How many…?

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It’s a fascinating and possibly pointless exercise, trying to work out how search engines work.  Although this article was inspired by a news story on beating (so-called) plagiarism detectors, I found myself more interested in what the story told us about Google and (presumably) other search engines.

The story starts withn an article in Hoax-Alert: Forget Russian Bots: Fake Native Americans Are Using Russian Characters To Avoid Fake News and Plagiarism DetectorsThe story relates how a number of websites which appear to be promoted by Native Americans are in fact sites originating in Kosovo and other countries. It seems that they are stealing content, disguising it (to escape similarity detectors) and getting away with it. The way they disguise the content is to substitute Cyrillic characters which look like Latin alphabet characters in text, in order to beat text-matching software.  The HoaxAlert story shows this illustration: Continue reading

Guilty by association

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A month or so ago, an incident at Ohio State University made headlines. One or more students had posted information on business course assignments in a GroupMe study group.  The type of information shared violated the University’s code of student conduct.  As a consequence, more than 80 students – all members of the GroupMe group – were charged with cheating.

GroupMe is a free group messaging app, widely used to send messages and documents simultaneously to all members of a group. Members of educational GroupMe groups often use it to share dates due and study tips and readings. When collaboration is permitted, this kind of app can be a great boon in assisting collaborative work. In this particular case, however, some users had overstepped the mark and had posted suggested answers to homework assignments. Legitimate collaboration had become illegitimate collusion.

By and large, the headlines (of which this is just a small selection) seemed to get more dramatic Continue reading

Hang on …

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As noted in my last post, Kardinia International College library has disposed of 60% of its book collection. Manchester Central Library has recently disposed of 240,000 books, passed on to other institutions – or pulped.  Priceless and irreplaceable.  These are not isolated cases; it’s been happening for years, and the pace is increasing. Do we still need print? Is print dead?

A few days ago, I posted this on the librarians’ pages of iSkoodle, the ECIS listserv/ bulletin board, a discussion of print versus online resources, a plea to hold on to print:

I ended with a mention of Ken Vesey’s milking-stool analogy in an article for Teacher Librarian in 2005, “Eliminate “Wobbly” Research with the Information Resource Tripod.”  I invited iSkoodlers to track down Ken’s article. As yet, nobody has written to claim success.

Where would you go? Can you find it? Continue reading

What’s better than a book … ?

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A LinkedIn alert this morning caught my eye.  The heading reads Do you have a ‘Learning Commons’ at your school? You should! and it’s been posted by Maxine Driscoll.

“Meeting the needs of 21st Century learners.
I had an amazing experience last week. I was invited to visit the new Learning Commons at Kardinia International College a K-12 school in Australia and was blown away by what I saw! 21st Century thinking, creativity, courage and conviction! Here is…”

I like the learning commons concept. It’s exciting, it enables a refreshingly different approach to teaching and to learning. It makes learning more enjoyable, and reports promise great things. It may well be too early to say if the benefits are real, but there are aspects of learning commons that any library can use to advantage.

The post to which Maxine Driscoll’s LinkedIn alert refers is, Continue reading

Safe in their hands?

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Earlier this week, David Cameron announced a number of measures aimed at reducing exposure to internet pornography and images of child abuse.  By the end of 2014, internet service providers will be required to provide family-friendly filters for all households in England and Wales. Internet users who desire access to pornography will have to opt in.

Other measures announced include forcing search engines to provide no results for certain terms which are used by those seeking child pornography, Continue reading

Burnt offerings

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Pearson ad Xerox Ignite (software which enables a photocopier to grade student papers, including essays) does not exactly set me burning with enthusiasm, as I said a few weeks ago (Baby, you can’t light my fire). However, I was delighted to find that Pearson is looking for student essays for the Pearson Essay Scorer.  I would have the chance to test an online essay grader for myself.

The notion is that submitted essays “will help us calibrate the evaluation engine that examines student work.” Continue reading

Baby, you can’t light my fire…

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Automated test marking is not new. It has been around for years.  The grail is automated essay marking, and I fear we may be one step nearer with Xerox Ignite. A blog-post by Diane Ravitch Can Machines Grade Essays? Should They? drew my attention to this piece of software – the comments to her piece are well worth reading, and I’ve found out more thanks to Gizmodo Xerox’s New Grading Copiers Will Finally Make Scantron Obsolete and an article by Bob Yirka at Phys.Org Xerox to offer ‘Ignite’ software upgrade for copiers to let them grade school papers.

Yirka (unintenionally) sums up what’s wrong, sums up my fears, quite neatly: Continue reading

Do we need the middleman?

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The robots are coming! The robots are coming!

I’m just reading a New York Times article,  Essay-Grading Software Offers Professors a Break.  It’s one of those the-machines-can-do-it-better-than-you pieces.  In this case, the machines can grade student essays.  And students can do better too, if they give the machines what they want.  Forget originality, creativity, accuracy, thought.  Just give the machines what they have been programmed to look for, just fill in the boxes – and don’t ever think outside one? Continue reading

Watch this space…

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A few weeks ago, I discussed secret cameras, in particular “a camcorder disguised as a car key.
Quad-band-Amazon

Today, the British Telecoms regulator Ofcom announced the results of its 4G telephony auction. And bang, straight-away, in my mailbox, there’s a flyer from Amazon, “NEW Version Ultra-thin Quad-band….” Coincidence? Perhaps – this is from the US Amazon store, not the UK branch. But I can’t help thinking that this is clever marketing:  Amazon had noticed Continue reading