Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making School Use of Anti-Plagiarism Software a POSITIVE Learning Experience!

From: T.H.E Journal
"A War of Words"
"Software programs developed to combat the scourge of student plagiarism have found opposition from the very circle of educators they're meant to help..."

"...Mohan's approach is a proactive measure to ward off student plagiarism, as opposed to the more reactionary applications that have found a number of opponents among the very population they purport to help: educators..."

"..."We have to teach students about plagiarism," Lowe says, "but if all we do is catch them without taking responsibility for the process, how do they learn about the proper use of research material? Technology is no substitute for good teaching."..."
Read complete article:

Plagiarism has become an "issue" in education due in large part to our shift from print library-based research to online digital research. Doing research on the web is easy and effective, however it affords the researcher the ability to lift the work of others from a published source, transplant it elesewhere, and transform its appearnce almost effortlessly. This is so much the case that many alarmed educators have observed that many students today simply do not understand about provenance and ownership of content, an understanding that used to be reinforced by the slow, difficult way plagiarism was accomplished in the print era.

Finding what they believed to be a need and filling it, a number of companies have produced digital solutions that essentially sniff out plagiarists. Putting the question of utility aside, a number of educators now opine that the 'evade ya'/gotcha culture that has grown up around the use of these resources is a strong negative. The article that this post highlights however, points out how one variety of the software, WHEN USED WITH THE RIGHT UNDERSTANDING AND ATTITUDE, can actually help create a creative, supportive, educational climate around the kind of writing that involves research and the responsible use of the work of those who've written on a topic before.

Who woulda thunk? :-) :-) :-)

>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>The Smiley and his dad...
"Smile: The :-) turns 25"
"It was a serious contribution to the electronic lexicon. :-) Twenty-five years ago, Carnegie Mellon University professor Scott E. Fahlman says, he was the first to use three keystrokes — a colon followed by a hyphen and a parenthesis — as a horizontal "smiley face" in a computer message.
To mark the anniversary Wednesday, Fahlman and his colleagues are starting an annual student contest for innovation in technology-assisted, person-to-person communication. The Smiley Award, sponsored by Yahoo, carries a $500 cash prize..."

"...To mark the anniversary Wednesday, Fahlman and his colleagues are starting an annual student contest for innovation in technology-assisted, person-to-person communication. The Smiley Award, sponsored by Yahoo, carries a $500 cash prize..."

"... Language experts say the smiley face and other emotional icons, known as emoticons, have given people a concise way in e-mail and other electronic messages of expressing sentiments that otherwise would be difficult to detect..."
Read the entire article:

If one key stroke generated graphic is worth a thousand words, then emoticons are an invaluable language innovation. Despite the copious buzz about how IM/texted language represents a degradation of language, the ubiquitous 'smiley' is admired by language analysts. This is the type of change that would only come about through the ubiquity of digital keyboards and there just may be something important in the hyper subtle, yet profound impact this communications ritual has had on the nature of our interactions.

Scrambling Teacher/Student Roles to Facilitate Learning for All...REALLY!

"Teaching Teachers to Track Tech Tips"
" Countless k-12 classrooms today use technology to enhance student learning. This technology may be simple, such as a calculator, or part of an elaborate program, such as laptops in a one-to-one initiative. If you take the time to sit and watch the rhythm of the learning experiences in almost any classroom, you will likely encounter at least one unique integration of technology that even the most seasoned, technologically savvy, educator had not thought of before..."

"... teaching with or without technology should be – a collaboration. All educators should be "life long learners" who are constantly looking for new innovations to improve teaching and learning. Whether these innovations be a resourceful software or a new way to ask a probing question, belonging to community of collaboration is key..."

"...Throughout the semester, each class session begins with a tech tip presentation from a classmate. The student presents his or her tech tip and provides each classmate with a handout containing:
A general description of the resource.
Information on where to find the resource.
A rationale for why they think this resource is useful in the elementary classroom.
A description of how this resource can be used to enhance student learning..."
Read full article:

This piece gives a very good example of how teaching and learning has changed/had to change since the advent of digital technologies and their gradual adoption as prominent features in the learning landscape. This example is NOT contrived, the teacher genuinely is not the authority on the content (although she apparently has a masterful grasp of the learning process and facilitation of learning communities).

The notion of reconfiguring a class of students and teacher into a community of peer learners could have relevance and could be applied to virtually any subject area. However, because technology-based resources (as well as the skills required to utilize and understand them) are so new and ever changing that the concept of a single person being the all knowing authority whose job it is to transfer his knowledge to un-knowing learners is absurd. This teacher reconfigured her class, reassigning roles and responsibilites to handle an important goal. In the process she provides a great example of how to organize learners in the 21st Century.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Out of One Box, Into Another

Follow the print news link (bottom of post) to an embedded video from broadcast news...
From: Tampa Bays
"Students learn to podcast for a grade"
"Dade City, Florida - In Abigail Kennedy's multimedia class at Pasco High School, podcasting has become a learning tool.
Abigail Kennedy, Teacher at Pasco High School:
“ I allow kids to get on and create it themselves. They see the whole process it takes to have an idea — they think, 'Boom it's done.' They learn to go through the process of revision. They revise the words, the pictures, sometimes the pictures go too long or the video is too long.”
Students learn how to lay down voice track, create their own music, drag pictures or video and then post their work on iTunes..."
Notice that in their headline (above), these 'journalists' choose to add " ... for a grade " Do they mean to imply that in our current climate of serious education, giving a grade for fun tech things like podcasting is frivolous?
More to the point though, while this program might be paradigm busting IF podcasting were seen as a platform on which serious, core currilum learning was made to happen (better than in a print-dominant class), this school has placed this initiative in the "media class", contextualizing it as learning ABOUT technology, not learning WITH technology. UGH!
Thank heavens this teacher manages to sneak some real 21st Century learning in there anyway.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Ed Dept. Data Zealots Prefer Quick Data To Worthwhile Data (Ignore Technology Solution)

From: Washington Post
"To Speed Grading, Tests Will Be Multiple Choice - Essay Questions Slowing Graders"
"Maryland plans to eliminate written-response questions from its high school exit exams to address long-standing complaints about how slowly test results are processed, state education officials said yesterday.
Beginning in May 2009, the Maryland school system will phase out "brief constructed responses" and "extended constructed responses" -- questions requiring a short or long written answer -- from its four tests covering algebra, English, biology and government, said Ronald A. Peiffer, the state's deputy superintendent for academic policy..."
Is it possible for education policy makers to loose their way any further? Despite the statement that "... the exams would remain as challenging and accurate as before and that classroom instruction would not change... They now have a level of sophistication in the selected-response items (multiple choice) they didn't have (previously). The kinds of things we could only test with constructed-response items (essays) before now can be done in a valid and accurate way with selected-response items in a way that's just as good or better." I find it hard to believe that anyone really buys that. I recommend these educators take a look at the kinds of learning their multiple choice questions purport to measure and then locate them on Bloom's Taxonomy. The kinds of meaning making, problem solving, and inferential learning that become ever more important as we move into and (hopefully) compete in the 21st Century global marketplace are not well measured by multiple choice!

But what's galling in the extreme is the conclusion by these backward thinking slaves to expedience that the only sort of assessment that can be handled by computers (computer testing is quick and cheap) is multiple choice. Computer grading of essays has been possible for quite a few years. Unfortunatley, like digital texts, this is another chicken or the egg situation. Until school districts commit to purchase computer graded assessments, their producers won't invest the large sums required to make what's already possible, as practical as those multiple choice exams which few informed educators hold as having value.

This is a startlingly clear example of how the culture of expedience that drives much of education takes us 3 steps backward as we struggle to move 1 step forward.

Robot Peer Learners? Now THAT'S Ed Tech!

From: China View
"U.S. company creates robot boy named Zeno"
" BEIJING, Sept. 14 (Xinhuanet) -- A group of engineers, designers and programmers at Hanson Robotics in Texas have created a 17-inch tall, 6-pound robot boy bearing the same name as the company's founder's 18-month-old son, Zeno... Hanson says he envisions Zeno not as a clearly artificial robotic toy, but as an interactive learning companion, a synthetic pal who can engage in conversation and convey human emotion through a face made of a skin-like, patented material Hanson calls frubber..."
Much more on Zeno @ the blog:
see posts on Zeno dated 9/5 and 9/13/2007
The posibilities created by an instructional technology resource like Zeno are far beyond the scope of any variety of interactivity witnessed so far. What happens when the technology takes on the capacity to serve the social learning needs of the learner? Education currently almost exclusively addresses the cognitive dimensions of learning. The approach taken with Zeno, however, suggests that technology can impact the psychological dimensions, too. We've seen a few inklings of this type of thing already: the robot babies used to teach young women about motherhood, the enormous popularity of virtual ePets, and full-blown robot dogs. However, robot students who learn alongside their human companions, both parties growing in unique ways because of who they are as individuals AND as pairs or in groups, offers startling expansion to the meaning of Ed Tech. Perhaps we should all pinch ourselves and chant "this is NOT sci fi... this is NOT sci fi... this is NOT sci fi..."

New YouTube Course at College - Luddites and Philistines Need Not Register!

View "Televised" coverage of this "story" by mainstream newscasters (dumb comments!) - Patience, the promo for the Regis show will go away after a few seconds...

From: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"SoCal college offers YouTube class"
"Here's a dream-come-true for Web addicts: college credit for watching YouTube. Pitzer College this fall began offering what may be the first course about the video-sharing site. About 35 students meet in a classroom but work mostly online, where they view YouTube content and post their comments..."
Also - Check out this recorded interview with the professor who created the course (from a broad cast radio program - this one's smart!)

Hey, the point of this isn't that this course is a digital-age version of Basket Weaving 101 (archetypal joke title for the all time easy course). No, this is a serious attempt by a digital immigrant professor to learn about a new technology that's become super popular with her digital native students. This course is really more of a serious study about new media and learning than an old paradigm exercise in "knowledge transfer" schooling. This is a great example of changing roles and the shifting focus and goals of learning and teaching. The question remains, however, who should be paying whom tuition?