Website Wednesday: Models and Data

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Here in week 7 of our semester, I’m a little less far behind than usual for some reason, but a little further behind than I was last week owing to a cold and so I didn’t have enough time to put up the post I’d planned (maybe next week!). Instead, in keeping with Kamran’s theme, I offer you three gifts:

~a truly great (and short) read called, “The Deception that Lurks in Our Data-Driven World,” that includes stories about bathroom scales, the German “Normalbaum” disaster that ensued from human efforts to make an unruly ecosystem easier to quantify and an overabundance of faith in their understanding of they system they were quantifying, and the sentence “Raw data is an oxymoron;”

~an even shorter, quicker read on one example of what happens when a model (even a good one) is mistaken for reality; and

~this fun, heretical presentation on “Big Data” (you can skim through the slides and summarizing text by clicking HERE if you don’t have time for the video):

Enjoy!

And when you’re done, go read Kamran’s piece…

Website Wednesday: TurnItIn

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

For years now, I’ve treated plagiarism as a learning opportunity for students. Given how differently students are taught (especially taking into consideration national and international variation in terms, definitions, and valuations) and how varied the levels of enforcement may have been in their educational past, I provide students with a definition in my syllabus and an explanation of the consequences (students found to have plagiarized may dispute the claim and choose to have their paper/appeal reviewed by the college disciplinary committee OR receive a Zero on the assignment, watch a Web tutorial about plagiarism (it’s the one you’ll find in the list of links), and complete an assignment that demonstrates their new, thorough knowledge of the most common varieties of plagiarism prior to submitting their next assignment. A second instance, then, results in an F for the course and referral to the disciplinary committee.

For years I relied on my own sense of students writing–honed through in-class exercises and multiple papers–to find violators, and I still rely primarily on that. Over those years I scrupulously avoided using plagiarism detection software on account of various objections I had to the way it worked–specifically I did not like that students papers would become part of the database and, so, contribute to the profits of the company without compensation to the students (not to mention the possibility of false positives on account of self-plagiarism). Similar objections to mine are discussed here. After years of experimenting (and failing to find) a way to speed up and improve the feedback I got my students on their writing, without sacrificing detail, Jen Asimow finally talked me into giving TurnItIn a try, persuading me that it is easy to provide common comments, as well as paper specific ones, offers a great option for voice recorded feedback, has an opt-out option that allows for keeping the students’ papers out of the company database, and otherwise convincing me that it is a pretty swell tool, and my experiences since have confirmed all that she said and more.

It remains true that some plagiarism slips through, but I don’t care because I don’t really use it for that. I almost never look at the originality reports unless I have suspicions. I’m using it for the feedback capabilities, and I like it pretty good.

Still, plagiarism is their bread-and-butter and this fall I found that they had put out some pretty good stuff on feedback and plagiarism. For example, there is this infographic (and white paper) about student and faculty perceptions related to effective feedback was interesting, and I put this online quiz about plagiarism in the folder full of “Writing Tips” that I post under “Course Resources” in Blackboard for all of my classes. I didn’t tell them that I got two wrong, though.

Anyway, if you’re interested in making more use of TurnItIn, you can (and should) check out their instructor training videos, sorted by topic.

Website Wednesday: The Digital Quad

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Wright College President, David Potash, was less enthusiastic about the New York Times Education articles than I was, apparently. How do I know this? Because I check out his blog every couple of weeks to see what he’s been reading (and writing) about. In fact, you have two options! There’s The Digital Quad for his reviews and thoughts about Higher Ed and then hynagogicfun for everything else,

You’ll mostly find book reviews, though he sprinkles in the occasional essay (such as this recent one on transcripts). They are well written and thoughtful engagements with the books and brief enough to read pretty quickly. They are also consistently and deliberately structured and unfailingly fair in their presentation of the books, regardless of the quality of his views of them.

Over the last couple of years, I’ve thought about using one or another of his essays more than once as models for student writing about the books we’re reading and examples of the “They Say, I Say” approach, exemplifying how to say something about a book, present a summary of it, and then elaborate on the original thesis.

I am grateful that he’s willing to read a lot of stuff that I have no interest in reading or have interest in but not the time. It’s also interesting to see what he has to say about books I’ve read and admired (such as Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow and Edward Tufte’s The Visual Display of Information). I don’t always agree with his assessments, as I didn’t with respect to How College Works, but even in those cases, I appreciate the value of reading another view and being forced to rethink my own. The posts tend to follow the rhythms of the semester, you can expect a flurry (ok, that might be overstating it, but whatever) of new posts as semesters begin and end, with a post or two sprinkled in the middle. More in the summer and over breaks than during the semester when the responsibilities of the college press a bit harder, but it’s clear that whether reviewing or not, the reading is a constant

If I were forced to provide a criticism, either by a structural commitment or a forceful interlocutor, it would be that it’s impossible, ti seems, to post any comments on his site. I tried to once, but after writing it up and then signing in and then rewriting it and then hitting various buttons, I was faced with a prompt that rejected my attempt.

So, don’t try to talk back–these communication channels only run one way. But, all things considered, I guess that’s appropriate, in a way, too. Anyway, check them out, particularly The Digital Quad. It’s worth your time.

Website Wednesday: New York Times Magazine Education Issue

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

So, this is less of a specific site recommendation and more of a reading highlight package from last week’s New York Times Magazine, a.k.a., the Education Issue, which was chock full of interesting stuff for reading and thinking about and forwarding to people who talk about higher education but only from the narrow perspective of their own experience, or by parroting “conventional wisdom,” or in blissful unawareness of their own ignorance (or some combination thereof). Anyway, lots of interesting stuff to poke through and ponder and argue about with other people, including:

~What is the Point of College? (by a philosopher I like a lot, Kwame Anthony Appiah)

~Are Lectures Unfair?

~New Data Gives Clearer Picture of Student Debt

~Teaching Working Students

~Is College Really Tuition Too High?

~Teaching Martin Luther King Jr. in the Age of Freddie Gray

~What the Privileged Poor Can Teach Us

Plus there’s this book review–a cautionary tale about how NOT to go about educational reform…”There is another way to approach reform, a way that includes collaboration with the teachers, instead of bullying them or insulting them. A way that involves the community rather than imposing top-down decisions. ”

Sound familiar? Happy reading!

Website Wednesday: New Rambler

Website Wednesday is a (mostly) weekly feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

 

The New Rambler is my favorite kind of book review site–the kind where I leave feeling smarter. It’s funded by the University of Chicago law school, but it publishes book reviews on more than legal issues. Their own samuel_johnsondescription of it is as follows: “The New Rambler publishes reviews of books about ideas, including literary fiction. It takes its name from Samuel Johnson’s periodical, The Rambler.” (Yes, that’s a picture of Samuel Johnson there, reading away.)

The reviews cover books on Social Science, International Relations, Business, Political Science, Public Law, Legal Theory, Law and Politics, History, Religion, Literature, Philosophy, Psychology, the Arts and Humanities, and Science, as well as Middle East Studies, Gender and Sexuality, Film and Media Studies, Journalism, and more, all easily searchable by category.

Best is the fact that the reviews are so well written, that by the end of them, I feel like I have read the book (and almost certainly know more about the subject than I would have if I had ONLY read the book). Scroll through the reviews on the first page and see if there’s something that grabs your interest. I bet there will be…

Website Wednesday: BBC’s History of Ideas

Yeah, it’s been awhile since I’ve run this feature, but I figure that since HW is the Online college now, it’s probably the best one to revive.

Not only that, but I got some unexpected inspiration this morning when I fell on this little video about Karl Popper and Falsification:

Which reminded me that the BBC has a great series of videos on big ideas. Check out the Playlist for their whole collection and find brief, fascinating overviews on some huge ideas in Philosophy, especially political philosophy and epistemology–two hot spots in contemporary philosophy.

And be quick about it–from what I understand, the BBC has some financial challenges of its own

Website Wednesday

Website Wednesday is an occasional feature in which we highlight one (or a couple) of sites from the Billions floating around the Intertoobz that just might help you with your Herculean task of educating inquiring minds. Any and all suggestions for future editions are welcome.

Flowing Data is a “Data Visualization, Infographics, and Statistics” site that makes beautiful, fascinating pictures out of numbers. Want to see a visualization of “Where People Run” in a bunch of major cities (such as Chicago)? No problem. Want to see a poster with visualizations of famous movie quotes? No problem. Want to learn about how to make data visualizations or recognize liars or see some great ones? No problem. It’s all there.