My Private Googles

Speaking of Google, today marks a shift in Google’s privacy policy.

Just in case you’re interested in not letting them sift your searches (though I think years of searching for plagiarized phrases might have distorted my digital scent enough), you might be interested in THIS advice about how to remove your search history from their clutches (sort of).

And if you’re wondering why it matters, you might read this to see how corporations are using data now. It’s amazing…And just in case you’re thinking, “Why should I care about privacy? I have nothing to hide!”–you may want to read THIS:

To describe the problems created by the collection and use of personal data, many commentators use a metaphor based on George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. Orwell depicted a harrowing totalitarian society ruled by a government called Big Brother that watches its citizens obsessively and demands strict discipline. The Orwell metaphor, which focuses on the harms of surveillance (such as inhibition and social control), might be apt to describe government monitoring of citizens. But much of the data gathered in computer databases, such as one’s race, birth date, gender, address, or marital status, isn’t particularly sensitive. Many people don’t care about concealing the hotels they stay at, the cars they own, or the kind of beverages they drink. Frequently, though not always, people wouldn’t be inhibited or embarrassed if others knew this information.

Another metaphor better captures the problems: Franz Kafka’s The Trial. Kafka’s novel centers around a man who is arrested but not informed why. He desperately tries to find out what triggered his arrest and what’s in store for him. He finds out that a mysterious court system has a dossier on him and is investigating him, but he’s unable to learn much more. The Trial depicts a bureaucracy with inscrutable purposes that uses people’s information to make important decisions about them, yet denies the people the ability to participate in how their information is used.

The problems portrayed by the Kafkaesque metaphor are of a different sort than the problems caused by surveillance. They often do not result in inhibition. Instead they are problems of information processing—the storage, use, or analysis of data—rather than of information collection. They affect the power relationships between people and the institutions of the modern state. They not only frustrate the individual by creating a sense of helplessness and powerlessness, but also affect social structure by altering the kind of relationships people have with the institutions that make important decisions about their lives.

Who can resist a Kafka reference? Not me. Just sayin’.

A Viewpoint on the Reinvention Data

I haven’t yet linked to the CCC Reinvention: The Truth blog in part because I haven’t been quite sure of it in a variety of ways (plus I knew that people could find it through the Truman Lounge if they really wanted to).

Still, I’ve been poking my head in now and again and gradually gained confidence that it is, at the least, an expression of the perspective of some CCC faculty (if not always mine). When I came across this post yesterday, I figured it was time to feature the post and the blog, just in case anyone out there hadn’t seen it yet.

The post is about the contrast in the data used for “The Case for Change” (and more saliently, the imprecision in the way that data is used and promulgated) and some other data collections that seem to be at odds with the much repeated numbers of “The Case for Change.”

I’d been wanting to post some sort of response to the “White Paper” on Reinvention (have you read it?), but the unnamed author put together way better work than I can muster at this point, and in multiple ways better than anything I could put together under good circumstances. In other words, it’s worth reading.

PS: I’m going to add it to the BlogRoll, too, since it is a faculty blog.


Data, Analytics, and Related Issues have been all over the news (or at least The Times, lately. Here’s some stuff you might want to check out:

~Apparently, Data Driven decision making improves productivity for companies (NY Times).

~U of C Economist Gary Thaler, co-author of Nudge (a great book for provoking thought about your teaching), argues that companies should provide consumers with the data collections they have on us (and I can’t decide if it would be cool or creepy to see all of that–maybe ignorance is a kind of bliss?–NY Times).

~Alina Tugina warns against the seduction of quantification and the illusions that numberical rankings can create (NY Times).

All three are worth reading, but don’t forget about their monthly limit, so you might want to access them through the library’s database if you aren’t a subscriber.

Climate Surveys of Reinvention Teams

My request to our Reinvention team members (updated today with newly arriving responses!) created an unexpected flurry of activity. Some team members wanted to meet and talk about how to respond to the questions, one team member (at least) wanted to just answer them individually, there was discussion of whether to consult with the “leadership,” and those consultations occurred, leading to an interesting bit of sharing.

A team member, in consultation with Scott Martyn and Tawa Jogunosimi sent a trio of links–here, here, and here–which show the outcome of three “Team Barometer” surveys administered at different times (2/17, 3/11, and 3/28, respectively) during the Reinvention process to gauge the attitudes of the team members and their perceptions of the process at that point.

I think you will find them interesting. I did. There are some interesting trends and patterns here.

I wonder if anything has changed as a result of this information…

By The Numbers

Even with 11 days to go (including today), March is now the busiest month in the history of the Lounge in terms of traffic. So far this month, there have been 7,681 views for an average of 391 per day. That’s up from 266 per day in February, which also featured a record for busiest day (850 visits).

Two and a half months into the year, we have already had more than half the number of views that we had all of last year (2011: 19,350; 2010: 35,802).

In case you were wondering.

Think, Know, Prove: Data Fest

Back in 2006 or so, I distinctly remember a presentation that Keenan did to the Chairs about the percentage of HW and CCC students who “achieved a positive outcome.” Students were asked more specific questions than PeopleSoft does about their intent, and then they were tracked for six years, I think. I remember being astonished by the research and amazed that it wasn’t being hyped–in my fuzzy memory, I thought the report  close to 80% of the students who came in, left with a positive outcome (and I thought I remembered categories like completion, transfer, retention/still going, and those who “got what they came for” if they came for personal interest. I also thought there was a category for those who left or stopped out, but were in good academic standing at the time, after completing a successful semester (the idea being that their personal circumstances posed some kind of obstacle to their continuing), and a category for those who left after an unsuccessful semester (which would have been the ones who did not achieve a positive outcome).

I’ve been combing my files on and off, in 8 minute bursts here and there, looking for the handout that Keenan gave us, but to no avail. I haven’t been up to ask Keenan for it, because, well, I don’t want to put her in a bind and my description would be so vague that it probably wouldn’t be helpful. And then somebody struck gold.

A friend of mine was poking around the Intranet and ended up in corners that I have not yet visited (please note: that link will only work while you are on campus, connected to the network). She wandered into this and this, and then she sent them to me.

They have some great stuff in there. For example:

Community college student outcomes should not be reported in a fragmented manner. Due to the multiple educational and career goals of these students, the use of multiple and comprehensive measures is essential to document the achievement of these goals.

And then there’s this:

Total Positive               DA               HW             KK                MX               OH           TR             WR                CCC
Outcomes                      65.0%         71.3%         54.9%        55.0%         61.7%     71.1%       73.8%            66.7%

And there’s more, too. And, please note, this is all available (and more!) on the CCC Intranet. Their own research and data shows that the reinvention numbers are but one look at how successful we are at serving students. It is undeniably true, as I’ve said before, that they can and should be improved, but they clearly do not tell the whole story.

So, take a look at this stuff and then tell me: What do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?


By the Numbers

Total Views as of Midnight tonight:     43, 422 (not including the visits of the authors)

# of Posts: 889                     # of Comments: 1695                        Busiest Day: 10/29/10 613 views

21 subscribers, and  21 comments subscribers with 63 subscriptions

Average views per day in Spring 2010: 86

Average views per day in Fall 2010: 168

Average views per day in February 2011: 194

Most Viewed Items (excluding the Home page):

1. Reinvention (Page) 536

2. The Elephant In the Lounge 386

3. Faculty Council (Page) 375

4. Chancellor’s Presentation Debrief 360

5. Faculty Development Week–Bane or Joy? You Decide! 295

6. Breaking News on the Credentials conversation 292

7. Union(s) (Page) 290

8. CAST (Page) 246

9. Chair’s Council (Page) 242

10. Curriculum Committee (Page) 200

11. Hybrid/Blended Committee (Page) 193

12. Friday Spotlight–Faculty Development Week Action 189

13. Developmental Education (Page) 188

14. DWFDW–Update 176

15. Assessment (Page) 175

16. FYI: (Sudden) Appearances 173

17. Anyone else get this invitation? 154

18. Reinvention – It has a face, sorta 153

19. A Letter about DWFDW 145

20. Highlights from the Board Report–December 145

And this will be the  last of the navel gazing, meta posts this week, I promise! There’s stuff happening out there…But first one more quick little poll that I hope that even the lurkers will participate in (it’s totally anonymous!) about who is using the site how. I have some ideas, but I wonder if they’re right. Here goes, and thanks for coming to the Lounge!

To FC4, Love District


Going along with the example set by WIKILEAKS, the following information is being leaked through district faculty council. You might want to ask your local administration why they have not relayed it to us.

Julius Nadas,
secretary FC4

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

1. December 13-16, 2010:  College Success Seminar Training is scheduled to take place at District.  The request for College Success to be part of load is under review

2. December 18, 2010:  All grades must be entered into PeopleSoft no later than Saturday at 2:00 p.m.  Faculty who are experiencing issues should contact the CCC Help Desk by email or by phone 2600.  Also, campus Registrars are available to be of assistance.

3. January 3, 2011, additional advisors and tutors will be hired for each college and will be paid for by an ICCB grant.

4. January 6, 2011:  The Board of Trustees is scheduled to meet at Harold Washington College.

5. January 10, 2011:  Spring 2011 semester starts Monday; spring classes begin Tuesday, January 18, 2011.

6. January 2011: The Upgrade to Blackboard 9.0 will be available.

7. February 15, 2011:  Initial deadline date for I.A.I. five-year Course Review process.  College administrators, Department Chairs, and District Academic Affairs need faculty assistance to complete program reviews.

8. The 2010 CCC Credential Guidelines are attached. If you feel you are qualified to teach courses on some other basis you will need to present the relevant documentation to your VP and ask that it be presented to the district office of Academic Affairs.

9. The spring 2010 Syllabi Audit conducted by the Office of Academic Affairs is attached.

10. Please remember to update your syllabi and upload them to Blackboard for spring 2011 classes.  Syllabi are expected to be available to students no later than the first day of classes.

11. The official CCC Syllabus Template is attached.   2011 CCC Syllabi Template

12. A sample CCC Syllabus is attached.   F09-CHLDDV-109-K-Connor

Possible Source for Transfer Data?

I was reading the Tribune last week, when I saw an article on McHenry County Community College hitting a record for enrollment. Skimming through it, I came upon this paragraph down toward the end:

According to statistics compiled by the Illinois Shared Enrollment and Graduation Consortium’s database, MCC students who transferred to a four-year school in 2007-08 had an average grade-point average of 2.98, as compared with an average 2.91 GPA earned by students who began their postsecondary education at a four-year school.

“What’s this?” I thought. Data on transfers? So I did a little searching for the Illinois Shared Enrollment and Graduation Consortium and I think I found them, but I couldn’t manage to get to any useful data (or even comprehensible data) about either Harold Washington or the City Colleges of Chicago. Anybody out there want to give it a try?

Let us know what you find out…

Data Driven Decision Making

Any chance that this data will drive any decision making in Chicago?

From a New York Times article describing the results of a longitudinal study led by a Harvard economist:

“Students who had learned much more in kindergarten were more likely to go to college than students with otherwise similar backgrounds. Students who learned more were also less likely to become single parents. As adults, they were more likely to be saving for retirement. Perhaps most striking, they were earning more.

“All else equal, they were making about an extra $100 a year at age 27 for every percentile they had moved up the test-score distribution over the course of kindergarten. A student who went from average to the 60th percentile — a typical jump for a 5-year-old with a good teacher — could expect to make about $1,000 more a year at age 27 than a student who remained at the average. Over time, the effect seems to grow, too.

“The economists don’t pretend to know the exact causes. But it’s not hard to come up with plausible guesses. Good early education can impart skills that last a lifetime — patience, discipline, manners, perseverance. The tests that 5-year-olds take may pick up these skills, even if later multiple-choice tests do not.”

The title of the article? “The Case for $320,000 Kindergarten Teachers”

Just sharing – in case you’re not checking your emails…

This is from Sarah. I thought I’d help her spread the word.

Hi Everyone –   The link below is to a very short (approx. 5-10 minutes), anonymous survey regarding Writing Across the Curriculum. I’m hoping to gather information and faculty input regarding student writing, Writing Across the Curriculum programs in general, and specifically, the potentials and concerns of starting a program here at HWC. I appreciate your responses and thank you for your honesty and time in completing it.  If possible, please complete the survey by June 25th.    SURVEY LINK: (if it does not link automatically here, please copy and past it)   Also, in the near future, I will be contacting some faculty from across disciplines to see if they would be willing to give a brief (very brief since I know summer sessions are busy and there is much information to cover in class time)  survey to their students regarding writing they do across disciplines and their attitudes toward it.

Again, thank you so much for your time and if you have any questions regarding the survey or Writing Across the Curriculum, please let me know.

Sarah Liston

Sarah Liston Assistant Professor – Dept. of English Harold Washington College 312-553-5894 Office #634

The Assessment Paradox

Maybe it’s because of a certain cognitive bias in me owing to heightened awareness, but for whatever reason, I have been finding a lot of stuff about data collection lately and associated issues, including a piece on a paradox inherent to assessment. According to author Victor Borden:

Information gleaned from assessment for improvement does not aggregate well for public communication, and information gleaned from assessment for accountability does not disaggregate well to inform program-level evaluation.

But there is more than just a mismatch in perspective. Nancy Shulock describes an “accountability culture gap” between policy makers, who desire relatively simple, comparable, unambiguous information that provides clear evidence as to whether basic goals are achieved, and members of the academy, who find such bottom line approaches threatening, inappropriate, and demeaning of deeply held values.

For anyone who’s been involved with or aware of assessment at HW, you’ll know that Cecilia came in and consistently coached toward the idea that assessment ought to be formative–aimed at building knowledge about student learning in order to make changes to practices whose impact could, theoretically, at least, be measured.

Of course, assessment is (or can be) used for other purposes, too–an assessment that tells us that more than half of our students who have completed their Gen Ed Humanities requirement cannot (or will not) write a series of short essays on an art object that meet our expectations for what students should be able to do provides useful information (internally) that is potentially destructive and harmful to the institution and its members (even the students). So there is, in every assessment, a tension at least and a temptation to resolve the difficulty by cooking the measure (or the numbers) to make sure we look good. Having worked on the Assessment Committee for six years I can attest that we work hard to avoid those traps, but we’ve certainly had discussions about the potential impact of certain findings.

Anyway, this article does the best job I’ve ever come across of explaining a dynamic that I’ve long felt, but never been able to pin down. Well worth the time to read it, I’d say.

Think, Know, Prove–Data Requests

This week, a few members of faculty council had our first meeting with people from administration to talk through some issues we’ve been wondering about related to Student Services, Advising, Registration, and more. In the course of a conversation with Dean Bob Brown, I kept coming back to the thought, even as I was asking questions, that I really wish I had a way to more easily access a lot of information about our students.

For example, I’d like to be able to run a search in Peoplesoft for all currently enrolled students who have completed three or more philosophy classes. Then, I’d like to find those students and talk to them about classes. It seems like a simple thing that PeopleSoft (the panacea of all problems, as it was once touted) ought to be able to provide.

Instead, I would have to submit a request to Keenan, who would forward it to district, who would process it, run the report send it to Keenan who would send it to me and I’d get it, likely, sometime in July.


Talking to Bob Brown, I think we (Amanda, Chris Sabino and I–and Bob, too) all became conscious of how little information we get about our students successes–where they go, how many transfer, how they do when they get there, plus, for those who remain–how many graduate, how many are retained (across the college, in our departments, in our classes, even) and whether the changes we make are making any difference.

So, I thought I’d dedicate this week’s Think, Know, Prove to the question of what data would you seek out if the capacity to search PeopleSoft (or district records) were in your hands (or only one step removed)? What would you like to sift PeopleSoft (or other databases) to find?

When it comes to data, what do you think? What do you know? What can you prove?