Tuesday, April 26, 2005


via Multiple Choice

The referred blog in PEDABLOGUE is prompted by an ad looking for writer to write a term paper.

Dear Freelancers!

Recent Projects:

4/21/2005 - #21192 Foucault Philosophy Term Paper ...Article/News/Press Release Writing/Editing I need a writer to write a 25-page term paper (double-spaced) on Foucault's philosophy. I have an article that contains all the ideas that are needed to write this paper. However, those ideas need to be re-written so this term-paper is original. Please provide quote me a flat-fee to for this service.

The author, Michael Arnzen, is concerned the plagiarism is a growing trend. He has written an article about how teachers can try to prevent plagiarism which has several technical suggestions and approaches. However, I feel that Michael has not attacked the issue at its root.

From the opening of the how teachers can try to prevent plagiarismpost,
frustration with students who don't realize that they're only cheating themselves out of learning experiences, anger at the audacity of students who proudly plagiarise, vindication when the students who in the early segments were claiming ethical high ground were confronted with their own cheating by a surprise 'trap' that a teacher sprung on them...

I don't believe students do not know that cheating is cheating themselves out of the learning experiences provided that it is a worthwhile experience. The problem is that students do not see the writing of a term paper has anything to do with their learning. They are frustrated with yet another work for the teacher. They don't see the need or the value of writing a term paper. So, in order to solve the problem at hand, they seek outside help. These students may be very successful later in their lives only to find out it would be better to have written the term papers themselves. But, I am quite sure that these are successful people because they are resourceful.

The fundamental problem here is the perceived value of the task related to the learning at hand. If the students see the value, they will do it. If they don't, those "clever" ones will find a way around it. Technology is only making this easier.

I am writing this post in this blog (rather than my usual Random Walk because I think the solution has two parts, a meaningful assignment (which the students will see the value of doing the task) and an audience to write to.

I don't understand why a term paper, written by the students in days or weeks, should only be read by a person (may be another teacher for cross checking). If you know that what you are writing is not going to be read, what will you do? Reflecting on this, we need to create an audience. The best audience is the peers. Their fellow students understand the among of work involved in the paper. Their fellow students are interested in how their peers think about the topic. Their fellow students are "in the same boat". They form the best audience. They form the best critics. Why don't we open up and let the peers review, comment and critic the work.

Tagged as

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Primer on Small World Networks

via Full Circle Online Interaction Blog by Nancy White.

This beautifully illustrated primer explains how "6 degrees of connectivity" works by a convincing animation.

I have always pondering the question of the optimal size of a collaborative learning group. On one hand, the global connectivity and the communication technology have provided us with unique opportunities to reach out and collaborate with a very large number of collaborators. On the other hand, human attention and cognitive processing is small. We can optimally handle up to 7 to 8 "mental units" at a time. This may explain why we typically have a small group working together very well.

In designing collaborative learning activities, should we aim for large scale collaboration or focus on small manageable collaborative learning activities? I am not any wiser, won't be any time soon. But the quest will continue.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Is blogging a learning activity?

DemographicsTeens are embracing blogs, see survey by Perscus and the result shown on the right.

Educators are investigating whether blogging can be a useful education tool or media, e.g. Getting started with blogging in education. Just like many educators are embracing games based on the fact that teenagers are so much attracted to games, there is a fine line we need to draw. We need to know what actually attracted the players [see Learning to Play to Learn - Lessons in Educational Game Design]. I guess we also need to know what is "bloggedness". We need to investigate the content of these teens' blogs in order to understand what captures the teenagers' devotion to their blogs. Before that, we can guess how to use blogs without any solid basis for doing that.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Student-to-Student interaction in Online Science Courses

Although the title said "Online Science Courses", I believe it is suitable for many other non-science courses too.

Monday, April 04, 2005


Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension which lets you to add bits of DHTML ("user scripts") to any webpage to change it's behavior. In much the same way that user CSS lets you take control of a webpage's style, user scripts let you easily control any aspect of a webpage's design or interaction.
[my emphasis]

Since its version 0.2.5 (the installed version on my Firefox is the current 0.2.6) has the added function to do cross-domain xmlhttpRequest. [For the non-technical readers, xmlhttpRequest allows the script to connect to another website and gets back result. Previously, it is blocked by browser because of security concerns.]

A good demonstration of this ability is annotate Google. This user script (as it is called in the GreaseMonkey parlance) adds two additional links after the result title from Google and a xml icon before the title if there is a rss feed. Cool! See the images stolen from the author's site.
firefox with user script

There is a great potential in using GreaseMonkey to implement some collaborative learning activities. I shall post some examples here once I have the time to develop them.