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 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.

Week 9-Copyright

At the moment I feel like I would be alright with sharing my work openly with people. However, I’m not profiting off of anything I’m working on at the moment anyway.  I’m also not really working on a project that I think could be monetized. To be honest, I don’t know if I’m working on anything that anyone would want to use for any reason. Maybe if I were working on a project that was going to be my main source of income, or that I should be receiving royalties for in the future I would feel differently. After writing this paragraph, I realize that I have no idea how I feel about people using my work because I don’t really have work people would want to use.

As far as using copyrighted work, if you are using it for school and not making a profit it should be fair game, like scanning a passage from a book. The practices by some of the academic publishing companies feel slimy. Text books are too expensive especially if you only need one chapter. The one article talked about the teacher who would just omit works she couldn’t get for free because people wanted too much money for permission. Maybe they could ask for less money for the permission. That might help everyone.

Week 7: Authorship

I have not yet encountered much controversy about authorship within my department. Maybe it is in part because I’m in the humanities and many of the papers that are published are not large scale research projects that include multiple researchers from a lab.

Even when I’m researching, I don’t often come across an article that has more than one author. It happens occasionally, but probably less than 1 out of 10 times. Sometimes there are books that are authored by more than one person, but even these are often split up by chapters with individuals writing chapters for the books.

Maybe there could be conflicts with thesis advisors wanting some credit if the thesis is going to be published, but as I said I have not encountered anything like this, or even heard about it.

Week 6: Citations

I haven’t tried using too many different citations programs. The one that I have used is Mendeley. I can’t say that I’m terribly impressed. It’s not that it doesn’t work well, because it does exactly what it says it does. I just think that it takes more time to use the program than to just create the works cited citations, and type in the in text citations. I think making the extra clicks to insert an in text citation not only wastes time, but also stops your train of thought and hinders the writing process.

Citation formats also are updating fairly frequently, and citation generators aren’t always current with the updated formats. For example. Last year MLA updated its format to what it called MLA 8. It took the citation generators months to provide an update that produced MLA instead of MLA 7. Even after that update came out, you would often have to double check the citations generated to ensure they were in the MLA 8  format and not 7.

For the most part, I stay away from citation generators as much as possible. I consult Purdue OWL’s style guide to ensure that my citations are correct. I find it just as easy to follow their template, as it is to type in every bit of info into a generator. Or going through and double checking that the info the generator retrieved was the correct info. (I’ve also gotten burned there. Trusting a generator blindly to find the author… dumb on my part).

I’m interested to know how other people go about getting their citations.

Week 5: The Lab

I thought the lab was a super cool idea. It’s pretty much an educational choose your own adventure story. I appreciated the multi-modal experience, and getting to experience the character’s stories I feel will have a longer lasting effect than if we had simply been lectured at, or if it had been presented as dully as that other video with the two kids from A&M.

I was not expecting it to take as long as it did, however. I’m wondering if a text version would produce a similar experience to the video. The choose your own adventure part could remain, but you could probably read through it much faster than it took to watch. I think the first story line alone took almost an hour to navigate.

Getting to see the process from a couple of points of view was quite helpful. There are a lot of people involved in the process, and they all had their own motivations. It can help to contextualize the complexity of each individual situation, and can help you sympathize with their individual decisions.

I’m wondering, though, what carryover it will have into the real world. Will this video deter people from cheating or falsifying data? It almost seemed like there were too many points that could have resulted in him getting a way with it.

Week 4: Honor Code part I

The honor code is very thorough, and very extensive. It really covers all the bases.

I’m wondering how much the thoroughness and extensiveness of the honor code really discourages plagiarism and cheating. My first thought is that most students know that these two violations of the honor code are wrong. I say most because I know there are different rules governing citations and plagiarism around the world. But still, I think most students here know plagiarism is wrong. So, I would think that most would not do it on their own integrity.

The students that would find themselves on the fence about cheating would probably be dissuaded by a simple statement like “cheating will result in failure.”

The students that are going to cheat and knowingly plagiarize are probably thinking they won’t be caught, and may be thinking very little of the consequences regardless of how simple or thorough they are.

I understand that in a legal sense they need to be very thorough and outline exactly what the institution means by cheating, and what constitutes cheating. And they need to be very specific about what the penalties are for cheating so they can say that students should have known. I understand all that. I’m just not sure that the extensiveness does much more to dissuade cheaters than just a simple, “if you are caught cheating you will fail.”

Week 3: Plagiarism

The CCCC’s position exactly what I have been taught in the classroom, and what I have been taught in the Honor Code presentations we have seen. The CCCC’s statement also is very similar to the concerns of the Virginia Tech IRB.

The CCCC says that rules about plagiarism and intellectual property are governed by federal law implying that the penalties for plagiarism could extend beyond the institution you are attending.

The CCCC also makes guidelines for how to properly cite other’s intellectual property so you can use their work without penalty of law or a failing grade. Most of the plagiarism I have seen comes from improper citing practices. Citing is hard. Knowing when to cite and what needs to be cited can often be difficult to discern. Some plagiarists know what they are doing, and know that it is wrong. This also makes it hard to know how to deal with plagiarism.  Do we follow the letter of the law? and report all plagiarism? Or do we try to discern the spirit of the action and use it as a teaching moment? We can have students fix their improper citing techniques so they learn how not to make the same mistakes in the future.