Week 13: Final project progress

The final project is going well. I’m making a power point presentation I could present to a class that I’m teaching, dealing with the question of what is common knowledge and if you should cite things you could consider common knowledge.

I have found a study that compares what college professors think should be cited, compared to what undergrads and grad students think need to be cited. The numbers aren’t always drastically different, but it’s enough for students to be concerned. The examples used in the study make good power point slides so that students can read the examples, decide for themselves if the information should be cited, and then we can compare their answers to what other undergrads thought, and what professors thought.

I think this power point will make a good lesson for use in the future.

Week 12: Ethics and Personal Ethos

I’ve talked with alumni, frat boys in the 70s and 80s, who boast of their fraternity’s filing cabinet full of old tests and study materials. At least one has told me that the frat filing cabinet is the reason that he passed some of his classes. Like the CEO of Koofer said in the article, this type of thing has been going on for decades. The internet may have actually leveled the playing field for students not part of frats, or other groups able to maintain records to pass on year to year.  So this type of thing has been happening for 30+ years, and I can’t believe no one knew about it for all that time. It wasn’t until the old tests appeared on the internet that someone decided to do something about it.

Personally I think a retest was the correct decision.

Would I complain about it if it happened to me? Absolutely.

But if there wasn’t a retest, what would that say about the standards of the university? That they are OK with cheating? of course, that should not be the case.

Is it unfair to the students that didn’t cheat? Sure it is, but I can’t think of a better way to deal with it. Putting students on a level playing (as much as possible) for this particular test I think is in the best interest of the school, the students, and the professor.

Let’s say the professor never had a clue, and only found out because they saw the test online. What about the 30+ years of frat kids that have slipped by? What’s the correct ethical action? You can’t rescind three decades of college degrees.

What if the professors knew in 1985 and didn’t act then? That, I think, is ethically wrong, and set the stage for a culture of turning-a-blind-eye.



Week 12: insert interesting title

I don’t know if Google is making up stupider. I doubt it really. I feel like we are just now openly doing what we covertly did before. Did we ever really deeply read every academic article we came across? Or just skim it for relevant information and move on? I think the latter, now we just don’t lie to ourselves about it. Google just makes it easier to do what we were already doing, and harder to mask it.

The articles about a shorter attention span are interesting, especially concerning the genre of the novel. I think that constantly consuming small amounts of information has conditioned our brain to expect that; thus the not being able to read a single “longish” article or chapter without our brains wandering. If we can condition our brain to ingest short bits of information quickly we can condition it back; if we want to. That really makes me wonder, however, which is more likely. Will we spend the time engaging in “longish” works to recondition our brains to focus for longer? Or will the genre of the novel, and long form journalism start to disappear in favor of new genres that more closely sync up with our decreased attention spans?

Now, what I’m most honestly interested in is people’s opinions about laptops in the classrooms. I design a few activities where I have everyone on their laptops actively researching something. But other than that I ask them to put their laptops away during class (with the exception of the students who use them according to their disability statements. Why? I’ve been a student, still am, and let’s look through a list of things I’ve seen students doing on their laptops during class: Facebook, Pinterest, twitter, instagram, reddit, solitaire, WoW, spider solitare, chess, addictinggames.com, shopping, photoshop, math homework (not in math class), chem homework (not in chem class), checking the weather, watching a baseball game, watching surfing movies, watching rock climbing movies, Mircrosoft paint (you know where you make a bunch of circles and fill the circles in with a different colors), message boards, espn.com, checking email, writing email… and I’m sure there’s more but I think this list will suffice. They pretty much do everything that isn’t paying attention. Then they ask questions that the teachers already covered, probably just two minutes before. Does closing the laptops make students pay attention? No, they can doodle or daydream or whatever. Does it help? I think so.

Week 11- The State of Higher Education

One thing that always annoys me with these conversations is the “I can’t believe we still conduct class similarly to the way we did 100 years ago” complaint, and then the setting up of dichotomies where you are either a progressive humanist revolutionary fighting to free the students from rote memorization and lectures and enlightening them by turning everything into an activity and stressing critical thinking above everything else… or you are a closed minded resident of the Ivory Tower who cares nothing for actual learning and only for scantrons, depositing information, and producing students that are nothing more than passive sitters. As if there is no middle ground.

Don’t get me wrong. Critical thinking skills are important, and honestly one of the reasons I like teaching English. The lessons were the students work through different sides of an issue and realize that there is more than just two sides are some of my favorite. I love seeing the conclusions students come to when they research different sides of an issue and and put the texts in conversations with one another.

However, not all lessons lend themselves to critical thinking skills. Sometimes there are just processes and conventions that need to be learned. Spelling, for example, in English; also some comma rules you just have to know. Outside of English, I’m not sure how much critical thinking is going to go into learning the Krebs cycle, or the foramens of the skull. Knowing this information can help you critically think about case studies, and situations in the future, but these are really foundational knowledge that doesn’t really lend itself well to critical thinking. Does that mean it’s information that’s not worth knowing? No. I’d think cellular respiration is pretty important to most biological sciences. Though, I’m not a biologist so maybe it doesn’t matter at all.

There’s also the constraints of time. I’ve been in classes that try to turn everything into some type of activity, and group project. I was often surprised about how long those activities took and how little information we got through.

BUT wait! Don’t I remember so much more because I interacted with the information? Doesn’t the information seem more relevant to my life because I didn’t read it off a slide and instead discussed it with a classmate?… Not really.

So when we are talking about introductory classes, Bio 101,  Chem 101, Anatomy 1, College algebra, etc. There’s a lot of information to get through, and that does not lend itself well to time consuming activities, or interactive technologies. Sometimes reading a textbook, or learning from a slideshow is the most efficient way to present and intake information.



Week 10-Research Guidelines

I looked at the CCC (College Composition and Communication) website to find their position statement on research. What I found was very similar the what the Virginia Tech IRB mandates. Many of the positions were concerned with recruitment strategies, and gaining consent of the participants.

One thing I found interesting was their stance on digital sources. It reads :

We do not assume, for example, that all digital/online communications are available for research studies simply because they can be accessed. Nor do we assume that we must always receive express permission from authors before citing their digital/online materials. A balance must be struck between these extremes, a balance that is informed by institutional regulation, consultation with published research and other researchers, discussion with members of the online communities themselves, and sensitivity to and understanding of the expectations that authors (including student authors) may have had in posting their materials.

I expected more guidelines. More you can use this, but not that, except in this case or with expressed consent of the author. However, this official statement seems to allow for more of a gray area. It admits that a balance must be struck, but leaves it up to the institutions and researchers to find that balance rather than prescribing a set of rules that must be followed.