August

According to John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at the University of Ioannina School of Medicine in Greece (in New Scientist via Zonk of Slashdot),

Most published scientific research papers are wrong, according to a new analysis. Assuming that the new paper is itself correct, problems with experimental and statistical methods mean that there is less than a 50% chance that the results of any randomly chosen scientific paper are true.

Ioannidis is speaking of medical research, but if something so "concrete" can be so often wrong, then by extrapolating to "fuzzier" fields (i.e., history, linguistics, education, sociology), I imagine that the percentage of "wrongness" should rise. What does this say about the academic endeavor?



From the Quality of Life Research Center (via Jeremy Hiebett) is an article published in School Psychology Quarterly co-authored by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist long associated with flow, the experience of optimal engagement. Here's their abstract:

We present a conceptualization of student engagement based on the culmination of concentration, interest, and enjoyment (i.e., flow). Using a longitudinal sample of 526 high school students across the US, we investigated how adolescents spent their time in high school and the conditions under which they reported being engaged. Participants experienced increased engagement when the perceived challenge of the task and their own skills were high and in balance, the instruction was relevant, and the learning environment was under their control. Participants were also more engaged in individual and group work vs. listening to lectures, watching videos, or taking exams. Suggestions to increase engagement, such as providing focused on learning activities that support students’ autonomy and provide an appropriate level of challenge for students’ skills, conclude the paper.

For those interested in the sampling methods used by Csikszentmihalyi, "Happiness in Everyday Life: The Uses of Experience Sampling" will be of help.



Barbara Ganning makes an interesting comment about the social importance of blogging.

We can use technology to bring people together rather than to isolate them further into themselves through using social software to connect communities, through the age-old community-building friendship-bonding, extended ruminating, reflective practices such as letter writing.

And that's the promise right there, I think, of blogs in the Blogging the World Project--not just to give students a space to gather their thoughts about their own, particular, separate immersive experience abroad, but to connect with one another, student in Russia with student in Germany, say, and to reach out and say, this is what is happening here, and this is what blogging seems to mean and how it feels.



For Mac researchers wanting a tool to integrate "visual arts, design and theoretical research," check out txtkit (via Ulises Mejias):

txtkit is an Open Source visual text mining tool for exploring large amounts of multilingual texts. It's a multiuser-application which mainly focuses on the process of reading and reasoning as a series of decisions and events. To expand this single perspective activity txtkit collects all of the users mining data and uses them to create content recommendations through collaborative filtering. The software requires Mac OS X 10.3 and Internet access.



George Siemens at Connectivism wonders about the group think that may occur from the possible moving away from centering agents toward our own inclinations of aggregating information:

What happens when we no longer share centering agents? What happens when all of my information comes only from sources that promote view points I already hold? I am concerned that this process is creating a serious divide in the ability of people to dialogue and share common understandings. Now, if I'm so inclined, I can listen only to perspectives of my own political party. If I follow Rush Limbaugh or Daily Kos, I can receive a constant message that assures me that I am right, and the other side is wrong. I think this is dangerous. The breakdown of common understanding and dialogue poses a real risk to the civility of society.

Educators have a role to play in encouraging learners to consume information from differing spectrums of thought. We are starting to see the emergence of some centering agents for individuals (bloglines) and rudimentary centering tools for groups (del.icio.us). Whatever our view or perspective, as learners in a global stage, we need to move (at minimum) to dialogue with those around us. The closing of public information spaces into private, like-minded thought communities is discouraging.



Complementing the previous entry, Hui Cao, an ESL graduate teaching assistant finds grading native-speakers' papers difficult, frustrating, and rewarding.

"Grading was the toughest job. You had to read 40 papers with the average length of seven--- for twice. You had to write pages of comments on each one and be ready for their arguments. The close reading of their shitty first drafts for days made me sick. It usually took me an entire weekend to finish that. I hided myself under my desk and cried after it was done. When I was able to cry--- believe it or not, that would be my best time. ...

If I was asked whether I was qualified to teach native speakers English composition with my sometimes awkward written English, my answer would be I don't know but certainly I could contribute much to their writing. Writing, especially academic writing which I teach is more a kind of training of people's mind, making them think more logically, rationally, clearly and concisely with the least fallacies. Since mind and language are two separate things, articulating thoughts through language is a kind of art. For academic writing, the art has to be shaped to satisfy public's taste. The strength of rhetorical strategies in the States is so powerful everywhere that they can massage people's life easily. Plus most of the guys do not really know how to think and write. Their over-fluent oral English and simplified reasoning are everywhere in their papers."



According to NetworkWorld, "University of Missouri-Columbia sociology professor Ed Brent apparently got sick of doing his job, so he's outsourced paper-grading to a computer." Assessment of papers is time-consuming, but it makes you wonder whether the professor's job will be outsourced to a computer some day.

Question: With the availability of information growing on the Internet, will universities become extinct? What sort of entities might take their place? Or how might universities evolve, if possible, to continue to be players in the knowledge game? Will the Internet facilitate the emergence of knowledge as a commodity? Or as a resource to be pursued?



More from The Blog Herald on content theft and also spam blogs through "blog and ping" technology.



Michelle Meyers talks about the iPod and God:

A lot of people worship their iPods. Now they have a new way to use their iPods for worship.

That is, iPocketBible lets iPodders read "Holy Bible, New Living Translation," listen to it, or do both.

As mentioned in the previous entry on social bookmarking, software is changing the way people interact with others and even when by themselves.

Question: How will these technologies affect social interactions? Will there be more or fewer interdependencies among individuals and groups? Will they create more flexibility or more stability?



A new software tool Digg combines elements of social bookmarking, RSS feeds, blogs, and more. From their site (via Ulises Umejias):

Digg is a technology news website that combines social bookmarking, blogging, RSS, and non-hierarchical editorial control. With digg, users submit stories for review, but rather than allowing an editor to decide which stories go on the homepage, the users do.

It looks like the building blocks of the different software tools are gradually being integrated into one tool that will facilitate more reading, more writing, and more interaction. It will be interesting to see what sorts of links and networks will emerge from making technology easier and especially more social.

Question: How will these technologies affect educational institutions? Will there be a move from a more authority ranking relational model to one of the other relational models?



Mary Hodder at napsterization.org (via Ulises Mejias) states that simply counting links isn't as important as the nature of the links in determining influence.

For many bloggers the relevant sphere of influence is not overall popularity, as those indexes express. It's influence and connection within a community. And the relevant measure of connection isn't the number of connections -- it's the depth and impact of those connections. This is about celebrating the niche, and measuring engagement over time."

She gives a much more complex rubric for determing a blog's importance.



Google now offers RSS and Atom feeds. Remembering previous entries on public domain, copyright, and "intellectual property" rights, note their terms of use:

We invite you to make noncommercial use of Google's RSS and Atom feeds on your website subject to these terms, Google's Terms of Service, and the Google News Terms of Service. If you incorporate our feeds onto your website, please also:

  1. attribute the feeds to Google News.
  2. attribute each news item to its provider, using the provider name as it appears in the Google News feed.
  3. include a link to the Google News cluster of related articles for each news item, using the link provided in the Google News feed.
  4. identify the search terms used to generate the feed.

We reserve all rights in and to the Google and Google News marks. We also reserve the right to terminate any use of the feeds on grounds that we deem appropriate. You may not redistribute Google's feeds.



John Willinsky, a professor of education at the University of British Columbia, argues that we should treat "intellectual property as public goods."

With the use of open source code, no less than with scholarly work, the property right at issue is almost entirely a matter of respecting the authorship of the original work. ... One of the intellectual properties of scholarly work is its reflection on how ideas take shape among groups of people over time. The scholarship’s value, in turn, is entirely determined by those who later come to utilize and then build upon a given property without remittance to the original author, beyond this acknowledgement. Such an approach to property, to return to an earlier point, is clearly not about ownership, in the common sense of a right to exclude."

The difference between Willinsky's persepctive and that of arguing for "everything is free" on the Internet is that of crediting one's sources.

Question: If there should be no intellectual property right/ownership, why should there be an attribution responsibility? How might the relational models be used here?



Paul Graham, author and programmer, talks about what businesses can learn from blogging and open source software:

So these, I think, are the three big lessons open source and blogging have to teach business: (1) that people work harder on stuff they like, (2) that the standard office environment is very unproductive, and (3) that bottom-up often works better than top-down.

None of this is new, but he has quite a few good personal examples. His concluding paragraph recommends,

That may be the greatest effect, in the long run, of the forces underlying open source and blogging: finally ditching the old paternalistic employer-employee relationship, and replacing it with a purely economic one, between equals.

From the relational models perspective of Alan Fiske, what Graham is saying is that people are more productive when in an equality matching model than in an authority ranking model.

Question: I wonder about Graham's claim: Might an authority ranking model be more productive in some contexts? Which?



The Internet is influencing academia, moving professors to "market" their "intellectual property." Michael J. Bugeja, director of the journalism school at Iowa State University, writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education,

For better or worse, the Internet is playing a larger role in editorial decisions about books and in promotion and tenure evaluations. It is commonplace for external reviewers to Google Web sites or troll databases before rendering their decisions on behalf of publishing houses and institutions.

Search committees also are using the Web to evaluate the writing or scholarship of job applicants before inviting them to on-campus interviews.

Bugeia's advises academics to "market" themselves and their "intellectual property by setting up sites for their books and research, and creating their own "academic brand."

Supporting Sally Chandler's thoughts in the entry below, Bugeia writes,

If you're considering a book site, you should realize the convention of the Internet: People expect things for free. This is not the medium for professors concerned about copyright issues or intellectual property. If you're in that crowd, you won't easily share your pedagogies or methodologies so your site will be static -- or worse, will seem purely self-promotional.

Even so, the "free-for-all" attitude on Internet content is still in flux. Perhaps, the best example of common property knowledge is that of Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia written and maintained by volunteers. Recently, a Reuters article (via Kairosnews) reports that it has been subjected to vandalism. Its cofounder Jimmy Wales says that they plan to

impose stricter editorial rules to prevent vandalism of its content.

The interaction of Internet freedom with vandalism and content theft (along with media companies and others' influence) may result in the emergence of a much less free Internet, even for the digital generation.



Sally Chandler, a colleague from the English Department here at Kean University, is working with two undergraduate research partners, Jacklyn Lopez and Joshua Burnett, on a project which explores differences between "insiders" (members of the internet generation) and "newcomers" (members of print generation). She sees ownership and digital generations somewhat differently. She says that her reading and research indicates that:

individuals whose experiences in digital spaces have influenced their mindsets do hold a different perspective with respect to the ownership of ideas. This is not to say that members of the internet generation do not bring conventional assumptions about ownership to most of their relationships in the material world, but it is to say that they have very different assumptions values and beliefs (mindsets) regarding how and for what uses ideas and products can/should be legitimately owned in virtual spaces. Insiders' ideas about ownership are qualitatively different from the ideas embedded in xeroxing pages of a book or copying a tape for a friend, which are common to the print generation.

These differences have resulted in "the creation of open code, shareware, creative commons, and other vehicles which allow respectful and "free" use of  other's ideas and conceptual creations. For those interested in pursuing this topic, she mentioned work by Richard Lanham, Manual Castells, Colin Lanshear and Michele Knobel, and John Perry Barlow. 

Two online sources to check out include John Perry Barlow's "The Declaration of Independence for Cyberspace" and Lawrence Lessig's blog.

Her main point was that

our mindsets are the products of our experiences, and those of us who are in the print generation bring patterns for thinking and behaving to digital spaces which are suitable to the material world, but which may or may not make sense in the virtual world.  As pointed out in Barlow's Declaration, conceptions of ownership developed in a material economy of scarcity where goods get used up and are limited, are not applicable in a world of infinite resources where use generates value and access increases use.

It's hard to imagine that one's experiences, in cyberspace or otherwise, do not have consequences. I'll read and think some more on this issue.



Much has been made of public domain attitude of the digital generation. That is, unlike those growing up with print, those growing up on the Internet seem to think that all is in the public domain, free for downloading and appropriating for one's own use. Remember the Napster controversy.

I believe that the "digital" attitude is more one of appearance than of substance. Based on my own observations of ten enlisted years in the military and more years elsewhere, the print generation felt and feels no compunction about copying audio and video cassettes from friends and others. The psychology of "downloaders" is the same as that of "copiers"; what has changed is the tremendous volume involved due to electronic ease, and thus an illusion that the digital generation's attitude toward public domain differs from the print generation. (Mia Zamora, my colleague, helped me clarify my thoughts on this "attitude.")

On my other blog ESL Writing & Technology ("Blog content theft," Aug 2), I wrote that Duncan Riley and others are dealing with the problem of websites re-publishing entire articles en masse, considering it to be theft. In another entry on my other blog ("Understanding links," July 26, 2005), I wrote that the concept of giving credit "comes to life naturally when ownership of writing is real as opposed to course requirements."

Putting time and effort into one's work, whether one is of the digital or print generation, creates a sense of ownership that removes one's work from the public domain. Back to the Napster controversy. Those who felt they had the right to download freely did so because they had not "worked," whether at composing music (or writing sufficiently from their own resources). Consequently, they had no sense of ownership and so did not grant ownership to others. Thus, rather than a difference of generations, the so-called "public domainness" of the digital generation is more likely a difference of ownership.

Of course, downloading music digitally and physically copying audio and video cassettes is not exactly the same with respect to the notion of ownership. That is, once people paid for a cassette, they had ownership and perhaps felt (usually?) that they had the right to copy for personal use and, by extrapolation, the right to give copies to others, although the latter was illegal. That's a point I'll need to consider some more.

If we consider this notion of "public domainness" from the framework of Alan Fiske's social relational models (community sharing, authority ranking, equality matching, and market pricing), those that claim all of the Internet is public domain might be thought to be engaging in a community sharing model, all property belongs to the community without regard to creatorship, while the owners are engaged in a market pricing model in which people interact according to "values determined by a market system.". Consequently, the difference between owners and users in the relational model being used leads to conflict. (In the case of the cassette age, both owners and users may have used a market pricing model but disagree on the what was actually transferred in the transaction.) Probably, however, the conflict is between a market pricing model and an asocial model. In an asocial model, people disregard the social relational models, treating others as objects, as means to an end, not as human beings. Consequently, by treating the owners of web content as objects rather than human beings (which is made easier when the owners are often "impersonal" companies), web users take web content as if it belonged to no one.

From this perspective of social relational models, the print and digital generations are the same: Owners are insisting on a market pricing model of interaction, while consumers are operating asocially. The same psychological and social mechanisms are at work. Not enough time has gone by for a truly different culture to emerge with respect to attitude toward the "public domain."



In Dynamics in Action, Part I (see July 25, 2005), enabling constraints were seen to be important in learning. As Juarero notes, in a complex system, enabling "constraints paradoxically also create new freedoms for the overall system" (p. 247). In contrast, without constraints, information overload leads to burn out, non-learning. By reducing the amount of information coming in, constraints allow that information to self-organize (actually for the neurons to self-organize), thus opening up to more alternatives. Juarrero puts it terms of having a larger phase space with more dimensions. And the more alternatives there are, the more autonomy can be exercised.

Juarrero asks "whether and to what extent we can teach children to focus and channel their internal dynamics?" (p. 251), to become more psychologically complex. This question is crucial because, as she (and the folk proverb) notes, we become "set in our ways" quite early on. To be, instead, resilient and flexible, adapting to new contexts, requires attending to when young. But, still, how to accomplish this goal?