Category ArchiveMisc Ed Tech
Misc Ed Tech Isaac on 20 Apr 2007
Your grandchildren may use a stylus on a tablet PC instead of a Bic on tablet paper, but they will continue to write.
That’s because even in an era when elementary school students are adept at mousing and teenagers are fiends at text-messaging, some experts say that writing with a pen is still the backbone for teaching people how to read and learn facts.
The difference will be in how the characters are made.
It’s interesting to look at how handwriting has evolved. Having learned mostly D’Nealian print, then not really ever learning cursive script, my handwriting is a strange mix of printed letters and things that just run together (are they called ligatures even when handwritten?). For my purposes in writing, it’s not really an issue since I can write fast enough most of the time and my students eventually can figure out how to read my handwriting (and they also learn how to figure out missing or hard to read words from context), but it has also meant that I am horrendously slow at reading cursive script.
The article goes on to say:
Even some college professors prefer the pen to the keyboard.
David Cole, a professor at Georgetown University Law Center, banned laptops from his classroom in part, he said, because writing in longhand forces students to pay more attention.
“The (laptop) note-taker tends to go into stenographic mode and no longer processes information in a way that is conducive to the give and take of classroom discussion. Because taking notes the old-fashioned way, by hand, is so much slower, one actually has to listen, think and prioritize the most important themes,” Cole wrote in an essay published by the Washington Post.
So, how would this professor feel about Tablet PCs? While I suspect that the professor is not entirely wrong about students being more concerned with writing stuff down than processing it (and frankly I see this with kids taking notes with pencil and paper in my classes all the time), the response seems very misguided to me.
I figure it’s just a matter of time before one of my kids gives me this excuse…
The last thing we want to do is put a program in place that causes someone to lose significant amounts of work. The second to last thing is to give kids yet another excuse when they don’t turn in work.
So why not just put [automated network backup] on the students’ Tablets and give them the same level of protection that [faculty] always have? Well, one factor is cost, though this could be built into the program or managed in any of several different ways. A bigger issue, I think, is what we are teaching the students. Or, more precisely, what we are not teaching them.
I have not, however, heard anything of a data backup plan from the IT people at my school.
Mark your calendars, budget, and plan now for the 28th annual National Educational Computing Conference. Join more than 18,000 teachers, technology coordinators, library media specialists, teacher educators, administrators, policy makers, industry representatives, and students from all over the world who’ll gather June 24–27 at the Georgia World Congress Center in the heart of Downtown Atlanta.
Ngan Phan, a computer science student at Cal Poly (www.calpoly.edu), is currently doing her Master’s thesis exploring the relationship between tablet-based presentation systems and the needs of students with different learning styles. Do you know any tablet-using college students who could participate in a short survey?
The anonymous survey takes about 15 minutes. Students need to have had SOME experience using a Tablet PC, but don’t need to own one or use one exclusively. The students should be college undergraduates.
Here’s the survey (unfortunately, my students are pre-college, so they don’t qualify). Jim has also said that he will post about the results when they become available.
Let me preface this with the standard warning that I am not a lawyer. Any commentary I add herein is based on my working knowledge of copyright in the context of being an educator and an occasional producer of content. Furthermore, I will argue largely on the side of TurnItIn.com mostly because I believe that they have not made the strongest possible arguments so far and because I think that the students’ use of copyright law to challenging the system is ridiculous, not because I necessarily believe that TurnItIn.com is morally or ethically sound.
While I think I had been vaguely aware of these lawsuits, the first I really read about them was on Techdirt — “Plagiarism Checker Sued For Copyright Infringement”
Back in 2002 there was some discussion over whether or not, Turnitin, a popular plagiarism checker that many schools and universities use, was violating students’ copyrights. The program worked by comparing any uploaded works to a large database of previous works. However, it would then add those new works to the larger database. Many students began to question not just why they were being treated as criminals first, but also why Turnitin was allowed to use their content in its database without first licensing the works from the students. While there had been occasional stories wondering something similar over the past few years, now it appears that two high school students have decided to step up and sue the company for copyright infringement. This could get interesting for a variety of reasons. The students clearly thought this out ahead of time — registering the copyright on the papers, which gives them the ability to sue for statutory damages, rather than just be made whole. At least one also had explicit instructions in the paper that it not be included in the Turnitin database — and those instructions were ignored.
While I’d love to argue the point about being treated like criminals and being guilty until proven innocent (mostly on the grounds that TurnItIn.com is more a protection of an honest student’s work against unauthorized copying, blah blah blah…), I think that’s a debate that isn’t going to move anywhere, so I’ll try to stick to the copyright arguments.
A pdf datasheet titled “Copyright and Privacy” on TurnItIn.com says, in part:
The archiving of digital fingerprints of papers is permitted under the current laws of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, among others.
I think the first key is in the use of “digital fingerprints.” I’m not at all sure how the service could work as specified if they only keep some sort of digital fingerprint (perhaps a hash?) of each submitted paper, so right away I’m none too thrilled with this file. The full text of the file doesn’t really go much further than that in terms of actual reasons why their use of students’ work would fall under fair use.
A legal opinion document presumably written by Foley & Lardner, posted on TurnItIn.com (though rather than finding an obvious link to it on TurnItIn.com, I found it through an Ars Technica article on the lawsuits) is a bit more informative:
Hence, by itself, teacher submission of a student work to Turnitin is within the scope of the evaluation license provided by the student to the teacher on submission of the work for grading. The implied license may not extend to other aspects of the TURNITIN system, such as archiving, however, such aspects are allowable as “fair uses” of the copyrighted material.
Now, here’s where I start to get really edgy about the whole thing. My suspicion is further heightened by a Washington Post article titled “McLean Students Sue Anti-Cheating Service”:
“All of these kids are essentially straight-A students, and they have no interest in plagiarizing,” said Robert A. Vanderhye, a McLean attorney representing the students pro bono. “The problem with [Turnitin] is the archiving of the documents. They are violating a right these students have to be in control of their own property.”
Andrew Beckerman-Rodau, co-director of the intellectual property law program at Suffolk University Law School, said that although the law regarding fair use is subject to interpretation, he thinks the students have a good case.
“Typically, if you quote something for education purposes, scholarship or news reports, that’s considered fair use,” Beckerman-Rodau said. “But it seems like Turnitin is a commercial use. They turn around and sell this service, and it’s expensive. And the service only works because they get these papers.”
So, looking at all this, I see two big issues here. First, what rights, if any, do the students have to control papers they submit as a requirement of a class? Second, is the archival comparison use actually fair use?
What rights, if any, do the students have to control papers they submit as a requirement of a class?
I would claim that students have little or no rights to control this work. I think the general idea set forth in the legal opinion commissioned by TurnItIn.com is largely correct, though perhaps too narrow in saying that the student implicitly licenses their work to be graded and evaluated by the teacher. I would make the case that in the context of the class, it is entirely up to the teacher to decide on reasonable conditions under which the work is submitted—this already includes the requirement to submit the paper through a service such as TurnItIn.com and I see no reason why this wouldn’t naturally extend to saying that it is a requirement to allow TurnItIn.com to archive the paper for ongoing use. Moreover, it is not uncommon for teachers to keep archives of work submitted by previous students to compare to newly turned-in work to check for plagiarism.
Is the archival comparison use actually fair use?
I would claim that, especially due to the commercial nature of TurnItIn.com, that the archival comparison is not fair use. I think the argument against it being fair use is particularly strong if the full text of the paper is used, whereas using some sort of hash of the paper might be arguable.
In both questions, I believe that a disclosure about the use and a requirement that students agree to the use in order to submit the paper ought to be sufficient to preclude any of this copyright litigation.
(Another quick post, this time at the last second—trying to maintain my promise to post every day despite this weekend’s marathon of grading.)
Both Robert Heiny and Lora Heiny mentioned America’s Digital Schools: A Five Year Forecast – Mobilizing the Curriculum (ADS 2006), in which a 78% growth of Tablet PC use in schools is projected. It’s an interesting read.
Misc Ed Tech Isaac on 13 Mar 2007
As with yesterday’s post, today’s come from Innovate. I do hope to keep to research-based or journal type sources for at least a good bit of my posts that are more in the realm of educational technology and less Tablet PC specific. “Ten Core Principles for Designing Effective Learning Environments: Insights from Brain Research and Pedagogical Theory” gives some guidelines, with justification, for constructing learning experiences:
The following ten learning principles illustrate how recent research integrated with traditional principles of pedagogy and instructional design can enrich our understanding of thinking and learning processes. The principles outlined here can serve as a guide to the design of learning experiences in both online environments and traditional campus classrooms.
And since I couldn’t tell you there were ten core principles without giving you the principles, here they are:
- Every Structured Learning Experience Has Four Elements with the Learner at the Center
- Every Learning Experience Includes the Environment in which the Learner Interacts
- We Shape Our Tools and Our Tools Shape Us
- Faculty are the Directors of the Learning Experience
- Learners Bring Their Own Personalized Knowledge, Skills, and Attitudes to the Learning Experience
- Every Learner Has a Zone of Proximal Development That Defines the Space That a Learner is Ready to Develop into Useful Knowledge
- Concepts are Not Words; Concepts are Organized and Intricate Knowledge Clusters
- All Learners Do Not Need to Learn All Course Content; All Learners Do Need to Learn the Core Concepts
- Different Instruction is Required for Different Learning Outcomes
- Everything Else Being Equal, More Time-on-Task Equals More Learning
The article also carried a note that it was “adapted from a presentation at the League for Innovation Conference on Information Technology, November 9, 2004.”
The results revealed that for the instructor-based learning class (traditional), the learning style was irrelevant, but for the web-based learning class (e-learning), the learning style was significantly important. The results indicated that students with the Assimilator learning style (these learn best through lecture, papers and analogies) and the Converger learning style (these learn best through laboratories, field work and observations) achieved a better result with the e-learning (web-based) method.
Misc Ed Tech Isaac on 01 Mar 2007
Steve Myers discusses the use of technology and its potential to radically change teaching with many links and references to more formal publications (both his own and of others). I particlarly liked his statement early on:
The fundamental conclusion is that technology should only be used if it meets two conditions: (1) “professor time should be reduced of the repetitive and mundane chores that a computer can do so well or professor time should be used more efficiently” and (2) “student learning should not be harmed and if possible significantly advanced.["]
Misc Ed Tech Isaac on 24 Feb 2007
Steve Myers posted about “Think Small! A Beginner’s Guide to Using Technology to Promote Learning” in Educause Quarterly 30.1, an interesting article about introducing and implementing ed tech. Some quotes from the article:
Before deciding what types of technology to use, we must first have a clear idea of what we want technology to do in our classrooms—what learning outcomes we want students to achieve.
Bringing technology to the classroom gradually, based on how best to support existing pedagogy, allows both students and faculty time to reflect on what works and what doesn’t.
The EDUCAUSE Center for Applied Research found that students want professors to use technology, but only if it is used well, which many times it is not. Some students thought that technology had made their instructors less effective than when they used lectures and the chalkboard. Specific complaints included filling PowerPoint slides with lots of verbiage and simply reading them verbatim; wasting class time fumbling with equipment and software; failing to moderate chat rooms and discussion boards; and not making good use of course management systems.