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Teaching 2.0

Occasional reflections on how teaching is changing and being changed by the spread of Web 2.0.

The Pursuit of Meaningfulness: Toni Morrison’s Commencement Speech

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Lessons, Future of Undergraduate Education | 1 comment

The Pursuit of Meaningfulness: Toni Morrison’s Commencement Speech

Well, the new graduation procedure appears to have gone off without a hitch. Some 40,000 folks found their way to the stadium; parents and friends cheered during the conferring of degrees; Toni Morrison gave the address to the first students to graduate from the School of Arts and Sciences; no one got shot. Excuse me? The beauty of the academic calendar revealed itself once again, as it does annually: students arrive in the fall; time passes inexorably; and just as inexorably, students depart in the spring. This year’s graduating class was the largest to date: some 12,000 individual goals realized, hurdles vaulted, milestones passed, C’mon, you can do it. one step closer to The Grim Meathook Future. To the what?! Admittedly, the run-up to this year’s graduation didn’t exactly go well, but May’s pomp and circumstance appears to have swept April’s many disasters from the stage. Snooki’s highly publicized and well compensated visit to campus and the mini-meme it generated–“Study hard, party harder”? Rutgerfest 2012, the spring’s featured social event, with its shootings and its brawls posted to youTube? The ragtag student protest with its dog’s breakfast of complaints, ranging from tuition hikes to transcript fees?  And the fall semester’s headline-grabbing suicide back in the news with the spying roommate indicted on fifteen counts? That’s all in the past, now. Best to focus on the future and all the great things it has in store for the graduates. Yes, the past *is* the past. Well said. Now you’re hitting your stride. And what a future it looks to be. Here’s the blogger “Zenarchery,” who introduced me to that arresting meathook phrase, reflecting on what the future looks like for those who have access to technological toys and for those who don’t: The upshot of all of this is that the Future gets divided; the cute, insulated future that Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow and you and I inhabit, and the grim meathook future that most of the world is facing, in which they watch their squats and under-developed fields get turned into a giant game of Counterstrike between crazy faith-ridden jihadist motherfuckers and crazy faith-ridden American redneck motherfuckers, each doing their best to turn the entire world into one type of fascist nightmare or another. Joi Ito and Cory Doctorow? Yeah, those names were new to me, too. Though they shouldn’t be. So much to know. Ito is the incoming director of MIT’s Media Lab and Chairman of Creative Commons. Ouch. Cory Doctorow is a writer and Internet pioneer. Co-editor of Boing-Boing, a popular, edgy group blog with a moderated comment section, designed to promote a functional virtual community that shares ideas and information about technological developments. OK. The Grim Meathook Future. Not exactly the coin of the realm in commencement speeches. Going out on a limb, I’d wager that this stark image has yet to make a single showing in any speech offered to the cap and gown set. But, it’s not exactly hard to find versions of that grim future on the open market. Indeed, just today, “above the fold” on the New York Times‘ homepage, the Grim Meathook Future Zenarchery evokes is granted the power to shove what was once thought to be real news (i.e. Mubarak, Netanyahu, Obama) to the margins: So, that’s one future...

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Plagiarism Above the Fold! Cheating Justice in the Digital Age

Posted by on Jan 3, 2012 in Lessons, Plagiarism, Future of Undergraduate Education | 0 comments

Plagiarism Above the Fold! Cheating Justice in the Digital Age

It’s early December, end of the fall 2011 semester. What’s above the fold in the paper version of the Sunday edition of New Jersey’s biggest paper, The Star Ledger? Herman Cain suspending his presidential campaign? In-depth coverage of the case against now disgraced former governor Jon Corzine and now former CEO of MF Global? A Rutgers student’s effort to clear her name of plagiarism? Plagiarism, of course. x The timing is perfect. Just as pressure is rising during finals and the temptation to cut corners is at its highest, the Ledger reaches out to its readers with this headline: Rutgers case casts spotlight on plagiarism in the Internet Age Student says software used by her school was mistaken when it flagged her work  The headline in the online version lowers the point size and makes a more modest claim about the importance of the case in question: Former Rutgers student says software detecting plagiarism was wrong when it flagged her work, caused her to fail Within 24 hours, the online discussion of the article generates more than 140 table-pounding comments, including a number by Amanda Serpico, the RU grad whose tribulations are at the center of the piece. Amanda Serpico’s long journey through Rutgers’ disciplinary process began after her instructor ran one of her papers through Turnitin, anti-plagiarism software increasingly used by colleges and schools. (Original copy with image.) * Here’s the case in brief: In December 2010, while home for the holiday break, Ms. Serpico received an email from the teacher of her “Argumentation” course notifying her that her final paper, “Lifting the ban on same-sex marriage in Texas,” had been flagged by for plagiarism by the online service Turnitin.com. Via email, Ms. Serpico vehemently denied the charges. Her teacher, a doctoral student, revised his assessment of how much of the paper was plagiarized and what the original sources plagiarized were, but otherwise stood his ground. Ms. Serpico appealed the charge, acknowledging only that she had failed to include internal citations, while maintaining that all her sources were correctly listed on her works cited page. Ms. Serpico’s appeal was denied; she received an F in the course; and this prevented her from graduating as a double major in exercise science/sports management and communications. Although Ms. Serpico did graduate as planned with her major in exercise science/sport management and is currently pursuing an advanced degree in sports management at Florida State, she and her parents are exploring their legal options on the grounds that Rutgers’ judicial process is flawed and that the university didn’t follow its own internal procedures in handling Ms. Serpico’s case. * So, why is this story above the fold? It’s the flesh and blood individual (Ms. Serpico) vs. mindless technology (Turnitin.com) It’s Davida (the vulnerable student) vs. Goliath (the state university’s faceless bureaucratic judicial process) It’s the (possibly) FALSELY ACCUSED within the larger context of CHEATING CHEATERS WHO CHEAT (344 in total accused at RU in 2009-2010, according to the article) I can see the Ledger’s rationale for giving this story pride of place on a slow news day. It’s Ms. Serpico’s willing participation in publicizing her fate at the hands of the Rutgers judicial system that is incomprehensible to me. Sure, the idealist will say, “It’s the principle of it all,” or even,”Let justice be done though the...

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