Friday, March 23, 2007

Did You Know?

I saw this discussed over at Weblogg-ed. It's definitely worth watching. Very interesting!

Now, what does this mean for one's pedagogical practice?

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Another Open Source Alternative to BlackBoard

Now there's one less reason to shell out $, and lose your copyright on all uploaded/posted files--yes, even your syllabus--to a company that practices predatory patent litigation, like BlackBoard:


DrupalEd is based on the open source social networking/content creation software platform Drupal, which is easy to install/configure (I've done it myself over the course of a few hours earlier this week).

To see what DrupalEd looks like, just head over to the site (linked to above). Sign on, and nose around a bit. Then talk to your university's IT department, and tell them you know how to save the university 10s of thousands of dollars a year...

Then maybe they can swing a raise for you.

California State University Faculty Authorize Strike

Big news--thousands of CSU faculty members across the State of California have authorized a strike, which could happen as soon as next month. (Here is an NPR story on the subject.)

Among their list of grievances: salaries that are well below the national average.

This is particularly vexing at a time when executive (i.e. administrative) pay at both public and private institutions is soaring.

The nation's universities are normally about a decade ahead of the rest of the country, when dealing with societal issues. The general rule is that you can take a look at what the hot-button issues are at the major universities, and you can expect to see those same issues at the top of the agenda on Capitol Hill in about 5 to 10 years (the struggle to prevent global climate change, civil rights, etc. all got their start by students and/or faculty). However, the executive compensation issue--while simmering in the private sector for roughly 20 years, before coming to a recent boil, is fairly new to academe.

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. There is already a large support base for the CSU faculty on this issue. In something of a break with historical patterns, students and faculty will be calling for change, in chorus with the rest of the nation.

Boards of Trustees, beware. You may look at the pressures regarding executive pay exerted on corporate Boards of Directors as a window to your own futures.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Plagiarism & Misrepresentation - The Sins That Won't Go Away

As Wikipedia grows up, academe reminds itself of its own obligations.

On the heels of the credentials crisis at Wikipedia, there are new charges of plagiarism leveled against Ward Churchill.

You may remember the controversy initially sparked by an essay written by Ward Churchill, a University of Colorado professor, which made national headlines a year or so ago.

This controversy brought his work (which was quite significant--numbering 20+ books and 150+ essays) into the spotlight of his peers. Apparently, this was a virtual first, as he had been published "largely in alternative presses or journals, not in the university presses or mainstream peer-reviewed journals often favored by more conventional academics." (from the Report of the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado at Boulder concerning Allegations of Academic Misconduct against Professor Ward Churchill).

At the time of the uproar over Churchill's post-9/11 essay, I was of the opinion that, while he displayed poor judgment and a general lack of professionalism, he was certainly in his right to write and research whatever he wished. Academic Freedom is one of those holy sacraments that higher education, and general human intellectual growth, simply couldn't be accomplished without. The case made against him in the popular press was so politically charged, that it was quite chilling to watch--particularly as a member of the Academy.

However, after the creation of a non-partisan committee of his peers, the Investigative Committee found numerous inaccuracies, and instances of plagiarism. In fact, the Committee recommended that Churchill's full professorship appointment be terminated. He has been on paid leave since the judgment of the university's Investigative Committee, and will remain so, while his case is under appeal.

While I can see the "politics" of how he may have chosen to publish in non-peer-reviewed journals and presses, it would seem that such politics can just as easily serve another purpose... That of a convenient veil for shoddy work. These revelations also raise issues for the tenure committees which accepted/approved these publications. No doubt, they shoulder some of the blame, and shame, for not catching these problems.

If ever there were a case study to be made in support of peer-reviewed publications, this is it.

And in today's issue of the Rocky Mountain News I read this:

New questions about Churchill
References cite secret documents available to few

By Berny Morson, Rocky Mountain News
March 12, 2007

Did University of Colorado ethnic studies professor Ward Churchill see secret Canadian government files about child abuse in Indian boarding schools?

Highly unlikely, says a Canadian researcher who reviewed the files and cited them in his 1999 book about the history of the infamous boarding schools.

So how did references to those documents end up in Churchill's 2004 book on the schools?

"Unless he got himself into one of those black suits that Tom Cruise used in that movie and snuck himself into the Department of Indian Affairs at midnight, he's not seen the documents," said John S. Milloy, a professor at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario.

This is not the first time Churchill has been accused of stealing facts from someone else's research.

Churchill's dismissal was recommended last year after a faculty investigation revealed plagiarism and fabrication of facts in his previous works. His case is on appeal before a faculty grievance panel.

Churchill did not return phone calls or an e-mail message about this latest allegation. His attorney, David Lane, declined to comment.

Churchill's book, Kill the Indian, Save the Man, and Milloy's book, A National Crime, deal with an ugly chapter in U.S. and Canadian history.

Beginning in the late 19th century, Indian children in both countries were taken from their parents and sent to boarding schools, where they were forced to adopt European culture.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Fun with Student Bloopers

Every year, English teachers from across the country submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers and writers across the country.

Here are last year's winners of the best worst student writing:

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse, without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife's infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn't.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you're on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan's teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River .

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

New Study Published: Businesses Fair Much Better in Cities with Low Drop Out Rates

The results of a study published today, and reported on by business publication Inc, may help sound the wake-up call to cities and towns who are interested in making economic gains.

The message: Fix your schools first.

Start-Ups More Successful in Cities with Fewer High-School Dropouts

The education level of local populations can have a direct impact on business success, new research shows.

Start-ups that are based in cities and towns with low high-school dropout rates and a high percentage of residents with college educations have greater survival rates than those located in areas with less-educated local populations, according to a new study from the School of Public Policy at George Mason University.

"My view has always been that it's hard to get a job if you're unskilled and uneducated than if you're skilled and educated," said Zoltan Acs, lead author of the paper, which will appear in Papers in Regional Science. Why should that be any different for starting a business?"

Although high school and college do not necessarily teach individuals how to start a business, education does provide future entrepreneurs with relevant skills such as how to meet people, perform analyses, and make contacts, Acs explained.

Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

More on the "Publish or Perish" Dilema

I've written about the need to revise publication expectations for professors seeking tenure.

Now The Daily Princetonian, and Magna Publications, have also joined the discussion:

Rethinking Scholarly Publication for Tenure

The Daily Princetonian reports on its Web news page a story about the Modern Language Association’s task force recommendation regarding “ways in which universities should rethink how they ‘admit’ professors and later decide on their tenure.” Rosemary Feal, executive director of the MLA, said, “We wanted data that we could analyze in light of the changes in the scholarly community.”

Now, lest you think this is yet another effort to jettison the tenure system from the “scholarly community,” let me hasten to assure you that is not the object of this MLA report. After all, tenure foes are much more likely to come from outside academe than from within—and the MLA is about as “within” as anyone can get. No, this is an effort, as Feal puts it, to respond to the “major changes in the way scholarship is published.”

Because colleges and universities—especially top-tier and/or research-oriented institutions—are increasingly emphasizing scholarship as a condition for tenure, and because it is increasingly difficult for professors to find traditional journals willing and able to accept narrowly focused research articles (partly a consequence of shrinking library budgets), a broader definition of “publication” is desirable. Princeton itself seems comfortable with its current scholarship requirements (according to Dean of the Faculty David Dobkin) primarily because, as Feal observed, “it can attract the greatest experts in their field,” those who have ready access to scholarly journals for their work.

But what about the lesser lights, those faculty squeezed out of the most prestigious research journals? This problem is what the MLA’s efforts might rectify.

You can read the full article here.