Another Terrible Idea from Turnitin | Just Visiting

Allowing the proliferation of algorithmic surveillance as a substitution for human engagement and judgment helps pave the road to an ugly future where students spend more time interacting algorithms than instructors or each other. This is not a sound way to help writers develop robust and flexible writing practices.

Source: Another Terrible Idea from Turnitin | Just Visiting

First of all, I don’t use Turnitin and I don’t see any good reason for doing so. Combating the “cheating economy” doesn’t depend on us catching the students; it depends on creating the conditions in which students believe that cheating offers little real value relative to the pedagogical goals they are striving for. In general, I agree with a lot that the author is saying.

So, with that caveat out of the way, I wanted to comment on a few other pieces in the article that I think make significant assumptions and limit the utility of the piece, especially with respect to how algorithms (and software agents in particular) may be useful in the context of education.

  • The use of the word “surveillance” in the quote above establishes the context for the rest of the paragraph. If the author had used “guidance” instead, the tone would be different. Same with “ugly”; remove that word and the meaning of the sentence is very different. It just makes it clear that the author has an agenda which clouds some of the other arguments about the use of algorithms in education.
  • For example, the claim that it’s a bad thing for students to interact with an algorithm instead of another person is empirical; it can be tested. But it’s presented here in a way that implies that human interaction is simply better. Case closed. But what if we learned that algorithmic guidance (via AI-based agents/tutors) actually lead to better student outcomes than learning with/from other people? Would we insist on human interaction because it would make us feel better? Why not test our claims by doing the research before making judgements?
  • The author uses a moral argument (at least, this was my take based on the language used) to position AI-based systems (specifically, algorithms) as being inherently immoral with respect to student learning. There’s a confusion between the corporate responsibility of a private company – like Turnitin – to make a profit, and the (possibly pedagogically sound) use of software agents to enhance some aspects of student learning.

Again, there’s some good advice around developing assignments and classroom conditions that make it less likely that students will want to cheat. This is undoubtedly a Good Thing. However, some of the claims about the utility of software agents are based on assumptions that aren’t necessarily supported by the evidence.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2012-07-16

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-06-20

Posted to Diigo 02/25/2011

    • As scientists and other specialists learn more about how our brains work, for example, many of the traditional instructional methods used for the past 100 years (or more) seem to be out of kilter with how human beings really pay attention, engage, and actually learn something
    • utter incredulity concerning the continuation of the old one-way large lecture hall
    • The massive lecture rooms are not designed to produce an ideal learning situation but rather to get a great amount of people through the material on a large scale
    • “tiny professor somewhere down there” in front going through the material but without engagement or connection with the students
    • If one of the goals of education is to “have a lively exchange of ideas,” the depersonalized one-way lecture seems to be an outdated method for stimulating this exchange
    • Einstein said many years ago that “it is in fact nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry….”
    • We are obsessed with giving prizes to students who memorize the most facts and bits of information (and in the shortest amount of time). Why don’t we give prizes for the students who demonstrate their unabashed curiosity and demonstrable pursuit of discovery?
    • The curious can eventually overcome their ignorance, but the chronically incurious—and yet self-assured—are stuck with their ignorance for a lifetime.
    • The ineffective teachers are the ones who have lost their curiosity and sense of wonder for their subject or even for their job
    • The best teachers guide, coach, inspire, and feed that natural flame of curiosity that lives within every child
    • The courage to teach, then, is the courage to expose yourself as you demonstrate your curiosity and wonder for your subject
    • This kind of passion is infectious (and memorable).
    • School for a student is ephemeral and short, but learning, self-education, and inquiry last a life time so long as a student’s unabashed curiosity remains alive
    • The best teachers (or trainers, coaches, etc.) are those who light the sparks and inspire students to pursue a lifetime of exploration and discovery
    • When designing an online or blended course, then, the question might be, “Which of these skills and those closely related skills are core for your discipline and map to your learning goals and outcomes?

    • A useful design theme for thinking about new writing spaces is “cognitive surplus.”
    • Shirky describes cognitive surplus as “the shared, online work we do with our spare brain cycles.”
    • The motivation for doing shared work with those “spare brain cycles” is simple: We, as people, like to create and we like to share.
    • an emerging trend in online courses is for learners to create while learning
    • Some of this creation work focuses on current course topics, resulting in mini-conferences and expansion of course materials. Other creative course work flows forward to future learners, to the community, and to other groups
    • So what are the alternatives to the traditional research paper?
    • Why is the traditional paper so prevalent in assessment, and how can we move beyond it to alternative evidence of student learning?
    • Writing is a core competency and we are now writing more than ever
    • What kinds of writing do learners need to do in their chosen careers, lives, and professions? Much of the writing will rely even more on critical thinking and research skills
    • Papers are popular because writing requires skills such as:

“Objectivity” in educational research

Earlier today I had a productive meeting with one of my supervisors where, in addition to updating her on my progress, we discussed my reluctance to get “too involved” in my research projects. This is something I’ve touched on before and will probably continue returning to it during the course of my research.

I come from a quantitative background where many believe that the RCT is the gold standard of research, and where the focus on objectivity and distance is meant to reduce or avoid researcher bias. My supervisor, on the other hand, has a good understanding of participatory action research (PAR), in which researcher interaction is not only acceptable, it’s essential. While PAR is the methodological approach I’m tending towards, I still don’t really have my head wrapped around it (note: I’m not trying to compare RCTs and PAR, or to say anything substantial about  either one).

I keep wondering “how much” engagement is appropriate before I start to influence people, and I keep having to be reminded that it’s not the “correct amount” of interaction that I need to worry about, but the objectives I’m trying to achieve that should be my guiding light. I can (should?) influence the interactions with my colleagues and students, as long as I’m documenting not only the interaction, but my own progression and reflection. To be honest, this is new ground for me and it’s not a process I’m entirely comfortable with. It seems very…messy.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-02-15

  • @ryantracey Agreed. The process, rather than the certificate, should be emphasised #
  • RT @wesleylynch: Video comparing iphone and nexus – http://ow.ly/17iBb. Can’t imagine how the iPhone will survive, Android is already better #
  • RT @psychemedia: Are Higher Degrees a waste of time for most people? http://bit.ly/buKpOW. IT professionals are hardly “most people” #
  • University finds free online classes don’t hurt enrollment http://bit.ly/9zztuR #
  • Mobile Learning Principles – interesting, but unrealistic in a developing country. “Mobile” does not = smartphone http://bit.ly/97WUu4 #
  • Presenting while people are twittering, an increasingly common backchannel. Be aware of it and use it if possible http://bit.ly/bymSUE #
  • Presentation Zen: The “Lessig Method” of presentation. Great resource on improving your presentation skills http://bit.ly/aTykYr #
  • About “P”! « Plearn Blog. This post raises some interesting questions about the challenges of using PLEs http://bit.ly/9cDqd6 #
  • Crazy Goats. I don’t usually share this sort of thing, but this pretty amazing http://bit.ly/9Hg32e #
  • Learning technologies in engineering education. For anyone interested in integrating “distance” with “practical” http://bit.ly/a9lclC #
  • Think ‘Network Structure’ not ‘Networking’. I always thought “networking” was too haphazard to bother with http://bit.ly/acuw1g #
  • Clifton beach earlier today. I think I like it here http://twitgoo.com/dv85w #
  • @davidworth Hi David, thanks for the blog plug #
  • @sharingnicely: go around institutional pushback when policy is unfriendly to OER #OCW #
  • @dkeats: free content enables students to use scarce financial resources to acquire tech instead, which grants access to vastly more content #
  • Butcher: the curricular framework must drive development of OER – content comes after learning #OCW #
  • Neil Butcher from OERAfrica: OER can’t work without institutional support #OCW #
  • Why is copyright in OER even an issue? Copyright applies equally to OER and non-OER #OCW #
  • If you think of a degree as a learning experience, rather than a certificate, formal accreditation is less important. See P2PU #OCW #
  • Is there a difference between OER and #OCW I’m wary of the emphasis on content as a means of changing teaching practice #
  • @dkeats Improvement in quality is always important, isn’t it? No-one is aiming for mediocrity #
  • OCW workshop at UWC today, OCW board present incl. MIT OCW, should be a good day, quite proud its happening here #
  • RT @cristinacost: RT @gconole: Sarah Knight on JISC elearning prog including excellent eff. practice pubs http://bit.ly/c1wVF6 #
  • RT @c4lpt: MicroECoP – Uisng microblogging to enhance communication within Communities of Practice http://bit.ly/9ofx3O #microecop #
  • Making the Pop Quiz More Positive. I like the change of mindset that the post suggests, pop quizzes aren’t punishment http://bit.ly/d5IiMV #
  • @cristinacost Looks good, you’re further along with your project than I am with mine, I might have to come to you for advice 🙂 #
  • Problem-Based Learning: A Quick Review « Teaching Professor. Nice, short summary of why PBL is a Good Thing http://bit.ly/cOAQeY #
  • @cristinacost What’s your interest in Buddypress? I recently set up WPMU/BP platform for physio dept social network to explore CoP #
  • Microblogging to enhance communication within communities of practice http://bit.ly/a0saa4 #microecop #
  • There’s a war goin’ on here, donchaknow? Retro copyright posters at EdTechPost http://bit.ly/aBsVwu #
  • Post by Howard Rheingold on crap detection on the internet should be required reading for everyone online http://bit.ly/dsGtha #
  • Scroll down for the 5 C’s of Engagement on Postrank’s “What it is” page. Is it useful for building social presence? http://bit.ly/983dcL #
  • Great post on 3 strategies to manage information: Aggregate, Filter and Connect. The last one is hard (for me anyway) http://bit.ly/diItNr #
  • Great post on the importance of not only filtering information, but using it meaningfully http://bit.ly/bk21Ol #
  • Siemens’ post on moving from educational reform within the system, to a “no boundaries” approach http://bit.ly/bMnKXu #
  • Web 3.0 and Its Relevance for Instruction – interesting article on how a next generation web could be used in education http://bit.ly/axYyEr #
  • Freedom helps kids learn more « Education Soon http://bit.ly/bBbGvB #

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