Harpers on the wonders of the telegraph and typewriter… and the rightful place of philologists.

From the conclusion of a great article in Harper’s on the Telegraph :

The immense extension of the general telegraphic system, and its common use for business and social correspondence and the dissemination of public intelligence, are far more important to the community than any of these incidental applications of the system. The telegraph system is extending much more rapidly than the railroad system, and is probably exerting even a greater influence upon the mental development of the people than the railroad is exerting in respect to the material and physical prosperity of the country. It has penetrated almost every mind with a new sense of the vastnessof distance and the value of time. It is commonly said that it has annihilated time and space—and this is true in a sense; but in a deeper sense it has magnified both, for it has been the means of expanding vastly the inadequate conceptions which we form of space and distance, and of giving a significance to the idea Read the rest of this entry »


A Review of “A Machine Learning Approach For Identification of Thesis and Conclusion Statements in Student Essays”

A Review of “A Machine Learning Approach For Identification of Thesis and Conclusion Statements in Student Essays”

 I’ve become quite interested in the idea of machines grading papers ever since I read the New York Times Article Dan posted in the group library: “New test for Computers: Grading Essays at the College level.” For now I am just going to concern myself with the article in my title, but I am working on a much larger piece which combines several scholarly articles as well as a few editorials, on an educational issue that I feel will become increasingly relevant as technology expands: grading machines. Read the rest of this entry »


A subtle form of plagiarism you may not know about

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece for the National Post on how technology was changing the way students worked–and how the generational gap between faculty and students might prevent faculty from recognising some types of plagiarism and other forms of academic dishonesty.

One type of academic dishonesty that I certainly had never heard of until quite recently involves how students acquire the quotations they use in their essay. In past years, I always assumed that students were acquiring their quotations semi-honestly–by reading the book or, at worst, reading something about the book from which they could crib passages to cite.

Recently, however, I’ve discovered students acquiring quotations from sites that only provide quotations from books. In my last batch of essays on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, for example, I had an essay from a student that purported to discuss seven life lessons that had been learned from a reading of the book. It looked like quite a witty piece, though strangely unconnected to the actual events of the book, until I discovered that all seven quotations had been copied straight from this post at Goodreads.com. In previous years, I have seen quotation lists derived from chatroom requests for “Quotes I can use from ‘We are seven’.”

I suspect the assumption is that if you have attended class and have a list of quotations from a given book, you probably know enough to fake a C or B understanding for a first year paper.


Blogs, Wikis, and LMSs. Some notes on my practice

Ryan Cordell and I had been exchanging tweets on the use of blogs, wikis, and the like in class. Since 140 characters is good for many things, but not this, I promised him I’d write up a quick description of the practice I’ve developed over the last few years.

The context for this is the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), which I’ve been using in its 1.x and 2.x versions. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do this with loose wiki, blogging, and microblogging systems. But I’m still reluctant to require students to release their school work publicly.

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