Monthly Archives: November 2010

2010 Student web evaluation

Between lots of turkey and 11 hour drives, I haven’t done much reading this week. However, an interesting update from the University of Washington’s Information Literacy Project provides mostly the same, but some new information on evaluation techniques and standards. (photos from the report will be added later since neither WordPress nor Flickr will let me upload images from my iPad)

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Confessions of a term paper mill and Wikipedia becoming credible

The most exciting, intriguing read this week has undoubtably been the confession piece “The Shadow Scholar” from the Chronicle of Higher Education.  The article is a tell-all confessional from the point of view of a writer for these term paper mills and the details are eerily familiar.  Poor writing skills, pressure, and easy access to funds all appear as trademark components for keeping this industry quite alive, including a better than average salary for this individual.  For anyone working with writing students, I recommend this article as a Must Read.

For those who don’t despise Wikipedia, you’ll be gaining more ground in the credibility department as UC Berkeley has started gearing assignments, students, and professors to improving the accuracy of the site’s contents, at least in regards to public policy.  You can read more about this collaboration and the lasting impact on students from the UC Berkeley PR article, “UC Berkeley students help improve Wikipedia’s credibility.”

Given some other fun events going on in my life (yeah for upcoming holidays!), I have a few more backlogged items I’ll have to get to later, such as McKinsey Consulting’s report “Winning by Degrees: The Strategies of Highly-Productive Higher-Education Institutions.”

11/14/10 Sunday reading

As part of my random smattering of eclectic news, here’s what I’ve found on this Sunday morning…..

1) Newsflash! Latinos now make up over 50% of students enrolled in California!

General response, duh….

As a native southern Californian and even as a migrant to the north of the state, I can only say that I am NOT surprised by this finding, as it was an inevitable reality.  Exponential growth, continuous migration, and generations continuing to settle here is no new information.  However, the article frames the statistic nicely in the political/educational debate of what the future of California will be.  Bilingual education for whites as well as Latinos?  Parental political involvement in these schools to increase or will the disenfranchised parents remain silent on the educational decisions for their American citizen children?

2) Facebook v Google

In one of Wired’s themes for the week, they’ve begun to analyze the new potential face-off between Facebook and Google.  With rumors of some sort of Facebook email swirl and the competition for ads heats up, the small skirmishes between Microsoft and Yahoo! now seem small contests for Google.

3) The US Budget puzzle

Although this is not really an article to read, I thought the NY Times Budget Puzzle is a great interactive way for people to learn about the US budget and evaluate how funds are spent and estimate how you would reduce spending.  If I was a government teacher, I would SO use this as part of my class project.  I may still make an argument for it my own course yet…..

Sunday reading

Taking a break from my other activities, I enjoy catching up on reading a bit on my Sunday mornings. In addition to learning about the marketing campaign of cheese and dairy interests, I found a great article that discusses the explosive enrollment of Chinese students in US universities. While anyone could see the same information in the National Center of Education Statistics 2009 digest, the personal stories from these students, their families, and their classmates make for some excellent reading.

Archival practice in mainsteam culture

In a state of utter jet-laggedness, I found myself flipping through the channels at 5am, already having listened to the morning’s news and having reorganized my kitchen cabinets.  By luck, I encountered PBS’s History Detectives, a show that takes items and explores the purported historical provenance of each item to determine its true historical significance.  Albeit much more interesting than any infomercial rivals, the show does a decent job explaining what information they use to confirm or deny each claim.  This particular episode had a Texan theme, covering explorations in Dallas and Gavelston. While I found the information, such as Dallas’ transformation into a major city via its railway, truly interesting, I was somewhat dismayed by some of the practices on the show.  Writing on old maps (presumably photocopies) and ungloved handling of materials were just some of my objections to the show’s presentation.  Furthermore, how they identified scholars and libraries and archives to visit remains a mystery to the viewer yet segments about the general, international history of money, for example, gets covered.  B shots are about all you get of any archive center.  Nonetheless, its always interesting to see how archives are viewed in mainstream culture.

Technological advances in education

In less than 12 hours, I’ve come across a couple of very interesting pieces discussing two trends in academia these days: eTextbooks and online learning.

Wired posted an article about the first all-digital science textbook, and not just a digital copy of a print textbook at that.  For early iPad adopters, the transition from print to digital distribution of materials like newspapers and magazines have been a topic of discussion for a few months now.  The digital format offers so many more ways to present, display, and interact with information that digital publications can go far beyond just the text and still photographs of a print layout.  The textbook has a LOT of promise (and the visualization on the book using an iPad in the last video in the article ain’t bad).  At the same time, at what cost?  Textbooks are already unbelievably expensive and many campuses are turning to textbook rental services to help students and themselves not fall to the multi-billion dollar industry.  This example has a non-profit, a nobel laureate, and paying or making the bells and whistles, but what would be the cost for a more standard digital textbook along these lines?

The second article addresses the role of online education for students attending the traditional bricks and mortar university.  As one of those online instructors for a traditional bricks and mortar institutions, I am part of this on-going experiment.  My students, so far, range from those who are self-propelled and motivated to succeed.  Those students, most likely, would do the same whether I was in front of them or not.  The others struggle, partially due to technological difficulties, but more with general preparation problems.  Organization, freedom/initiative to ask questions, and curiosity are not always items permissible in our high school education system so I have the hoverers who want constant reassurance they are completing the task correctly and others who disappear into the digital ether.  A more traditional class would hold them….other than the whole ditching thing.  Having been a student, I also understand the disconnect that can occur when you don’t have to face your educational maker every week.  But, isn’t this more similar to our current work environments?  Projects are worked on in teams across the US or the world; you may not even meet your collaborators on developing a program, software, policy, etc. While the article ends on a somewhat snide note regarding distraction, doesn’t online education make you face and learn the technological and critical thinking skills necessary for modern worklife?

Enough with my ranting; read for yourselves and let me know what you think.