As of this week I’m working with a series of incredibly smart, erudite individuals to set up and run a graduate student conference – I’m excited, but nervous! I want to quickly note what technology we hopefully will be using, and then note some of the immediate challenges standing before all of us, and invite any comments on how to overcome/run around them.
First, I think that we may have found an online conferencing system that would really make life easy – the Public Knowledge Project provides a FOSS conference system that is really awesome. I’ve used their open Journal system when submitting a paper to a University of British Colombia undergraduate journal (Prolegomena) and it was a really slick system. I think that (for me at the time) the most awesome part of the system was that I could log in and see how far along the process my paper was. It kept me from harassing the journal editors, which I’m confident is a reasonably common problem with other methods of harvesting and selecting papers.
Academic environments are (theoretically) places where students come to be educated – they arrive on campuses after (typically) being cocooned for 16+ years – universities are where students emerge from their cocoons fundamentally transformed.
Plato and Shame
I’ve had the distinct privilege of working with students for more than two years now; the past year and a half as a teaching assistant and the time before that as a tutor. When you work with students, you realize that most of them have incredible potential, potential that you can see pent-up inside of them, but potential that they’re either unable to, or afraid to, release and realize. To address the latter concern in the first day of my tutorials this session I talked briefly about Plato and the straight-from-the-text reading of how absurd men appeared when laughing at the women who trained to become philosopher kings alongside men. The point was this: laughter in the classroom threatens to injure your comrades and, more importantly, marks that the person laughing can’t comprehend the purpose/form of laughter – their mirth demonstrates just how little they themselves understand.
I haven’t had a single person (that I’m aware of) be shamed by having other students laugh at them.
I want to toss up a few links that I’ve found particularly interesting/helpful over the past couple of months. I’ll begin with a way to read, move to a review of the newest tool for electronic education, and conclude with an article concerning the commercialization of the core platforms electronic resources are accessed from.
We’ve all heard of data-mining; the FBI has been doing it, the NSA has been caught doing it, and corporations are well known for it. Citizens are getting increasingly upset that their personal information is scaped together without their consent, and for good reasons.
What if those citizens used data-mining principles to prepare and filter their reading? Donal Latumahina has eight processes that you can use to get the most out of the books that you’re reading, processes that are guided by the objective to get the greatest possible amount of useful information from the text. It’s amazing what happens when you objectively structure your reading, rather than just letting yourself be carried along by it.
Normally when I talk about retaining data, I talk about retaining targeted information – don’t save everything, only what you need, and (if the information is about other people) only what you said you’d retain for particular stated purposes.
I was at a TA Conference yesterday, and at the tail end of it one of the presentations was about creating a teaching portfolio and a teaching philosophy. In particular, we were encouraged to save everything from students that pertained to how we taught, as well as copies of course outlines/lecture notes/etc. The idea was that by aggregating all data, especially that from students, we could filter out what we don’t need – it’s easier to filter than to find more data.
This is the exact opposite way that I think that data retention should operate, and I’m not alone. The principles standing behind the EU’s Safehabour, as well as UoG privacy policies, both support my stance that all collected information must be targeted, people whose data is being collected must be aware of why it is being collected, and there must be a stipulation on the duration of time the information must be retained. I’m not really concerned with whether this particular presenter was recommending actions that at the least were in tension with the UoG’s privacy principles – what I’m interested in is whether you would keep all of this information? I can’t, not unless I’m totally up front with students, but I don’t know if that’s just me being particularly paranoid. Is retaining this information common practise in the teaching profession?