Monthly Archives: March 2017

PFP: Tech and Innovation in Higher Ed

For this post, I found an article by Pearson, an education and publishing group well known in the realm of  Higher Education. The group conducted a study to determine how faculty in today’s higher education circles use social media. The article is full of statistics, graphs, and charts, and it was interesting to see what group/percentage of higher education actually uses social media in their classrooms.

Before I talk about statistics and data, I’m interested in how they define social media. Usually, when Pearson says “social media,” the group means blogs/wikis, podcasts, Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitterb (10). This is interesting to me because, generally, I think that media is a common resource used in classes (videos, movies, YouTube, songs, Google programs, etc.) I wouldn’t think that social media would be as commonly considered “learning tool” in classrooms. But let’s get down to statistics. As you can imagine, educators 35 and younger are more likely to use social media in their classrooms than any other age group (Pearson 16). This age group also tends to use blogs/wikis as educational material more than any other social media medium (if that’s grammatical correct). Of the 35 and younger category, 5% report using social media daily, about 17% report that they use it weekly, and 30% report that they use it monthly (Pearson 16).

But what about videos? Where do they fall? Eighty seven point five percent of faculty report that they use videos. This is an overwhelming majority that transcends all age groups (Pearson 20). But what was interesting to me was that Pearson’s data suggests that in most every instance the Humanities is the discipline that incorporates social media or videos more than any other discipline (Pearson). This data doesn’t surprise me only because the material taught in the humanities lends itself better to humanities inspired media like videos, songs, and the like.

This is all fine and good. But I’m wondering what the benefit of using social media in class actually is. I can understand the weekly or monthly inclusion of blogs, if teachers require their students to write blog posts for credit. But really, I can’t imagine bringing in Facebook or LinkedIn on the regular. I’m not sure what purpose that would serve, unless they’re showing memes every day to start the class or something. It seems like it would be more of a distraction, if anythign.  I have used videos in class. That’s not an unusual resource at all in my experience. Maybe podcasts could be a regular tool to assign as homework as well.  I have encouraged students to post surveys on their Facebook page or on the Virginia Tech class Facebook page. But other that that, I’m not sure how or why I would weekly  integrate other social media. Do you all have any use for social media? I would like to hear suggestions and opinions!

Work Cited:

Pearson. “Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Facebook: How Today’s Higher Education Faculty Use Social Media.” Pearson Learning Solutions, 2012. www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/assets/downloads/pdfs/pearson-social-media-survey-2012-color.pdf. Accessed 29 March 2017.

 

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Week 11: Issues in the Current State of Higher Ed

I thought both of the videos included in this blog were extremely thought-provoking. I remember thinking some of the things in the first video as an undergraduate, and now as a GTA Declining By Degrees forces me to see things from the other side of the fence. Two particular things that stood out to me from this documentary were the issue of textbook prices and the issue of “sleepwalking through college” (Merrow).

The issue of overpriced textbooks continues to be a conversation in higher education, I think. Is it ethical to charge such exorbitant prices for a textbook, let a alone for a new edition of a textbook whose only changes are so minor that perhaps a new edition wasn’t necessary at all? I had a friend in graduate school whose textbook for her class was several hundred dollars. College students, especially grad students, can’t possible afford to pay for overpriced textbooks. How is it that the industry continues to charge these prices? How is it that professors still continue to require these same textbooks (and some don’t even crack the book open once during the entirety of the semester?). Something interesting that I’ve come across this semester at Virginia Tech is that every GTA is required to use the Virginia Tech-created textbook for our English classes. I believe this book is around $100, and because it is Virginia Tech specific and gets updated, there is really no sell-back potential, if I understand this correctly. While it’s nice that everything they need for the class (readings and lecture related material) is in one location, whether they get their money’s worth out of it depends on if the instructor uses it or not.

Honestly, I think about the issue of “sleepwalking through college” a lot. Preceding this conversation in Declining by Degrees,  John Merrow  had a segment on grading in college, basically claiming that  “Cs” have now become the “Fs” of undergraduate coursework. The reasoning behind this could varying from concern about backlash over retention rates to the “social contract” that seems to exist between students and teachers (Merrow). I think this pressure to curve the grades is all over the academy because students are pressured to fit all of their courses into four years. They have a lot of work, and I understand that. I think this pressure could also exist heavily in the humanities at institutions like Virginia Tech because many of our students are here for STEM related fields. We don’t want to make a gen-ed course something that is too hard because they have other major related courses that they need to concentrate on (I’m not saying that every instructor feels this way). BUT Is this ethical? Is this the real world? It’s hard to say. But it’s something to think about. Does this practice of soft grading encourage students to sleepwalk through their undergraduate courses? Students do respond to challenges. As much as I might have complained about coursework as an undergraduate, finishing a challenging assignment always left me feeling satisfied with myself and my ability to multitask. I think I am striving to find this balance as I begin my teaching career—balancing challenging students with understanding their stress level.

Work Cited:

Merrow, John. Declining by Degrees. YouTube, uploaded by Bamboo Invasion, 18 September 2012, www.youtube.com/watch?v=BcxDVYo2wH8

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PFP: Privilege

I appreciate the different links to the different types of privilege. For the most part, I was aware of the groups that tend to have more privilege than do others, but for some reason, I hadn’t heard the term “cisgender” before. I found “30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege” to be informative in the sense that it’s written in the second person (you), but doesn’t sound overly accusatory or harsh (Killerman). It effectively demonstrates what a person who is not cisgender might encounter on a daily basis—and these attitudes and situations are definitely not ones anyone would like to encounter. It’s always helpful to reminded of a viewpoint that is not my own; this article truly gets its readers to consider what its like to be in another person’s shoes.


I also appreciated “Male Privilege Checklist.” As a woman, I’ve heard plenty about male privilege, but I don’t feel like I’ve been actively discriminated against in my life. Granted, I don’t see what goes on behind the scenes of a situation where discrimination might actually be possible, so maybe I have been discriminated against and don’t know even know it. All in all though, I haven’t seen overt male privilege in my own life. Perhaps I’m very lucky.

However, after reading the “Male Privilege Checklist, ” I actually agreed with most of what it had to say regarding Male Privilege, but there were some points with which I did not agree. I liked that it was written in first person, demonstrating that a male could be admitting these things to be true (but it was written by a woman which make the dynamic here a littler more controversial and interesting).  Number 15 was spot on: I was having this conversation with my roommate the other day: “My clothing is typically less expensive and better-constructed than women’s clothing for the same social status. While I have fewer options, my clothes will probably fit better than a woman’s without tailoring” (SAP).  I don’t know what the clothing industry is trying to say by making women’s sizing so drastically different from brand to brand. It’s absolutely frustrating to never truly know what size I am.

I also liked the points that had to do with a woman being called “selfish” for choosing to work rather than be a stay-at-home mom (that is a great choice as well!), though I feel this is becoming more socially acceptable now (SAP). In some communities, it’s still an issue. Men also never have to take their wives last names (though I’ve seen it happen once) while women are often questioned and criticized for choosing to keep their own last names (SAP). It’s something I’ve given thought to doing myself, but wonder how people in my life would take it. In certain situations, women tend to have “what other people think” in the back of their minds. Overall, I appreciate the argument of this checklist. While equality for women has progressed greatly, there’s obviously still some work to do.

Works Cited:

Killerman, Sam. “30+ Examples of Cisgender Privilege.” It’s Pronounced Metrosexual.         itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/list-of-cisgender-privileges/#sthash.e8r5JTq6.dpbs

MIT School of Architecture and Planning. “Male Privilege Checklist.” MIT. www.sap.mit.edu/content/pdf/male_privilege.pdf

 

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Week 10: Codes of Conduct

I answered a very similar blog prompt for the Preparing the Future Professoriate course. For that blog, I chose to write about the Modern Language Association’s (MLA) code of conduct. You can find that blog post here. In order to refrain from writing the same thing in this blog, I chose to concentrate on a different code of conduct. After Googling “code of conduct for English teachers,” I found the Code of Ethics from National Education Association (NEA).

The National Education Association is an association that includes teachers from all levels of education, “from pre-school to university graduate programs” (NEA). So this explains the lack of specificity in the two main sections of the code. The first section pertains to an educator’s involvement with students; the second section pertains to the educators involvement within the profession. In the section about the student, the NEA basically lays out that an educator should keep a student’s safety in mind at all times, should not discriminate against a student based off  his/her race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, politics, etc., and should not abuse their professional relationship with the student (NEA). One interesting inclusion that I think is important is that an educator “Shall not unreasonably deny the student’s access to varying points of view” (NEA). I like that the NEA advises the educators to be fairly partial and openminded when talking about different views and not biased (within reason). I think that is important, especially in today’s political climate.

The section pertaining to an educator’s involvement within the profession covers the bases of ethics pertaining to individuals in positions of power, including statements such as an educator “shall not misrepresent his/her professional qualities” and “Shall not assist any entry into the profession of a person known to be unqualified in respect to character, education, or other relevant attribute” (NEA). I also noticed that the section concentrating on relationships with colleagues had some inclusions that weren’t talked about in the MLA’s code of ethics, such as an educator “Shall not knowingly make false or malicious statements about a colleague” (NEA). I thought this one was particularly interesting. Workplace gossip happens everywhere; this doesn’t make it right. But I thought it was intriguing that this statement was purposely placed here. Why? Well, after thinking for a bit, I figured that saying the wrong thing about a colleague who works in education could effectively get them fired from a job and blacklisted for life. Words have extreme power, as educators know, and within this statement, the NEA reminds its members of the power of words and the potential they have to hurt a person’s livelihood as well as a person’s feelings.

I thought it was interesting that the section on the profession didn’t include any thing regarding an educator’s contribution to knowledge through publishing or writing of any kind. I attribute this to the fact that the members of the NEA  are teachers from various levels of education and might not be concerned with the publishing aspect of the profession.

 

Work Cited:

The National Education Association (NEA). “Code of Ethics.” NEA. www.nea.org/home/30442.htm

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PFP: Real World Consequences for Unethical Activity

I posted previously on ethics, but the concept of punishment for infractions interested me this week. This past week, when my group was asked to select a case from the ORI Case Summaries section, we picked the one on Meredyth Forbes who “intentionally fabricated and/or falsified data for zebrafish embryogenesis and oocyte polarity” in two papers and two different presentations. She also worked magic with photoshop to show her results in selected pictures (ORI). Basically her punishment was that she wouldn’t be able to work for or with the government on any studies or publications for three years (ORI). Granted, she wasn’t working on a project that concerned the welfare of human beings, but generally, the consensus at our table was that the punishment was fairly lenient.

I would suspect that the punishment for anyone willingly and knowledgeably endangering human life would be greater than that of someone photoshopping a picture of a zebrafish. But at the same time, our group seemed to think that it was the principle of the thing that matters. Forbes willingly engaged in unethical activity in order to get published, knowing that falsifying data for any reason was wrong. This is wrong. To our group, it seemed that once a name disappears from ORI Case Summaries section, the consequences don’t appear as visible. Forbes could easily get a job again, or so it seems.

I also wonder if academia should believe in the idea of second chances. Everyone makes mistakes, and there’s a saying in culture that like to remind us that everyone deserves a second chance. Should this apply to those that unethically alter data in order to advance their name in their realm of studies? This is a hard question. Based off of what we discussed in class, the concept of second chances in academia seems to depend on the severity of the infraction.

 

Works Cited:

The Office of Research Integrity. “Case Summary: Forbes, Meredyth .” The Department of Health and Human Services. Accessed 15 March 2017, link.

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Week 9: Copyright and Creative Commons

Copyright. This is a tricky topic indeed. Last semester, our department had a required talk on copyright, so I had heard about these issues and requirements before. This was mainly to discuss what we could and could not do as far as copying books or articles for use in the classroom. But even so, I still think this is a grey-area issue. I always wondered how course packs are legal. Are we allowed to play music in a classroom while students read or write? Authorship is a huge topic in academia; copyright reflects this. However, I’m intrigued by this because with the prevalence of certain programs like Instagram, Twitter, or Pinterest, authorship of a photo can become blurred. I mean, does anyone know who generates those hilarious memes, new ones appearing daily? Do they claim authorship of those? Balancing out the copyright issues in academia and the frequent photo sharing on Instagram or Pinterest—how does one do that?

On another note, I appreciated this module’s direct linking to the Creative Commons website and the encouragement to play around with the site in order to familiarize myself with the process of using an image. I didn’t get the challenge to do that at the talk that I went to. As a member of the English Department, I’m typically not required to use photos or videos or anything like that in my papers, though I’m sure I could if I wanted. However, I want to include images in my project for this class, and now, I confidently know where to find acceptable images to use and what needs to be done in order to use them. I found that helpful.

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Week 8: Musing Over the Final Project

In thinking about this project, I would like to do something that would be beneficial to me as a GTA and to my students in the future. As an English major, I’ve dealt with MLA citing and format for all of my academic career. In spite of this, I still need to refer to PurdueOWL almost every time I do citing of some sort, just to be sure that I remember correctly. I am currently sympathizing for my students because these nearly all of these freshmen are going into STEM fields—fields that do not use MLA formatting—and are being required in most English classes to use MLA format. After they leave this environment, most of these students won’t ever interact with MLA again, so effectively, they’re being required to learn in for one or maybe two semesters, and that’s that. And so far, I see they’re confused on how to correctly cite and format according MLA guidelines.

As a GTA, teaching students about plagiarism is part of my job. I also think that teaching them MLA citing and formatting should be part of my job as well. Thinking back to the beginnings of my college education, I only remember instructors telling students to buy an MLA formatting guide and figure it out ourselves. Ok thanks. Very helpful. Inevitably, I’d run into a source that seemed unprecedented as far as previous citing went and would nervously try to format it myself, hoping that I wouldn’t get in trouble for doing it wrong. I don’t want my students to feel this way.

So for this project, I’m thinking about making lessons for these two concepts that I’ll divide into different days: plagiarism and correct MLA citing. By means of Google Slides and a lesson plan, I’ll compile definitions and activities to make sure my students know what academic integrity at Virginia Tech is (because they should be familiar with the institution’s definitions/do they take the time to read the Honor Code?) I will also create a MLA Citation Guide, including popular sources that students may choose to cite and go over any questions my students have on citing. In all actuality, this project will be a large PowerPoint-like presentation on plagiarism and correct citation for my students that draws from my own personal experience of not having my instructors specifically lay down what they wanted us to know as freshman entering the academic world characterized by academic integrity.

 

 

Goals

 

Work Cited:

Butterworth, Natalie M. “MLA Citation.” MemeCenter. n.d., accessed 11 March 2017.

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Week 7: Authorship Issues

I’ve never had to deal with authorship issues before. Collaboration is definitely a thing in the Humanities and in English, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the norm. As far as I know, I will be focusing on writing my own work during the time that I am here. But is that really true? According to  the TEDx Talk “Steal  Like An Artist,” what I just stated was false. I can totally see how Austin Kleon gets his argument that art is theft (Kleon). I agree, for the most part. Within higher education, especially in English, faculty tell students to “enter into a conversation.” This means that if I’m looking to publish an article, I don’t blindly write about whatever I want, but I look to see what conversation is going on amongst scholars at the moment and look for ways that I can enter into this conversation. If I look at this through Austin Kleon’s lens, I’m looking at these conversations, seeing a point that I find interesting or maybe one that I don’t quite agree with, and formulating a response to this point—I’m stealing something I found interesting and building off it, making it my own (Kleon). But the idea wasn’t necessarily mine to begin with. So yes, I see how his argument can ring true. Often, I’ve felt discouraged though, like he suggests. Is there really anything new I can contribute to a conversation? Are there things to say that haven’t been said before in some way or another? It’s definitely something that people in the arts think about.

Jumping from the arts to the sciences—was the article from  The Chronicle of Higher Education appalling or what? The stories about those grad students whose work was stolen from them by their advisors were quite shocking. I’m sure it’s not the norm, but the stories provoke the thought of what a person should do in that situation. What do you do? In Padma Ashokkumar’s case, she became a pariah to her whole department and had to leave without obtaining her degree because she chose to stand up for herself (Patton). She practiced academic integrity and paid for it. I’m sure the pressure in the sciences is only going to increase. What was your reaction to this article, STEM friends?

Works Cited

Kleon, Austin. “Steal Like an Artist.” YouTube, uploaded by TEDx Talks, 24 April 2012, link.

Patton, Stacey. “‘My Advisor Stole My Research.'” The Chronicle of Higher Education, 11 November 2012, link, accessed 28 February 2017.

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