October 2007 Archives

Modesty? Pah!

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Check out this photo credit, please.

For those keeping track, this is the second of my photos to make the big time - one of the photos I took in Halifax at the Titanic gravesite is featured in a Swedish site devoted to the disaster.

OK, I can't compete with my significantly more talented friend, Irene; it's no book cover, and no money has changed hands, but at least I've given that meerkat his fifteen minutes of fame.

But that's cheating!

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Last spring, I encountered a case of plagiarism in one of my Cont. Ed. courses; for an essay assignment, a student submitted a slightly reworded version of an on-line essay available through one of the many Internet study guide sites. At the time, I posted my response, which provoked a few cheers from some of you.

The following addresses the issue of academic ethics in the context of the Internet, and is my first journal entry for the latest M.Ed. course I'm taking, 'IT and the College Classroom.' There's also an interesting thread dealing with academic ethics over on Siobhan's blog, so if you can still stand looking at your screen once you're done here, go check it out.

The advent of the Internet has had a profound effect on education, and this effect is both positive and negative. In positive terms, the Internet has exponentially expanded our academic horizons. We have access to research and commentary from fellow academics from around the world. We can read out-of-print books, see rare film adaptations, and hear long-forgotten radio plays, thanks to the ongoing global academic effort to share more and more knowledge among more and more people. The academy in particular, perhaps, benefits from the same non-profit-oriented open source spirit that has given us free software such as Open Office, Linux and Moodle.

Symptoms of the mid-term slump

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Next Thursday is officially the middle of the fall semester, and I for one am feeling it. The one good thing is that since I've been through this period before, I know what to expect. How can I tell it's the middle of the semester?

~ I spent all of yesterday in a complete fog. I have no idea how I got from one class to the next, or from home to school and back. I got home and collapsed. I tried to nap, but evil creatures from another planet my children wouldn't let me.

~ I know that the correcting I have to take care of is reasonably easy, but I still don't even want to look at it.

~ When students ask innocent questions like "when will you be returning my essay," I have cartoon visions of them roasting on a spit with apples in their mouths. I might just be hungry.

~ I am having my usual mid-semester dreams. Now, in the past, these have featured guest appearances by such stars as Brad Pitt and Ben Affleck (not at the same time - but there's an idea). Last night, I dreamt that I had discovered Green & Black's chocolate at the dollar store. The whole range - even butterscotch. Not to mention the dark cherry. Sigh.

The good news is that past experience tells me that this is not a permanent state of affairs, and that in a matter of days I will be back on track. On the other hand, the fact that this is a recurring phenomenon confirms my belief that we should have an autumn break, because presumably I am not the only person in the academic world whose resources are feeling a little tapped at this stage.

Unfortunately, I personally don't have the energy required to do anything about changing the system. So if someone else could take care of that, I'd appreciate it. I'll even sign a petition, as long as you bring it to me. With a pen. And a chocolate bar.

...thus sealing his doom

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We are enjoying unseasonably warm weather up here in the hinterland these days. It's summer-warm and sunny, and I took advantage of this fair weather to get the boys out of the house yesterday afternoon.

Background: for the last few weeks, the boys have been experimenting with independence - they get off the school bus without a grown-up waiting at the stop, let themselves into the house on those days that I get home a little later than they do, and go to the park, two blocks away, without adult supervision.

So when yesterday proved to be yet another beautiful day, and the boys were both finished their homework with lots of daylight left, I sent them off to the park without me.

Half an hour later, the door slammed open and the two boys burst in, simultaneously screaming at me and each other. Colin got to me first:

Colin: "Robert wrote the F-word on the seesaw!!!!!"

Naturally, my reaction was:

"Robert!!!!" (for proper intonation, imagine Fred screaming "Wilma!!!!")

Robert: "I forgot how to spell the French word for 'seal*'!!!!"

Since we had already used up our daily quota of exclamation marks, I quietly explained that (a) it's not OK to write on someone else's property, even if it's painfully evident that plenty of other neighbourhood hoodlums don't agree; (b) using the F-word is an adult privilege and potentially offensive; and (c) I'm not quite that stupid.

*The French word for seal is 'phoque,' and is thus a source of great amusement to all of us anglophones at some stage in our elementary career. Ironically, the actual F-word is not particularly taboo in French, since bodily functions, which inform so much English cursing, are not nearly as horrific as taking the Lord's name in vain in French... but that's really another story altogether.

Oh, and in case you're wondering, the 'writing' was done with a charred stick and was thus not actually permanent.

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