Archive for the 'technoskepticism' Category

June 9th 2012
Student evaluations of online courses: rife with hostility?

Posted under jobs & students & technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings

In a recent conversation with a friend who’s teaching an online course for her university,* she commented that she’ll probably get really bad student evaluations again this summer, as she has in the two previous summers in which she’s taught online classes.  “I’m not a body to them,” she said, and therefore she thinks that the students feel freer to rip into her in their evaluations.  (Of course they may also be venting some frustration with the online course format itself, although they may not know enough about online classes and what they can expect from their instructors.)

It sure makes sense to me that much of the humor in the classroom–quotidian small talk before class starts, questions about a student’s health, expressions of concern for their well-being, banter about university politics or sports teams, asking for student opinion on a local issue, dumb jokes by the professor–well, all of that is pretty much drained out of online courses.  I hadn’t really thought about this until my friend made her observation about how much lower she’s rated in her online courses versus her F2F courses, but I think much of this kind of communication between students and instructors, and vice-versa, and among the students themselves–all of this non-content related, non-subject relevant communication is going to have a major impact as to how a student experiences a class emotionally.  Continue Reading »

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May 31st 2012
Class notes

Posted under students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings

A correspondent writes:

So I’m attending a class on Hume’s Treatise this term and often sit diagonally behind a young man who uses his laptop to “take notes.”  Last week he was reviewing lectures and taking a quiz *for an online class* while he was in the live action philosophy class. 

Ugh.

Now that’s what I would call efficient!  Not efficient for learning, but rather an efficient way to spend your tuition money.  Who wants to bet that the student in question will also expect the proffie in the F2F class to post hir lecture notes online too, so that they can be reviewed in still yet another class?  (P.S.  This is why I never post lecture notes online or on Blackboard, and don’t share them at all unless a student has a documented medical problem preventing them from attending class or a documented learning disability.) Continue Reading »

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April 29th 2012
If online education is the answer, what’s the question?

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism & unhappy endings & wankers

As I understand it, the arguments about and within higher education boil down to this conundrum:

College is just a waste of time and money, and neither students, parents, nor taxpayers are getting their money’s worth at traditional brick-and-mortar nonprofit unis.  So let’s spend government money on the kind of education at the kind of institutions that show the lowest return on investment (as measured by alumni employment rates and loan repayment rates):  online education and/or for-profit universities. Continue Reading »

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March 19th 2012
Mike Daisey and the Truth

Posted under American history & art & jobs & technoskepticism & the body & unhappy endings & wankers & weirdness

Locked and loaded!

Public Radio International’s This American Life last week was forced to retract a story they ran last January that drew heavily on a performance piece by Mike Daisey currently playing off-Broadway in New York.  Ira Glass writes on the website:

I have difficult news. We’ve learned that Mike Daisey’s story about Apple in China – which we broadcast in January – contained significant fabrications. We’re retracting the story because we can’t vouch for its truth. This is not a story we commissioned. It was an excerpt of Mike Daisey’s acclaimed one-man show “The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs,” in which he talks about visiting a factory in China that makes iPhones and other Apple products.

The China correspondent for the public radio show Marketplace tracked down the interpreter that Daisey hired when he visited Shenzhen China. The interpreter disputed much of what Daisey has been saying on stage and on our show. On this week’s episode of This American Life, we will devote the entire hour to detailing the errors in “Mr. Daisey [and] the Apple Factory.”

Daisey lied to me and to This American Lifeproducer Brian Reed during the fact checking we did on the story, before it was broadcast. That doesn’t excuse the fact that we never should’ve put this on the air. In the end, this was our mistake.

We’re horrified to have let something like this onto public radio. Many dedicated reporters and editors – our friends and colleagues – have worked for years to build the reputation for accuracy and integrity that the journalism on public radio enjoys. It’s trusted by so many people for good reason. Our program adheres to the same journalistic standards as the other national shows, and in this case, we did not live up to those standards.

Glass and TAL did the right thing to retract this story and to devote last weekend’s entire show to correcting the record and to conducting a kind of on-air autopsy of what went wrong with TAL’s Daisey’s reporting and TAL’s fact checking.  Continue Reading »

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February 27th 2012
Parenting confessions of a college professor?

Posted under American history & childhood & students & technoskepticism & weirdness

This story caught my eye last night:  “Parenting Secrets of a College Professor,” by Kathleen Volk Miller.  At first, I was thinking “right on” when I saw this:

My 20-year old daughter, Allison, who has her own apartment in Philadelphia, sent me a text the other day:  “I need socks and dandruff shampoo.” I laughed aloud and texted back, “I need deodorant and coffee filters.”

I had a fleeting thought that she was actually asking me to pick up those items for her, but I preferred to think we were playing a cellphone game. I try not to be a helicopter parent. Experience as a mother and professor has taught me how badly that can backfire.

Instead, I prefer a more hands-off approach, which came naturally. From the time Allison turned 18 something kicked in, and I simply no longer had any desire to know her work schedule or pick up her tampons. I remember wondering if this was as instinctual as nursing her or bundling her up when she was a baby.  But that’s not what I see at Drexel University, where I teach and where my daughters go to school.

Cue the stories of the other parents, the dreadful helicopter parents– Continue Reading »

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February 16th 2012
Pretty on the inside

Posted under Bodily modification & Gender & local news & technoskepticism & the body

I saw Steve the Stylist yesterday for a haircut.  While waiting for him, I found myself drawn to one of those “plastic surgery disasters”-type cover stories on a celebrity magazine, in which different photographs of celebrities (all women) are compared, analyzed by cosmetic surgeons, and the results decried as “ruining” the celebrities’ faces, breasts, or whatever.  We both commented on the rank unfairness of an entertainment industry that won’t employ women over 35 or 40 unless they’ve had repeated cosmetic interventions, but then of course these women are mocked and derided for succumbing to the procedures that keep them employable.

Steve offered a fascinating observation based on having had clients who have had botox injections.  Continue Reading »

18 Comments »

January 30th 2012
It’s hard to be truly evil when you’re just stupid.

Posted under American history & Gender & technoskepticism & weirdness

I was concerned last week when I heard about Google’s plan to share information across all Google accounts.  But then prompted by this story on NPR last night, I dialed up my “Ads Preferences Mananger Page,” and this was the extent of the personal information I found:

Your demographics:
We infer your age and gender based on the websites you’ve visited. You can remove or edit these at any time. Continue Reading »

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October 23rd 2011
Who ever would have predicted this?

Posted under American history & students & technoskepticism

Exhibit A from the I Told You So files this week (h/t commenter Indyanna, who tipped me off via e-mail today), “At Waldorf School in Silicon Valley, Technology Can Wait:”

LOS ALTOS, Calif. — The chief technology officer of eBay sends his children to a nine-classroom school here. So do employees of Silicon Valley giants like Google, Apple, Yahoo and Hewlett-Packard.

But the school’s chief teaching tools are anything but high-tech: pens and paper, knitting needles and, occasionally, mud. Not a computer to be found. No screens at all. They are not allowed in the classroom, and the school even frowns on their use at home.

Schools nationwide have rushed to supply their classrooms with computers, and many policy makers say it is foolish to do otherwise. But the contrarian point of view can be found at the epicenter of the tech economy, where some parents and educators have a message: computers and schools don’t mix. Continue Reading »

27 Comments »

October 21st 2011
Was I really too harsh on Steve Jobs?

Posted under American history & book reviews & class & jobs & technoskepticism

After Steve Jobs’s death a few weeks ago, I noted that the encomia for his life’s work seemed strange to me because he was a celebrity CEO who outsourced jobs to China, which doesn’t strike me as a particularly patriotic or environmentally responsible business plan.  Some of you objected.  Well, friends, I’ll let you be the judge as to whether this was unnecessarily harsh.  The Huffinton Post (via RealClearPolitics) offers some choice tidbits from Walter Isaacson’s not-yet-released biography, which was written with Jobs’s cooperation.  Here’s the HuffPo’s reportage on what’s to be found in Isaacson’s tome:

Jobs, who was known for his prickly, stubborn personality, almost missed meeting President Obama in the fall of 2010 because he insisted that the president personally ask him for a meeting. Though his wife told him that Obama “was really psyched to meet with you,” Jobs insisted on the personal invitation, and the standoff lasted for five days. When he finally relented and they met at the Westin San Francisco Airport, Jobs was characteristically blunt. He seemed to have transformed from a liberal into a conservative.

“You’re headed for a one-term presidency,” he told Obama at the start of their meeting, insisting that the administration needed to be more business-friendly. As an example, Jobs described the ease with which companies can build factories in China compared to the United States, where “regulations and unnecessary costs” make it difficult for them.

Jobs also criticized America’s education system, saying it was “crippled by union work rules,” noted Isaacson. “Until the teachers’ unions were broken, there was almost no hope for education reform.” Jobs proposed allowing principals to hire and fire teachers based on merit, that schools stay open until 6 p.m. and that they be open 11 months a year. Continue Reading »

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October 12th 2011
Who’s killing the footnote?

Posted under American history & book reviews & European history & jobs & students & technoskepticism

Alexandra Horowitz blames e-books, but footnote-killing is a longstanding trend among non-virtual academic book publishers for at least twenty years.  Most university presses and tradey U-press lines use endnotes, period.  (And who other than university presses make such generous use of notes, anyway?  Nonfiction trade books usually offer the clumsy and much more paper-consumptive apparatus of citing sources by quoting the beginning of a sentence, followed by ellipses, and then listing the relevant sources.  Are tiny numbers on the page really all that distracting to the average reader?  Srsly?)   

My understanding was that the increase in paper costs nearly 20 years ago led most academic publishers to switch from footnotes (at the bottom of each page) to endnotes (at the back of the book.)  Somehow, I was informed, this saves paper.  I can remember the last time I read a book with footnotes–ironically, it was Anthony Grafton’s The Footnote:  A Curious History (1997), which I re-read with my graduate seminar a few weeks ago, and which for obvious reasons offers footnotes rather than endnotes.  (Horowitz’s exploration on the life and death of the footnote uses and cites Grafton generously, too.)  But I think when it was published 14 years ago, it was already exotic for having resisted a publisher’s insistence on endnotes.

My foremost concern about e-books–or perhaps more specifically with the Kindle, although I hope those of you in the know will inform me if this is true of other e-readers–is that it makes citations by students unnecessarily annoying.  Continue Reading »

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