AI education ethics

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.

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-08-15

assessment assignments ethics students

How do students perceive academic literacy?

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

Narrative means towards literacy understandings: exploring transformations within literacies and migrating identities

Last week I attended a short seminar by Dr. Catherine Hutchings from UCT, who presented some of the results of her PhD study looking at academic literacy and student identity. Here are some notes I took during the seminar.

How do students develop new means of constructing identity as they move from high school into higher education?

Repositioning identities → have personal / social / professional identities outside university, but on moving into HE can feel lost and disorientated. Participants in this study had broken formal educational journeys, no writing background. They had established social and professional identities but lowly academic identities

Their education history was transmissive, rather than constructive

Journals can be a pedagogic method, but became data capture owing to richness of reflections. The journal started as an access route into academic spaces, incorporating their experiences, attempting to promote the development of reflective and critical thinking

Students were afraid of writing

Narratives: the stories we tell about our lives changes our perspectives on them

Referencing, language, technology, the library are “pillars of the great hall of alienation”. They serve as barriers to the transition into HE

How does “agency” become apparent? How is it evident? Referencing, use of authority, engagement with readings, argument…but before HE, agency is not directly evident…it is not voiced

Through using the voice of others, we come to know our own voices

Can take a lot of discussion before students see referencing as an asset

  • Old voices – wisdom of other
  • Odd voices – referencing
  • Own voices – thinking about ideas

Transition, move through, deconstruction, renegotiation, reconstruction

Referencing as feeling of alienation, of not belonging

Plagiarism as a “trapping stone”, already sets them up as outcasts / criminals. Knowledge is “owned” and “guarded”, and doesn’t belong to students

Students used “referencing” and “plagiarism” interchangeably

Few understand the purpose of referencing, nor do they understand it’s language. They often lacked the vocabulary to paraphrase

“Seeing is not knowing”…just because it’s been shown to them doesn’t mean they understand it

“Plagiarism was the only out for me at the time”…a sense of being overwhelmed and not able to cope

Loss of identity in the transformation to HE. The “good learner” in HE is expected to sound like the authoritative voice. Previous identity and experience is often not valued

Students memorise content as a successful strategy in school, then they come here and are punished when they reproduce content

“I felt like a puppet on a string”

“Any sense of self is shackled or constrained”

Referencing is about judgement i.e. it helps the marker determine how much of the students’ work is their own. It can instil fear

Students don’t always understand the purpose of referencing, only that there is a punishment. A sense of belonging comes with understanding, not with doing

Referencing can be thought of as a conversation, not as a list of points from the viewpoint of others. “Must my voice be unique?” “What is my own voice in this conversation?”

“Referencing sets the writer free in using other peoples ideas”

Professional development in HE, finding a voice, can alienate people when they return to their social and professional lives

Referencing as structure and referencing as being voices in a conversation

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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-05-16

  • RT @amcunningham: An analysis of clinical reasoning through a recent and comprehensive approach: the dual-process theory #
  • The use of tense in Lit review. I also prefer the present tense to situate the conversation in a current context #
  • 13 Photographs That Changed the World. #
  • “Dropbox Lied to Users about Data Security, Complaint to FTC Alleges” » #
  • Let Them Surf Eliminate cheating by redefining what it means “to cheat” #
  • How I Talk About Searching, Discovery and Research in Courses Good tips for novice & experienced researchers #
  • $10 Million Tricorder X-Prize A tricorder is a (currently) fictional mobile device for medical diagnosis #
  • @the_archive We’re pushing for systematic reviews in most postgrad work in our dept. May go some way to increase status? #
  • Why Social Media Tools Have a Place in the Classroom #
  • @the_archive Just finished a systematic review & agree that they have value. Not about removing them, just being more rigorous #
  • The Problem with Literature Reviews The context is in regard to looking to the past, as opposed to the future #
  • Guidelines on addressing negative comments in social media #
  • Managing your library with tags and filters Helped address many issues I had with my MSc research #
  • Doctor In Your Pocket, WebMD Comes to Android #
  • Interactive 3D Human Body Search Engine Debuts Interesting. Not sure if there’s enough detail for clinical education #
  • Yale Collections Now Free Online More commons resources for academics and students #
  • Organise research on Mendeley with tags and other latent information #
  • RT @primarytrainee: Curriculum should be experienced not delivered #earlyyears #
  • Learning outcomes mean starting at the end and working backwards i.e. figure out where you want to be, then how you’re going to get there #
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2011-04-11

  • Twitter, Teaching, & Impersonality – Sharing some “personal” information with students creates a trusting environment #
  • eLearn: Opinions – Academic Honesty in the Online Environment #
  • The Daily Papert Video games can be “…fast-paced, immensely compelling, and rewarding” forms of learning #
  • Professors With Personal Tweets Get High Credibility Marks #
  • E-portfolios – taking learning out of the shoebox: a reply to Donald Clark #
  • Don’t Wait for Permission to Innovate If you don’t ask, they can’t say “no” #
  • IRRODL call for papers on Emergent Learning, Connections, and Design for Learning #
  • @sarah_blc I think it’s hard to acknowledge non-institutional learning, mainly because our curricula / assessments don’t value it #
  • How To Use An Apostrophe – The Oatmeal Should be required reading for everyone #
  • The Politics of Queering Anything #

Posted to Diigo 04/07/2011

    • “How can you be sure students are not cheating?”
    • Do we naturally assume if we cannot see students as they complete an exam, then they are sharing answers or having someone else take their exam?
    • One thing I started doing several years ago was having students pledge “academic honesty.” Before the first exam, I send students a message requiring them to acknowledge receipt before taking the first exam. I outline the official university academic honesty policy, and I ask my students to acknowledge that they understand the exam should be completed independently. Of course, the student who really wants to cheat will do so regardless of agreeing to the policy. However, I hope making students more aware of the consequences of cheating it will go a long way toward preventing unethical behavior.
      • There is some evidence that when students are asked to behave ethically / honestly, they will, regardless of whether or not they “believe” in what they are promising. Dan Ariely’s book comments on this.
    • Perhaps the key for all of us—regardless of where and how we teach our course—is to really rethink just what assessment means, because no matter where the class takes place, someone who wants to behave in a dishonest way will probably figure out how to do so.
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Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-08-23

  • Cheating in online learning. Balanced viewpoint from Tony Bates #
  • Went back 2 Thunderbird after using Kmail for a few years. Really impressed with how it’s developed, I’m actually enjoying managing my email #
  • RT @alastairotter: How the Internet is changing language #
  • @nlafferty Used 2 use Zotero until I tried Mendeley, which supported PDF import at the time. I’d love 2 try it again, but no chromium plugin in reply to nlafferty #
  • Sadly, it looks like there’s no intention to port Zotero to #chromium & I’m not switching browsers just to get it #
  • Zotero Basics: Getting Stuff Into Zotero I’m always intrigued with Zotero, I just can’t get into using it #
  • Some simple points of advice on professional online behaviour for health professionals, from @rachaellowe #
  • Teaching Professor: Thinking constructively about teaching problems #
  • Beautiful drawings / paintings on the iPad. So much for the notion that it’s not a device for creation #
  • Technology for 21st Century Learning: Part 2 (But is it a Literacy Machine?). Using the iPad in education #
  • @paulscott56 “Major design flaw upsets millions”. Could be a story about Facebook or twifficiency #
  • 17-Year Old Twitter Spammer Scores Facebook CEO as New Friend #
  • 08/9/10 PHD comic: ‘The Repulsor Field Explained’ (humour) #
  • Dissertation Myth # 9: It Will Ruin Your Life. Great points to put your research into perspective #
  • RT @jamescun: OK. Twifficiency shouldn’t tweet your score automatically :/ Error on my behalf, I was just learning to use oAuth 🙁 #
  • RT @allankent: you know what would be awesome? If #twifficiency prompted me before sticking crap in my timeline. #fail #
  • @cristinacost I spent some time in Hay-on-Wye when I was in the UK a few years ago. Really beautiful walks in & around town in reply to cristinacost #
  • Sadly, Twifficiency is a trending topic on the home page, we can probably count on a lot more spam coming through 🙁 #
  • I don’t think I’ve ever seen an app (#Twifficiency in this case) generate so much bad feeling in such a short space of time #
  • RT @andrewspong: Deleted the Twifficiency tweet from my feed in case others see it later, & amplify the spam. You may wish to do the same. #
  • RT @cwcrawley: So all of you who did twiffiency – Go into profile & ‘revoke’ access to the app. That’ll stop it spamming in future #security #
  • Facebook, By the Numbers. Interesting infographic looking at the rise of Facebook over the past few years #
  • I *hate* it when services / applications tweet on my behalf without asking me, as was the case a minute ago with #Twifficiency #
  • My Twifficiency score is 43%. Whats yours? #
  • RT @wesleylynch:RT @shapshak: Africa’s tech start-ups break ground: iSigned (@garethochse) & Cognition (@patrickkayton) #
  • Looking 4 Buddypress-Activity-stream-type threaded conversation tool. Must be hosted & not need registration. Suggestions? #
  • RT @sharingnicely: RT @myzt: The main idea of “Inception”: if you run a VM inside a VM inside a VM inside a VM, everything will be very slow #
  • @weblearning Just had a look now, thanks. Not sure if it “fits”. I already follow everyone I email. More likely to “find” people elsewhere in reply to weblearning #
  • @weblearning Installed #Rapportive a while ago & it has yet 2 return any info behind the email…maybe that says more about who emails me 🙂 in reply to weblearning #