire material when they are outside of the classroom, but I do think that it is something they need to be aware of.

I think that another important point to bring up with regards to copyright issues and courseware is the open courseware movement. Many educators are creating material that is free to use and share. I believe that the more that teachers become aware of these materials and contribute their own time to creating and sharing material we can change the financial burden that students face. Using open courseware and leveraging the power of the internet, we can create free material for students and teachers around the world to use without having to worry about understanding or violating the numerous copyright laws around the world.

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Week 8: Final Project

Open access is a concept that I had not really thought about until becoming a graduate student. I remember struggling to find articles that I had access to as an undergraduate student and just assuming that pay walls were part of the system and that there wasn’t much that I could do to change the way that scholarly articles were published. As a graduate student, however, I have learned that the researcher actually has some control over where they publish and also how they choose to share the data used in their research. I believe that this topic is important in an ethical sense because of the duty that researchers have in getting their work distributed to the public and in allowing other researchers to verify their results.

My final project will be an exploration into how much different members of the Mechanical Engineering Department know about open access issues. I will interview undergraduate students, graduate students, and faculty in the hopes of gaining an understanding of how much each group knows about open access. I am also interested in the perception of responsibility to disseminate knowledge. I would like to understand how each group feels about how research gets distributed and who they feel is responsible for the process. Finally I would like to get a sense of how many people plan to, or have published their work in open access journals and what that experience was like.

I personally feel that open access publishing is a very important step in the evolution of academia. Universities have a responsibility to share the knowledge that they create. The current trend towards a few publishing companies controlling the majority of academic journals threatens the ability of everyone to have access to the available research. This is especially true for schools that do not have the financial stability of the larger, well-known universities. My long-term goal with this project is to gain an understanding of how to better educate and promote open access in the next generation of academics.

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Week 7: Authorship

After watching the TED Talk by Ausitn Kleon, Steal Like An Artist I felt like he did a great job of presenting the issues that accompany authorship. Near the end of his talk he presents two slides that I think really exemplify the most important ideas when thinking about what we take from others work and incorporate into our own work.

Image taken from TED Talk by Austin Kleon, “Steal Like An Artist”

Image taken from TED Talk by Austin Kleon, “Steal Like An Artist”

When we take an idea and transform and apply it in new ways we are creating something new and expanding the body of knowledge and understanding that currently exists. I think this is what he meant when he said that “transformation is flattery” and in an ethical framework, transformation is ethical. Imitation on the other hand does not create anything new or expand any body of knowledge or understanding. Imitation is not only not flattery, but it is also not ethical.

Is there really such a thing as a completely unique idea? I think the answer is probably not. Everything that we create is influenced by other peoples ideas. This is just part of the human condition. The important thing is that instead of presenting ideas as completely unique, we give credit to the people and their ideas that influenced us. One of the challenges with this that I find interesting is when we have an idea that we came to on our own, but has been presented before or has some obvious influences that we are not aware of. Although we came to the idea on our own, it is still our responsibility to look at what other people have done and still give them credit when appropriate. In academic settings this is part of the literature review process. We should seek out as much information on particular research as possible. Understanding what has already been done not only allows us to avoid ethical dilemmas, but also provides the maximum amount of material for transforming ideas into new creations.

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