Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Twitter.

The title of this post comes from a conversation I had with my dad, about why exactly he should care about ‘tweeting’. (It's interesting how my parents tend to throw "the" in front of words- my boyfriends mom still calls it "The Bell")

It took me a long time to jump on the Twitter bandwagon. It took me relatively less time to jump on Facebook way back when, but I was bribed with the ability to find friends and travel mates pictures from our group trip to China. I’ve always been iffy about what I publicize about myself, and I found it weird that people would base judgments of me on 140 character statements. Also, I didn’t overly understand why exactly I (or you) would care about what I bought for groceries, that I’m getting take out, that I’m mildly bored, or, as one of my recent tweets stated as I awkwardly sat with a roomful of librarians at an AGM watching me awkwardly from my glass surrounded office right beside the board room where in a roomful of librarians, every one of them over 60 has an ipad, and everyone under 40 has paper. The rest have laptops.

The longer I’m on it (and I’m past a 1000 tweets, for better or worse) the more pleasantly surprised I am by it. I’ve found some interesting professional and personal relationships and as a way to get up to date information it’s invaluable. I’ve found colleagues around the world with similar interests, am able to follow news of my undergraduate degree and I even have a Direct Message (ok, so secret) book club where we chat about all of our guilty pleasure books. I’ve connected colleagues in relating but separate fields of film and music, to web designers and grant writers, had off the wall late night study decompression tangents, and even created a Toronto trivia team like no other. Twitter, blogging and other social media outlets can be a great way to both connect and stay connected but are also an amazing tool for staying relevant.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Government information vs. Freedom. Round... who knows.

Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs Withdraws Its Warning to Students About Leaked Diplomatic Cables

Last week, Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs Office of Career Services sent an email to students saying that an alumnus who works at the State Department had recommended that current students not tweet or post links to WikiLeaks because doing so could hurt their career prospects in government service since many of the diplomatic cables disclosed by WikiLeaks are classified. That warning has filtered down to some law school career services professionals. Boston University School of Law’s career services office, for example, issued a similar warning [text of email via ATL].

The Dean of Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, John H. Coatsworth, has now withdrawn its warning to the School’s students. Quoting from his email:

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

Should the U.S. Department of State issue any guidelines relating to the WikiLeaks documents for prospective employees, SIPA will make them available immediately

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why take notes when you have voice recognition software?

Texting in Class: Survey Findings and Recommendations

There was recently a case at the University of Toronto where in a first year physics class, a professor was distracted/frustrated/angered/hurt/annoyed by students meowing in his class. This situation is one of many examples of what happens when class sizes get too large, and students feel they are part of a system, not a person.

Deborah Tindell and Robert Bohlander, Wilkes University psychology professors, surveyed 269 students anonymously about students texting in class. They found that:

  • 95 percent of students bring their phones to class every day.
  • 91 percent have used their phones to text message during class time.
  • Almost half of respondents said it was easy to text in class without instructors being aware.
  • 99 percent said they should be permitted to retain their cell phones while in class.
  • 62 percent said they should be allowed to text in class as long as they don’t disturb their classmates. (About a quarter of the students stated that texting creates a distraction to those sitting nearby.)
  • 10 percent said that they have sent or received text messages during exams, and 3 percent admitted to transmitting exam information during a test.

(Emphasis added.)

None of this surprised me. I graduated with my undergraduate degree in 2007 from a very small liberal arts university in New Brunswick. I don’t want to say I was there ‘pre’ phone, because that’s a bit ridiculous – we all had cell phones, but at the same time very, very few of us had smart phones. I don’t know if it was the vibe on campus, but in addition until my last year of school most of us didn’t bring laptops to class either. This may have been because of small class sizes – in a class of 3-15 you notice when one person isn’t paying attention, or is texting – but for whatever reason, we actually paid attention to the professor.

The authors offered the following suggestions based on feedback:

  • Have a clear, written policy about cell phone use and enforce it consistently. State that phones must be out of sight and turned off during class. Make penalties clear, such as losing points or dropping a letter grade for unauthorized cell phone use. Penalties can be applied to attendance or participation credit by assuming that if a student is texting in class, they are not “present.”
  • Classroom design is an important component in curtailing cell phone use. The smaller and more intimate the classroom setting, the more difficult it is to text, students say. Desks that do not permit hidden cell phone use are helpful as well. If the classroom contains columns or other visual obstructions, instructors may want to prevent students from sitting in seats that are obscured from the instructor’s view.
  • Instructors should circulate around the classroom, and spend some time in the back of the classroom. Teachers should avoid focusing their attention on the blackboard, lecture notes, or on projected images at the front of the room, and instead pay attention to the activities of the students, making frequent eye contact. Survey respondents indicated that it is easier to text in class when the instructor is not paying attention to the students in the class.

(Emphasis added.)

I think the recommendations are vital but it’s also an important discussion on classroom politics in general. In my undergrad we paid attention because the profs knew our names, and would call us out and ask us questions. But again, by my fourth year my class sizes averaged 10 people- when you’re working with a classroom size of potentially 600+ students that just isn’t feasible. The largest classroom size possible at my undergrad was 150 students, and that only happened for first year classes. How do you inspire students to care about the work, and respect you when they feel that you don’t/can’t care about them being there?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

So I have a little free time on my hands...

A lot, apparently. Chris Good goes over past precedent where the 20 members crossed the line for their peers. Charlie Rangel was always safe, unless he angled for the Spanish territory in Louisiana. More at The Atlantic.

Then there are these CRS Reports:

  • Status of a Member of the House Who Has Been Convicted of a Felony (RS21196 April 15, 2002)
  • Expulsion, Censure, Reprimand, and Fine: Legislative Discipline in the House of Representatives (RL31382 Jan 25, 2005)
  • Expulsion and Censure Actions Taken by the Full Senate Against Members (93-875 Nov 12, 2008)
  • Recall of Legislators and the Removal of Members of Congress from Office (RL30016 March 26, 2010)