Hoax History?

Interesting use of digital media, including the weaknesses in Wikipedia, to set up hoax histories:

Lying About the Past course aims to teach students method and scepticism. Jon Marcus reports

It was while watching his 10-year-old son in class one day that T. Mills Kelly thought of a new way to teach history to undergraduates at George Mason University in Virginia.

Asked to answer questions about the American Civil War, the children “threw themselves down on the floor, got out their coloured pencils and formed themselves into groups”, Professor Kelly said.

He lamented that none of his students were so engaged with the subject. “They enjoy being history majors, but they’re not having fun being history majors,” he thought.

He had to find a way to make the subject more fun.

Although Professor Kelly, a former fellow at the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and associate director of George Mason’s Center for History and New Media, had long looked for “disruptive” ways to teach history, few ideas were as disruptive as the one he had that day: get his students to make things up.

In a course titled Lying About the Past, Professor Kelly encourages students to create elaborate hoaxes based on fact. He said it was an ideal way to teach historical method – and to instil the kind of scepticism historians need but undergraduates increasingly lack.

Read full story or read more (and do you approve or disapprove?)


What about the publishers?

Fascinating information about the place of publishers in a digital age:

In recent weeks, academic publishers have been accused of everything from unfairly raising costs to presiding over a sector-wide monopoly of Genghis Khan proportions. But the greatest charge laid against us is that we are becoming, or have become, obsolete. One could argue that there might be a point here. We don’t write what we publish. Much production work is outsourced. Often it is not us who sell you what we produce. So what’s left?

Crucially, we nurture the professional editorial skills that select, craft, refine and organise the quality material that you want to read. We take authors to the market. We build the brands readers rely on to make choices in a world of information overload.

We are risk-takers, investors in the market potential of intellectual property, and creditors of last resort to the supply chain that delivers what you read. If a project fails, we take the loss. If it succeeds, authors earn royalties or enhance their reputations, retailers sell books, platform providers expand, we all pay taxes – society benefits.

We evolve scalable, sustainable enterprises that enable intellectual freedom and the flow of culture and scholarship. Beyond a copyright framework to protect our investments, we strive for the widest distribution and access to our publishing that we can achieve.

We work constantly to maintain standards. We represent the vehicle for integrity and objectivity so vital to scholarship. We produce learning material fitted to syllabus and assessment, which is vital for academic success. We provide information sources for the professions.

Some academic publishers are globally successful, and those in the UK collectively export more books than any country on earth. Some would argue that we need that experience in international markets to fuel growth.

But hasn’t the internet left us wrong-footed? Certainly not. We have been using digital delivery for years – 95 per cent of academic journals are available electronically, and the UK is more advanced in using digital learning resources than any other country. Publishers are enablers of all that.
They go on:
Of course, the paradigm is shifting. Searchable archives on the internet will make us redundant, so the argument goes. But without selection, investment in editorial skills, quality filters, marketing, supply-chain management and customer service, our absence would soon be felt and we’d most likely be reinvented.
Academic Digital

Avoid plagiarism? Allow unfettered internet access! (echoes @mwesch)

As I remember Michael Wesch saying in a presentation I saw on YouTube, it’s not about making students “knowledgeable”, it’s about making them “knowledge-able”… able to use resources well… and to tackle the mass of information they have to deal with, contextualise it and use it well!

Novel Scandinavian strategy to tackle cheating is ‘no soft option’. Sarah Cunnane reports

A Danish university has adopted an unusual strategy to tackle cheating: allowing unfettered internet access, even during examinations.

Lise Petersen, e-learning project coordinator at the University of Southern Denmark, said that all handwritten exams were being revised and transferred to a digital platform wherever possible, with a completion date of January 2012.

She said administering exams via internet software would allow lecturers to create tests that were aligned with course content rather than “trivia” quizzes.

“What you want to test is problem-solving and analytical skills, and … students’ ability to reflect and discuss one particular topic,” she said.

Ms Petersen added that, far from being a soft option, using the internet as an academic tool was a challenge for most students because of the sheer volume of information available.

“The skill is discerning between relevant and irrelevant information and then putting it in context,” she said.

On the issue of plagiarism and cheating, Ms Petersen said that while there would always be legitimate concerns, online assessment presented a novel solution to the problem.

“One way of preventing cheating is by saying nothing is allowed and giving students a piece of paper and a pen,” she said. “The other way is to say everything is allowed except plagiarism.

Read full story.

Academic Digital

So last century (@timeshighered)

So, is University about preparing students for work, or does it have a higher purpose? Either way does it work in the 21st Century environment?

About 100 years ago, higher education restructured to meet the needs of the industrial age. It has changed little since, even as the internet has transformed life. Another revolution is needed, says Cathy Davidson, to modernise universities and prepare graduates for a 21st-century working environment

Several times each week, well-groomed young men and women parade by my faculty office with a steely-eyed mien as premeditated as their business attire. They are in search of the university career centre, which is up a narrow staircase seemingly invisible to those looking too hard. “Can I help you?” I’ve learned to offer. “Please!” they practically whimper, their carefully planned confidence evaporating into thin air. “I’m lost.”

“Lost” is a good word for the graduate of today. Even at a prestigious institution such as Duke University, where the job placement rate is well above the norm, students feel unprepared for the workplace that awaits them. No wonder. Every survey of employers underscores the fact that higher education no longer prepares students for the changing demands of the contemporary workplace.

Whether the study is conducted by the CBI in the UK or by commercial for-profit educational providers drumming up business for their remedial post-baccalaureate job-training services, everyone seems to acknowledge that today’s students are good test-takers but lack the workplace essentials necessary for the 21st century. These include people skills (especially in diverse global contexts), communication skills, collaborative skills, analytical skills, networking skills, an ability to synthesise information across a wide range of evidence, and even the most elementary skills, such as how to write a great job application letter and curriculum vitae or represent their character and talent at a job interview. No wonder they face the career centre with such trepidation.

Read full article.


Internet History (Infographic)