Recent Comments

March 20, 2014 - 11:52


I like your suggestions.  Publishers of professional and business communication textbooks already have been touting their scenario-based software: students decide how to respond to a business problem or conflict by choosing branches along a decision tree, often represented in an office environment.

But these scenarios are focused on narrow consequences, rather than how actions affect one's character and future authority. Plausible, well-written stories that follow the sequence you suggest would help people visualize what is otherwise vague and abstract.

March 20, 2014 - 11:01

Young people that are just beginning to build their professional reputation need to be more aware of how much more difficult it is for them to control that reputation in the digital age. I find the discussion of how you used to be able to just move and change jobs and rebuild our reputation an interesting one. It serves really well to highlight just how different this current situation is to one way things have been historically. 

That said you bring up a couple of points that I think are worth exploring further. You questioned if we could develop markers in online courses that mirror physical markers of honor and reputation. The Four Gates concept that you talk about is an interesting one because it creates a metaphor for the student’s success and reputation that is easy for them to understand outside of a classroom. I think that is the key to that type of work. Students need to feel that they are gaining something by responding in an honorable way and giving them some form of progress bar for it allows them to see how they have improved. I also feel that this addresses the question you raised about students taking care outside of the classroom. 

That is where the third question comes into play too. If tools are developed to show students the ways that acting honorably help them even outside of the classroom then they are more likely to take those lessons with them. Once a student understands that plagiarism and acting dishonorably has consequences outside of the classroom they are able to connect those points.

In my mind I imagine a short narrative based game that would take you through a period of a character’s life making questionable or dishonorable decisions. If you took that concept and fleshed it out you would be able to tell stories about how decisions inside and outside the classroom effected someone’s life. Show how a decision made three years earlier cost you a job in the present because your reputation was tarnished.

March 12, 2014 - 11:29

Hi Claire — Great question! Training instructors in the Processing programming language is an excellent idea, and that is something we are thinking about as part of our outreach efforts at the TACC Vislab. I also agree with your point that "visual learners" have a lot to offer the humanities, and bringing together these communities is one of the motivations of my work.

As I alluded to in my post, a major barrier for students in the humanities who want to learn is that there are few incentives for their professors to investigate computational tools that might inform their work and teaching. While many might like to invest hours in learning to code, current standards for promotion and tenure make this kind of professional exploration a risky use of their time. The lack of basic literacy instruction in computer programming at primary and pre-secondary levels also means that there is a long learning curve for them to become creators (and not just users) of computational tools for humanities scholarship.

On the other hand, there are many fantastic  resources available for those who are motivated to learn to code on their own time. Processing comes with a library of examples and tutorials that don't assume any prior knowledge of the language. For those interested in visualization, O'Reilly's Visualizing Data: Exploring and Explaining Data with the Processing Environment is an excellent introduction.

Also, since Processing was born as a teaching language, there is a lively community of educators using Processing in their curriculum. Khan Academy's exciting new computer programming curriculum teaches a modified version of Processing in their online courses, which allow students to write and run code directly in their web browser.

One final point that may not be clear from my post: Processing is a great programming environment for creating dynamic visualizations, and our Massive Pixel Environment library makes it easy to create massive visualizations with millions of pixels. However, it is not designed for searching through large archives or mining "big data". With future funding, we hope to create tools to simplify this part of the data visualization process as well.

March 12, 2014 - 08:38

Thanks for this post. It is interesting to see how plagiarism in the US compares to that in Romania (from Monday's post) by the numbers.

I don't find a great deal of plagiarism in my classes. As you have discussed above, I usually encourage students to build projects that cater to their individual academic interests. For instance, in my introductory writing courses, I assign students to research the kinds of writing they will do in their disciplines or future careers. This includes interviewing someone in their field so that that have a variety of sources. I look over drafts of major writing assignments before they are due so that I can see how they are doing and know that they are not writing the whole paper the night before. I think both of these help students create original work that will be relevant to them after my class.

Anecdotally, when I have caught students plagiarizing, I generally ask them what happened. Most students are honest about what they have done. They usually say that they are over-committed (work, sports, or family commitments got in the way of writing) or they confess that the class is a little beyond what they feel they are capable of. I try to turn these into discussions on budgeting time and seeking out resources. As a grad student, I mostly teach introductory courses. I wonder if plagiarism decreases once students get into advanced course work and graduate work. 

March 12, 2014 - 00:23

This is a really interesting way of thinking about plagiarism and what it means. In my mind I have always considered plagiarism as taking someone's exact words and claiming that they are your own. I realize that is a very basic way of thinking about it but I feel like it one that we need to take into consideration when having this discussion. I think the idea of just copying words full cloth has become so synonymous with plagiarism that it makes it harder to have any other conversations about the idea of taking ideas and not just the words.

You talk about the line between common knowledge and plagiarism and I wonder how much consideration students have for that line. In my mind if I am doing research and I see the same basic concept being discussed everywhere I look I am going to be more inclined to treat it as common knowledge but I would still be weary of not citing things. I feel that our culture has moved so far from the idea of common knowledge and into the realm of capitalistic ownership of ideas that it makes of trigger happy so we feel the need to cite everything even if it doesn't seem to really merit it.

March 10, 2014 - 09:50

Thank you for sharing your study, and I think it's a valuable one for teachers as they work to prevent plagiarism among their students. I found it particularly interesting that one of the main causes behind plagiarism was the level of teacher control. If students felt their teacher wasn't checking their work, they took the opportunity to plagiarize. It makes me wonder whether this was true of students in non-digital teaching contexts (which are rare anymore), or among students before the digital age. Was student plagiarism caused by teacher control in an era when the copy/paste function wasn't available? Teacher control seems to be a variable that isn't entirely connected to digital texts, and I'd be interested to see a comparative study in order to track the impact of digital access to information and the ease of copying.

March 3, 2014 - 11:47

"Our attention-or lack thereof" is a perfect way to introduce this best practice for data visualization. By implementing principles of design like contrast, repetition, etc. as used in more traditional art practices, I think we really can capture the interest of the viewer and help them to better understand the data presented.  This is a really interesting way to look at this process, and to conceptualize how we can mix research with art to be "noticeable, impactful, or memorable." This post has certainly inspired me to look at my data from a narrative view, and to find better ways to catch attention rather than just displaying research. 

March 1, 2014 - 09:22

Your comments actually remind me of my first statistics courses. It was there that I learned that there are graphs and charts better suited to particular kinds of data (none of which was related to the Swiss International Style). We covered similar questions in a course on Visual Rhetoric. I think it is really important to remember how we easy it is to manipulate images and to look for ways that information in privileged in different data visualization. 

February 27, 2014 - 10:18

I love your idea for students to work together across disciplines to fully grasp not only their personal research topics, but also the coding requirements necessary to visually express their research. I feel that a lot of humanities research is lost to those that consider themselves "visual learners" because of the lack of data visualization in the field, but that these tools could help bring humanities research to light in a way that eliminates some of this segregation of departments. From my own limited research alone, I have run into many issues with the organization of my data and how long it takes to search through everything, etc., and I think many early scholars like myself could really benefit from these kinds of tools. I wonder, would it be difficult to train instructors in the Processing programming language so that they can share this knowledge with their students? I think that could also open up new teaching opportunities and be an exciting class that many students would love to take, if it could be offered as such. 

February 26, 2014 - 22:01

What I would really love to see is lots of folks writing more about their process and their methods. That is, lay out some issue they are interested in and then try out various tools and write out what they get from their use of them. That is, have them do some show and tell about what they are getting out of them and share their work for the broader community to respond to and discuss.