Friday, September 29, 2006

Not So Special

100 - When I was a kid in school there was no such thing as the 100th day celebration. Now they almost cancel class because this is such a special day, at least in the elementary schools. I love my kids and they're getting a good education, but why is the 100th day worthy of a celebration?

Top 100 Movies
(Bottom 100?)

Top 100 Golf Courses

Top 100 Blogs

Top 100 April Fool's Hoaxes

I have no idea why we think that there is anything special about the number one hundred. That's why I'm not going to make a big deal about this being the 100th post on this blog. Who cares?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Beyond Boundaries

At the Beyond Boundaries conference today, I just had to go to a presentation by three very nice people (seriously, they were great) from Mayville University in North Dakota. The title of their presentation? “ Is it Plagiarism or déjà vu?”

They are very big proponents of using Turnitin and they made a very solid presentation about how Turnitin works and why they like it. So, you can probably imagine that I had a very different point of view than these three very nice people. I wasn’t belligerent but did take advantage of the question and answer period to submit some very different ideas than what they promoted during their presentation. The session was sparsely attended with only about 10-12 other people in the room. However, I could tell that all of the people in the room were quite taken with the positive aspects of Turnitin and appeared to be oblivious to the dark side of using the tool. So yes, I did pull out my soapbox for a while to talk about the other point of view that was desperately begging to see the light of day.

Basically, I just made several of the points directly from my blog post of a couple of days ago. Not one word similar to those objections had been uttered during the first 45 minutes of the 60 minute session. I didn’t add some of the comments that I received from a faculty member regarding that post. These comments were sent to me privately, which is normal since many regular readers of my blogs seem hesitant to post comments to the blog site. However, the faculty member gave permission for me to post some of those thoughts here…and I thought they were hilarious (and so true), so here they are:

“I really don't believe that my role as a teacher is to treat students as suspects. It's my job to teach them to do--and want to do--things the right away. Though I can't perform miracles, much of this I can control/manage with how I design assignments and how much I'm willing to do during the process to help with the preparatory steps. is a perfect option for teachers who are (a) paranoid, (b) lazy, (c) incapable, (d) mean, (e) confused, (f) attracted to anything with name recognition, (g) hypnotized with even a minimal notion of bells and whistles, or (h) Joe Blow. Sorry, that's whom I picture every time I hear” (NOTE: Joe Blow is a real (former) faculty member whose name has been changed to protect the incompetent.)

She finished with this last paragraph after I asked if it was okay to post her thoughts: “Sure! The more I think about Turnitin, and also what you had to say about it, the more convinced I am that this is NOT the direction higher ed should go. And you know well, I am not afraid of technology, and even if I were, Turnitin wouldn't be the cause of it. My primary concerns are teaching and learning and human interactions (rights, trust, clear expectations, modeling of proper behavior)...the things that ideally shape us teachers and students. While it's smart for everyone in higher ed to be vigilant, I don't think we need to practice vigilantism.” Wow, I wish I had said that last sentence!!

Quick recap of day one of the conference: Prensky had a second presentation after the keynote and it was pretty good as he brought in seven college students to address the issues related to his Engage Me or Enrage Me presentation and also the idea of using video games for formal learning purposes. After lunch I attended an excellent presentation by Richard Van Eck of the University of North Dakota. Here’s a guy that I would like to take a class from. His title was “Who Says We Suck the Fun Out of Games? What Instructional Design Can Teach Us About Integrating Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Games Into the Curriculum?” That title was quite a mouthful, but he backed it up with several more mouthfuls of tasty ideas to chew on. One of his best little tidbits was “DSL,” which is his acronym for Digital as a Second Language. I actually think that is catchier than Prensky’s Digital Immigrants or Digital Natives, just because I have to constantly slow down and think about which is which.

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Prensky Again

Yep, the Beyond Boundaries conference opened with a keynote by Marc Prensky. Yep, I'm still stalking him, apparently. I believe this is now the sixth time I've seen him deliver a keynote in the past two years. One thing he said today resonated with me (particularly so, but not the only one) so I did a little search to find out more info about futurist Charles Handy. The quote below relates to a couple of thoughts that I've been struggling with lately: 1) the way we use the term virtual when referring to the LSC Virtual Campus (I'm leaning toward getting rid of that name), and 2) what we want to do about library services for online students and faculty as we go forward.

"The new library created in Dubrovnik, Croatia, to replace the one destroyed in the fighting a few years ago, is tiny, but it is computer-linked to all the libraries in the world. It has few books or journals of its own and needs no large acres of shelves to satisfy its readers, who, in fact,do not need to go near the place at all if they have the necessary technology in their own homes. It is not so very different, in fact, from the Open University in Great Britain, which is, for its students, only a conceptual space, not a physical one.

Such organizations are increasingly "virtual"; you can describe what they do but cannot see them. What, then, is this thing called an organization? The word seems to be more of a verb these days than a noun, a means of organizing instead of a thing or a body. And how do we manage something we cannot see or people whom we never meet? For many a manager, these new organizations are something to be kept as far away as possible for as long as possible. Most of us prefer to walk backward into the future, a posture which may be uncomfortable but which at least allows us to keep on looking at familiar things as long as we can."

Quoted from Charles Handy (1997). "Unimagined Futures." In Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, & Richard Beckhard (Editors). The Organization of the Future. San Francisco,CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.ISBN 0-7879-0303-5. pp. 378-379.

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States Visited

create your own visited states map

I'm in Grand Forks this morning for the Beyond Boundaries conference. Not my first time in North Dakota, but my first time in Grand Forks. Looks like I have some significant gaps as far as the states that I have visited. I could add a few more states along the eastern seaboard if looking out of a train window counts, but I chose not to include those. I will be going to North Carolina for CIT this year, and I might have been in either Kentucky or Tennessee (or both), but those brain cells sure seem to be missing right now. About the only states that I lament missing (so far) are Washington, Maine, Alaska, and Hawaii. I'm sure I'd like those.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cool Clocks


Hong Kong

I think these clocks will be helpful (at least to my kids) when I travel to Asia again next month. I'll be able to post a new clock for each location visited so they will know whether we are up and at 'em or down for the count. Our little five-year-old in particular has a very hard time making sense of the whole "it's the middle of the night where daddy is" when it's lunchtime where he is.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Turnitin Sucks

It's with a great deal of interest that I've been following the most recent uproar in the blogoshpere about and about whether or not higher ed is taking the proverbial low ground in the ethical battles by the increasing use of Turnitin. It is my opinion and always has been that there is something fundamentally wrong with the whole process of requiring students to turn in their work to the plagiarism police.

I think this graphic from the Honk Kong Polytechnic University is especially humorous. I didn't have their permission to show it on my site so I created my own sign at the Ronald McHummer site.

About 2-3 years ago we had the conversation on campus about whether we should license (or is it subscribe to) the Turnitin service. Of course there were some people who were in favor of it, but the majority was put off by the same things that have always bothered me about the deal. The arguments at that time against using Turnitin appear to still be the main arguments. In no particular order, they include:

  • "I am currently taking a course that requires me to submit my papers to Turnitin. My objection to Turnitin is that they are not only infringing my copyright, but that they are doing so for commercial profit. If they want to make money from storing my paper in a database, they should pay me for a license." (EricSmith comment on Slashdot)
  • "Why are we violating authorial integrity to teach students that violating authorial integrity is wrong?" (by Bob, first comment)
  • "can shift attention away from teaching students how to avoid plagiarism in the first place. In “Defining and Avoiding Plagiarism: The WPA Statement on Best Practices,” the Council of Writing Program Administrators urges teachers to “use plagiarism detection services cautiously,” for they should “never be used to justify the avoidance of responsible teaching methods.”
  • "I find it more than a bit ironic, that this company works with WebCT and Blackboard, who argue that one should use Course Managment software to protect student's privacy (alah FERPA) when fundamentally violates student's rights." (Dave, Sept. 7, 18:05)
  • "It's just like music composition. People with similar music education backgrounds end up producing similar music. That's just how it is. Are you seriously going to argue that the standard educational texts HAVEN'T been mined for every bloody original idea they contain a thousand times over?" (read the whole comment by Cadallin)
  • "The entire problem with these systems is they represent a gross distrust of alot of innocent students. If 25% or thereabouts cheat, it means 75% do not. And that 75% are entirely entitled to be pissed off at there essays being kept in some stupid anti-student database."
  • "On the other hand, it did find matches for small contentless strings of words in completely irrelevant documents. It several times made false accusations of plagiarism, but missed by far the greater part of the material I really had plagiarized, missing 15 of 18 plagiarized passages in one of the essays." (Royce, see here)
Some of the craziest stuff I've read about it include:
  • "There is a danger that if you "pre-submit" your work, and then it is later submitted for a course, your course submission will appear to have been plagiarized from your earlier submission."
  • Defending the ethics of this practice: "As long as the ownership is not separated from the content, then storage of papers submitted for academic credit is an acceptable practice."
  • "Agreeing to provide your work in order to substantiate or rule out a suspected case of plagiarism is a responsible act that affirms our institutional reputation."
  • "The putative "copywrite" issue is bogus. Turnitin was developed at U California- Berkeley, which has a preeminent group of legal scholars at the law school. Due to Silicon Valley and Hollywood, California has some of the top copywrite-expert lawyers on the planet, and they've vetted it." (yowser)
Due to the obvious imbalance of power between faculty/admin and students, students clearly are coerced into this act and so all the rhetoric about how they "freely" submit their work to the service is completely bogus.

The CCCC-IP is taking a stand on this issue - they chose the best side IMO.

I think the major source of my discomfort would go away if this was a higher ed-sponsored initiative being operated as not-for-profit. I'm still not too crazy about the whole "guilty until proven innocent" dealeeoh, but I might be able to live with it if we got corporate America out of our classrooms. Of course I would hope that higher ed would build a service like this that emphasizes the possible teachable moments rather than the punitive nature of catching criminals. I still think that an informed/skilled Googler can do just about as good a job as Turnitin (or better) and only apply the tool when there is reason to suspect that a student isn't writing (or properly citing) the text that they have submitted. Yes, I realize that Google also represents corporate America but they aren't directly profiting if I enter a search string to look for matching text. They also don't capture a copy of the students' works unless the students publish their work to the net.

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Trevor Time

petco park
Originally uploaded by Barry D.

The new all-time saves leader in Major League Baseball. Sunday was save #479 for Trevor Hoffman as he pitched a perfect ninth inning to nail dtrevor hoffmanown the Padres victory over the Pirates.

When pitching at home, Trevor takes the mound to the sounds of Hells Bells by ACDC blasting over the Petco Park P.A. system. I was going to embed an mp3 in the blog post, but decided that I didn't quite want to go that far.

He's a sure fire hall-of-famer and one of the main reasons why the Padres should win the West this year and have a legitimate shot at going all the way to the World Series. However, they play their last 7 games on the road at St. Louis and Arizona so it is not going to be easy for them to stay ahead of the hated Dodgers. Go Padres!!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Returning to China

How strange. In March I had no plans to go to China or anywhere else exotic. Now, just a few short months later, I am preparing for my second trip to China in five months. The first trip was excellent as I accompanied a great group of people from St. Cloud State University as we visited Shanghai, Xi'an, and Beijing. I was along for the ride with John B. and Patricia A. as we were looking into opportunities for delivering e-learning to Chinese students. The photo was taken while I was talking with a group of high school students in Xi'an.

Now I am preparing to go to Guangzhou (formerly Canton City), Hong Kong, and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam. This time the mission is to continue to develop our relationship with the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (GAFA) and to attempt to recruit international students in Hong Kong and HCMC. We've had a faculty exchange program with GAFA for the past few years and we are hoping to add a student exchange program to that partnership. The international recruitment fairs are sponsored and organized by the American Association of Community Colleges. We leave Duluth on Saturday, October 7 and return on Thursday, October 19. This time I will be able to blog from there since China has lifted the e-blockade against Blogger sites.
Posts from previous trip: Blocked, Great Firewall, and Chinese Kids.

Monday, September 18, 2006

This is way cool.
I'd think that a botany class could spend a month trying to figure out what all these things are and what makes them dance. (BTW, I'm only recommending the first video clip, not the one that comes on after it is over.)

Here's another one.
This one might make you squirm, especially if you're a mouse/rodent lover. Whatever it is, it seems pretty creative to me (although the ending is a little lame).

At any rate, full screen video is kinda cool.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Perfect Sports Weekend

Wow, it just doesn't get much better than this. This is an off topic post, but I don't care because this was just such an excellent weekend that I have to gloat a little bit.

The Padres reclaimed first place in the NL West by beating the Dodgers both Saturday and Sunday. Another game comes Monday night but for now my favorite baseball team has resumed their proper spot at the top of the standings.

The Twins, my second favorite baseball team, won both Saturday and Sunday to pull within 1 game of first place and to give them a little bit of a cushion in the race for the AL wild card spot. They continue to play well even though their pitching staff continues to dwindle due to injuries.

The football weekend got off to a perfect start as my beloved ASU Sun Devils rolled into Boulder, Colorado and manhandled the Buffaloes. The game was even televised nationally on Saturday night so I got to watch most of it in between some family activities.

The Vikings, my second favorite pro football team went to 2-0 with an overtime win against the Panthers and that was followed up by my favorite NFL team, the Broncos, also pulling out an overtime win with a boring (yet satisfying) field goal.

For some reason I just felt like watching sports this weekend, and it sure turned out to be the right time to watch. Or maybe it was because I was watching that all my teams won. Seven wins and no losses, now that's some good karma.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Net Neutrality News

With any luck at all, the Communications bill that would kill net neutrality might die without final action in the Senate. Alaska Senator Ted "Series of Tubes" Stevens has changed his mind about whether his sweeping bill will get through the mindfield that he helped create.

Of course he's not the only wrong-headed, technology-impaired senator who is trying to run/ruin our lives. Not to mention Kevin Martin, the chairman of the FCC who addressed the Senate about this issue: (quoting from the cNet article) "Sen. Jim DeMint, a South Carolina Republican, asked whether network providers like Verizon should be able to charge more for "higher requirements" like video from their customers if Google and other content providers have the right to charge their customers for prime placement on their pages."

Martin's reply: "I think so, and if we didn't allow them to, then they wouldn't be willing to offer those kinds of products."

Gee whiz Kevin (and Jim). Please consider this retort. The broadband providers have virtually no competition. In many places you have a choice of one provider, oops sorry, that's not really a choice now is it? However, nobody forces me to use Google. I have my choice of many different search engines and many different providers of online tools like spreadhseets, calendars, email, and the like. On what planet does it make sense to compare a monopoly service provider with a company in a competitive industry?

And finally, what have the broadband providers done with their near-monopoly positions? They have provided high-cost, low speed connections disguised/marketed as high-speed, with incredibly poor customer service. Yes, definitely, let's reward them for their efforts! NOT.

BTW, another reason that the bill should die is that it contains terrible legislation related to the "broadcast flag" (see also EFF) which will allow RIAA, the movie industry, and other media types to further restrict what a consumer can do with the music/video/content that they have PURCHASED! No thanks.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

MN State Fair

I worked two shifts over Labor Day weekend at the Minnesota State Fair in St. Paul. The MnSCU booth is rather large and prominently located right by the entrance to the Education Building. I had fun running the Wheel of Fortune a few different times (every hour, on the hour) and talking to people who had questions about going to college. I was amazed at how many people asked something about LSC and especially about how many knew about us primarily because of our online offerings. The photos below show a few of the sights and signs from the Education Building. I plan to be back there next year and already have a few suggestions for making MnOnline a more prominent part of the festivities.

To view larger version.

Friday, September 08, 2006

LSC Video

Promotional Video for Lake Superior College

This video was originally shared on by barrydahl with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs license.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Fun Stuff

The annual Beloit College Mindset List has been published for the college class of 2010. "Members of the class of 2010, entering college this fall, were mostly born in 1988. For them: Billy Carter, Lucille Ball, Gilda Radner, Billy Martin, Andy Gibb, and Secretariat have always been dead." Here are some of my favorites from the list:
The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
7. They have never heard anyone actually "ring it up" on a cash register.
11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.
12. Smoking has never been permitted on U.S. airlines.
15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.
20. Text messaging is their email.
24. Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.
48. Most of them never had the chance to eat bad airline food.
75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

High school students in the Twin Cities area can take online P.E. courses. Of course I think that they should use PSEO to take online physical education where they can earn college credit and graduate from high school at the same time by training for the American Birkebeiner, Grandma's Marathon, or the NorthShore Inline Marathon. But that's just me.

Check out Wierd Al's new song "Don't Download this Song" on his MySpace site (if that anti-American website isn't blocked where you are). It's funny, and you really can download it for free...he even gives you a link to do so. "Once in a while, maybe you will get the urge to break International copyright law..." and "you start out stealin' songs, then you're robbin' liquor stores..."