Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Educators and Academic Integrity: Who watches the watchers?

Timken Roller Bearing Co., calendar, September...Image by George Eastman House via Flickr

A couple of years ago Vickel Narayan and I wrote a paper entitle Pedagogy, policing or preventing plagiarism? A little more recently we were asked by Jude Barback (incoming Editor of New Zealand Education Review) to comment on academic integrity and "the issue of governance and disciplining of tertiary educators". This really got me thinking...with all the focus on students plagiarising, who does watch the watchers? What happens when educators plagiarise? And what sort of Professional Learning and Development could be offered to help avoid unintentional instances of academic dishonesty?

The questions and answers below are pretty much the thoughts we shared with Jude, and although the focus is Unitec NZ the discussion is likely to be relevant for a wide range of education institutions. These are followed by a short video from Rodd Lucier entitled "Creative Commons: What Every Educator Needs to Know" which illustrates some of the issues as well as providing some practical solutions and guidance.

Please join in the conversation by adding your own thoughts in the comments :-)

Gnu teacherImage via Wikipedia

1) There seems to be emphasis on plagiarism by students, but are there any policies or guidelines for dealing with plagiarism by lecturers?

The only policies and guidelines that exist (at Unitec anyway) are general rather than with specific reference to plagiarism by lecturers (even though “the temptation to...[plagiarise] is as great for lecturers as it is for students” (Hunt, 2010, paragraph 1). As these links illustrate, this is a big issue:
The Unitec Code of Conduct for lecturers states: “The Code is written as a set of general principles rather than detailed prescriptions”; and “While academic freedom is a right, it carries with it the duty of academics to use the freedom in a manner consistent with a responsible and honest search for, and dissemination of, knowledge and truth”. The Code also refers to more general points of respect, fair treatment and privacy. There are separate guidelines around research ethics, and for the supervision of postgraduate students - but again, discussion of academic integrity appears to be around student behaviour, with more general discussion of strategies for supervising postgraduate students.

The central focus at Unitec NZ, and other institutions appears to be captured in the following:

“Last year a team including the author visited all 17 academic schools at Unitec and made half-hour presentations to the teaching staff on the importance of promoting academic integrity and on Unitec‟s policies and processes for dealing with breaches by students.” [Emphasis not in the original] (Donald, n.d., p. 2)

One of the most interesting moments in all of the professional development sessions that Vickel and I facilitated was when lecturers were asked to run a piece of their own work through Turnitin. There were observable levels of stress, and, for example, anger when the box to exclude references had not been ticked and a negative report was received. In the discussion following this exercise, a few lecturers said that they had not previously used plagiarism detection software on their own work, and had found this particular experience extremely negative...although they could see how it might be used in a formative way while they were writing papers. We did not, however, cover explicitly the bigger issues of academic integrity, especially those that are present with the supervision of postgraduates.

Image representing Creative Commons as depicte...Image via CrunchBase

2) Are you aware of how lecturers/teaching staff are disciplined if need be?

No lecturers / teaching staff have been, as far as we are aware, disciplined for plagiarism. It is likely, however, that Unitec NZ would follow similar procedures are Cardiff University in the UK (see below), and investigate a lecturer / teaching staff member under the terms of the Code of Conduct, and Research Ethics to ascertain whether there has been misconduct.

“In a statement, Cardiff University said: "Such allegations are always treated extremely seriously and the university has in place established procedures for the investigation of such cases. The allegations against the member of staff in the Cardiff Business School were considered in accordance with the procedures, and the investigation panel, which was chaired by a judge, concluded that the allegations with regard to two published articles were substantiated." (THE, paragraphs 11 and 12)

Ga academicImage via Wikipedia

3) Is there any mechanism available to Unitec students (or other tertiary students that you know of) to find out if their lecturers are professionally competent?

Unitec NZ has a couple of formal ways of evaluating lecturers / teaching staff including the Student Evaluation of Quality (SEQUAL), but it would likely be difficult for an potential student to find the results, especially for individual lecturers. There are ways of researching lecturers, but they tend to be informal or Department-based. So, for example, the Department of Business studies runs a blog; and has also videos such as Unitec Management and Marketing Lecturer - Denisa Hebblethwaite. Informal means could also be contacting students who have previously studied with a lecturer, and Unitec NZ is working on putting together an alumni.

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Monday, March 14, 2011

Greetings from Your Foreign Correspondent: A report about support for Christchurch's Schools (by Douglas Harre)

Douglas Harre
Douglas Harre and CORE Education have very kindly given me permission to share the following report with you, which gives a vivid insight into some of the challenges the students and schools are facing, and the amazing ways in which they are rising to those challenges. The Ministry of Education and Core have been spearheading support that is being offered to schools in Christchurch, alongside a wide range of other committed personnel - many of them voluntary.

Douglas Harre wrote (13th March 2011):

Parts of Christchurch do feel somewhat otherworldly at present, so I thought I would take a moment to report on one part of Core’s support for schools in that still somewhat beleaguered city.

I am back working with the MoE over the next couple of weeks to assist with getting the ICT systems of damaged schools up and running , although it is likely that the schools will need a large amount of ongoing assistance for a couple of months.

As you will be aware there are many more schools badly affected by the Feb 22 quake (up to 30?) compared with the Sept 4th event (only 2 local schools closed after that event).

The Ministry of Ed and local schools/BoTs have been working hard to find space for schools that have been given the dreaded red sticker and are therefore out of action in the short to medium-term.

The result is that many schools will be sharing space in the interim – it looks as though primaries and intermediates will share space at the same time and high schools will split their day 50/50 (-ish).

About 100 students from St Mary's Primary are therefore moving into the hall of another unaffected school nearby - the hall will be divided into 5 partitioned zones that teachers and children will work in until the fate of their own school becomes clear. The school needs to have broadband, power, data, and a wireless network put into the hall….. “And oh” said the St Mary's principal (with a hopeful smile on his face) “if you can get us 10 desktop PCs that would be greatly appreciated”.

Heaton Intermediate (500 students) was the next school to visit…. their 3 year old, stylish, angular, steel and glass admin block/staff room doesn’t look too bad from the drive, but once inside you can see how walls have come away from floors, things have a generally Pisa Tower-ish look to them and the staff room has an unappealing layer of detritus that came up through the floor boards and oozed everywhere within 10 minutes of the quake. Broken glass is still strewn across the floor from when the dishwasher door flew open and disgorged its contents at the peak of the shaking.

Heaton’s Yr 7s are off to Casebrook Intermediate and their Yr 8s to Breen’s Intermediate – so each of those host schools are working hard to find space (old rooms, garages, spare prefabs, large cardboard boxes) and facilities for 250 students and their teachers who are about to turn up later this week.

Fortunately Heaton managed to get their servers out, plus they had a backup (yay!) and a[n]...offsite backup also (double yay!!) so they are looking good… we just need to get the infrastructure and associated hardware going to use it in the host schools. As the Heaton teachers have been using eTap (a hosted SMS) and KnowledgeNet (hosted LMS) they will be able to continue to use those products in their new location. Cloud computing is looking increasingly attractive to those schools with email servers buried under a steel beam or in a location with no power....

As an example on the secondary front Avonside Girls High School is moving to the Burnside High School site – the high schools are going to run consecutively rather than simultaneously – so it looks at though BHS will operate 8am to 1pm, then AGHS moves in from 1.30 to 5pm…..AGHS has managed to get a lot of their PCs out of their outlying buildings but about 30 TELA laptops remain trapped and alone in the badly damaged admin block (generally with a multitude of teacher resources on each one). As you can imagine this is one more stressor for teachers who may also have power or water off at home, or be dealing with injured family members.Benq laptopImage via Wikipedia

Your correspondent was able to acquire laptops for those teachers direct from Equico, so they are being couriered down to BHS over the weekend, re-imaged Monday/Tuesday by IT staff to make them ready for the AGHS teachers. What we CAN’T do is replace the resources on the laptops (if they aren’t backed up) so we will see how that unfolds over the next week or so.

(Note to self and ourselves: ensure personal backup plan is in place, functioning and tested).

Last example is Unlimited/Discovery1….the two schools in the heart of the CBD, 650 staff and students in a modern, vertical, concrete and glass structure….state of the art ICT facilities/fast fibre connection and with the city as their learning environment. It is in the Red Zone so is off limits – all teacher laptops, school computers and servers (and backups) inside….a sub-optimal scenario to say the least.

Those two schools are being relocated for the next month or two to a rural, horizontal, one story school on the outskirts of the city… interesting cultural change for students who may not have seen a cow for sometime, felt grass between their toes or who may now have to travel 3 kms for a double trim latte.....but as many have said “needs must”….and (hopefully) a fantastic learning opportunity for all concerned.

A lot of school busesImage by wheany via Flickr

There’s a big team of MoE people there also, but spare a particular thought for Bernie Scannell (the Queen of School Transport), who has been living out of a suitcase in Chch while trying to organise the dozens of buses that will be required to pick up 6-7000 school kids twice a day and deliver them to and from their new schools, across a pretty broken transport network.

In the midst of all that is happening in the wider Chch context I would really like to note the rallying of teachers and schools together to support one another – in all my conversations with principals and teachers last week there was a very supportive atmosphere….this has been aided and abetted by the sterling work of numerous Core people around the country who are contributing in a variety of ways – the rapid development of last week’s wiki being an excellent example. People in the schools are VERY appreciative (and aware of) the work occurring nationwide to assist them.

As you are all aware Core staff in Chch have an additional range of personal and professional challenges to deal with, so it has been gratifying to watch the support flowing in for them in particular.

Hopefully this has provided one small set of examples re the challenges schools are facing in the city. Morale is generally pretty high, but people are very realistic about the challenges ahead. How it will all play out in the longer term regarding the provision of education in the city as a whole, is an as yet unanswered question.
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Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Are you a teacher and / or Moodle aficionado? Can you help Christchurch students and schools?

CHRISTCHURCH, NEW ZEALAND - MARCH 01:  Student...Image by Getty Images via @daylifeAs you will be aware the earthquake in Christchurch, NZ has disrupted a huge amount of schools and students. Jacqui Land of Papanui High School is working with Moodle in Schools to find ways of reducing the long-term impact on students' learning, and has put out the call for help below. If you are able to help, please contact Jacqui Land or Margot McKeegan, or you can drop me a line and I will pass on your message.

The following was originally posted at Moodle in Schools- By Jacqui Land of Papanui High School on Mon, 07/03/2011 - 18:33

The GCSN (Greater Christchurch Schools Network) are trying to get some material up onto a Moodle 2 site asap to help schools and students who have been affected by the recent Earthquake. The idea is to upload material and courses onto this site and then share them with other schools via the Moodle in Schools HUB.

We are urgently looking for either people to upload the material onto courses on the GCSN Moodle site OR people who have lots of resources and / or good ideas. (The material needs to carry a Creative Commons license and be freely available to distribute to other schools).

If you are able to help we will be writing / producing courses from 9.30 am on Tuesday 8th March until Friday 11th March at South Learning Centre, 66 Colombo Street (cnr Hunter Tce and Colombo St), Christchurch. You do not need to commit to the whole time, but if you can spare an hour or so sometime during this period please feel free to pop in. You do not need to be a Moodle expert, we can provide training / help. Alternatively, we can provide you with access to a course and you can add content from your school or home.

Moodle-logoImage via Wikipedia
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Monday, March 7, 2011

What can you do? A snapshot of a programme designed in Moodle

SVG version of via WikipediaThis is a Youtube commentary designed for students in a programme of learning. It clearly illustrates very clearly some of the main areas that could be included in such a programme. It also includes activities related to Blooms taxonomy and Gardiners multiple Intelligences, gives students choice around what they do and when, and has some superb scaffolding.w you do it. Students can easily see their progress too.

Some of the functionality looks as though it is separate programming, but there are definitely some features that are standard Moodle, or simple plugins such as the ' Book' plugin.

Well worth a look if you are seeking some inspiration....

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Gever Tulley teaches life lessons through tinkering

Le vieux canoë rouge...!!! (9/9)Image by Denis Collette...!!! via FlickrIn this inspirational TED Talk, Gever Tulley introduces 'Tinkering School', where children get to have the time, support and tools so that they are "better able to understand how to make things than when they arrive, and the deep internal realisation that you can figure things out by fooling around".

The description from the site reads: "Gever Tulley uses engaging photos and footage to demonstrate the valuable lessons kids learn at his Tinkering School. When given tools, materials and guidance, these young imaginations run wild and creative problem-solving takes over to build unique boats, bridges and even a rollercoaster".

It is well worth following up the first video with this other one also about Tinkering School entitled: 5 dangerous things you should let your kids do.

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