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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