Oct 312017
 

A super-smart student in my Advanced Professional Communications class asked me whether using an app that generates a citation for you in proper APA, MLA, Chicago style was plagiarism. My first thought was “I doubt it,” but in my line of work I’m surrounded by plagiarism hounds so I wanted to be sure. I consulted some expert Facebook friends.

My friend Leigh, a high-school librarian working in England whom I’ve known since fifth grade, posted first: “Haha. No. It’s just a tool, wouldn’t you think? Most journal databases (jstor, etc.) provide all variations of citations to use, as well.”

No Contest Communications cofounder Tierney was emphatic: “Goodness no. If you are doing citations correctly, it is not a creative project; it should produce a uniform result. These tools simply help automate that process. I copy and paste mine from Google Scholar, but I also verify their content (sometimes page numbers are missing.” She added this excellent analogy / rhetorical question: “Is it plagiarism to use a tool like SPSS to run your stats and produce your diagrams instead of doing it all by hand?”

Author and retired university librarian Suzy chimed in on a related issue: “There’s nothing wrong with using a citation-generator app to find citations. All journal-content databases make it easier to ‘find’ citations than ever. But a student shouldn’t cite those in a paper unless s/he has actually consulted those sources. I still wouldn’t call it plagiarism; that’s just a failure to check your own sources before citing them – no different from citing a source from a bibliography (the old-fashioned way) without consulting the source.” Suzy noted that the formatting of these automated citations “isn’t 100% accurate, so a student (or professor) should always double-check. For what it’s worth, in my experience, faculty make plenty of errors in their citations!”

Jun 232016
 

I’m pretty much an open book to my building manager. If I ever have to move into another rental, though, the services provided by a British data-mining company might unnerve me. Writes Stanley Q. Woodvine in Vancouver, BC’s Georgia Straight,

Tenant Assured is a web-based service first made available two weeks ago to landlords around the world. The service essentially forces people to open up their social media accounts to the prying eyes of landlords as part of the process of applying to rent an apartment. …

This is how Tenant Assured works:

A landlord who’s signed-up with Tenant Assured sends all of their rental applicants to a special link on the Tenant Assured website. They are then asked  to provide full access to up to four of their social media profiles—on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Twitter. These are then thoroughly crawled, scraped, and analyzed by Score Assured. The scrutiny includes conversation threads, private messages, and contact lists. …

Concerns that the service is a gross violation of personal privacy were brushed off by the company, which trotted out the oldest authoritarian assurance about surveillance in the book, namely, “If you’ve got nothing to hide, you’ve got nothing to fear“. Or, as [the company’s] cofounder Steve Thornhill put it … “If you’re living a normal life then, frankly, you have nothing to worry about.”

Thornhill further pointed out that people had to give their consent to the Tenant Assured process and that it was really not much different from a background check or credit rating.

Of course it’s very different … . There are long-standing laws governing credit and background checks and there are processes in place to allow people to see their credit reports and correct inaccuracies.

Although landlords anywhere in the world can sign up for the service—including right here in Vancouver—it’s is not clear what laws in any given jurisdiction could hold such an online service to account.

As a professional communicator, I take great pains not to post anything at all controversial online: very little politics or religion … or anger. (I always ask myself, “What would my students think? My future clients? My Mom?”) The persona I therefore project is a good deal sunnier and more welcoming than the real thing. Last year a girlfriend from high school wrote me, “Bob, I like you so much better online.” Good to know.

Aug 202015
 

readerStudents who suffer under the burden of high tuition and large student loans need all the financial help the world can provide them. For my upper-level communications classes the last couple of years I have been using an excellent online textbook. Here is a list of superb resources – free textbooks and journals – for students as well as teachers and researchers.

BC Campus: OpenEd

“It was on October 16, 2012 at the annual OpenEd conference in Vancouver that then British Columbia Minister of Advanced Education, John Yap, announced the BC Open Textbook Project. with project support provided by BCcampus. The goal of the project is to make higher education more accessible by reducing student cost through the use of openly licensed textbooks. Specifically, BCcampus was asked to create a collection of open textbooks aligned with the top 40 highest-enrolled subject areas in the province. A second phase was announced in the spring of 2014 to add 20 textbooks targeting trades and skills training. Our open textbooks are openly licensed using a Creative Commons license, and are offered in various e-book formats free of charge, or print on demand books available at cost.”

The texts cover a wide range, from Anatomy and Physiology to Research Methods and Formal Logic.

College Open Textbooks

The College Open Textbooks Collaborative, a collection of twenty-nine educational non-profit and for-profit organizations, affiliated with more than 200 colleges, is focused on driving awareness and adoptions of open textbooks to more than 2000 community and other two-year colleges. This includes providing training for instructors adopting open resources, peer reviews of open textbooks, and mentoring online professional networks that support for authors opening their resources, and other services.

The range of books is wide, addressing the arts and humanities, social sciences, and the hard sciences.

Creative Commons

Make your own work available to students and professors alike by availing yourself of Creative Commons.

“Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools. Our free, easy-to-use copyright licenses provide a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use your creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of ‘all rights reserved’ to “some rights reserved. Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.”

International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning

This organization provides an excellent list of open-source journals focusing on learning, “distant education,” and research. It also publishes sometimes highly technical articles on the classroom environment in the digital age.

Open Knowledge Network

Open Knowledge is an educational advocacy group.

Open Knowledge is a worldwide non-profit network of people passionate about openness, using advocacy, technology and training to unlock information and enable people to work with it to create and share knowledge. … We want to see enlightened societies around the world, where everyone has access to key information and the ability to use it to understand and shape their lives; where powerful institutions are comprehensible and accountable; and where vital research information that can help us tackle challenges such as poverty and climate change is available to all.

Open Textbook Library
“Open textbooks are real, complete textbooks licensed so teachers and students can freely use, adapt, and distribute the material. Open textbooks can be downloaded for no cost, or printed inexpensively. This library is a tool to help instructors find affordable, quality textbook solutions. All textbooks in this library are complete and openly licensed.”

The range of subjects is wide, from Accounting to Communications to Law to the Social Sciences.

OpenTextBookStore

“OpenTextBookStore was created by educators frustrated with the time involved in finding adoptable open textbooks, with the hope to make open textbook adoption easier for other faculty.

Just to be clear, we are not a publisher. This is just a listing site for publicly available open textbooks, maintained by a teacher. Print copies are made available through third party print-on-demand companies. Many of the courses have course packages available through MyOpenMath.com, which provides free online homework for several open math textbooks.”

The site specializes in math-related texts.

Saylor Academy

Saylor Academy’s mission is sustained by the continued evolution of an open educational ecosystem, and we are dedicated partners in this movement. Saylor’s commitment to the open education ecosystem is founded not just on open educational resources and open source learning technologies, but also on open access to credentials, and ongoing open learning opportunities.

Saylor has a long list of texts, available in multiple formats (PDF, DOCX, HTML).

Thanks to BH for the URLs.

photo by Bob Basil

Feb 062013
 

Stanford University’s Program for Writing and Rhetoric is renowned both for its truly interdisciplinary approach to writing as well as for its adherence to, and study of, formal rhetoric in numerous sectors: forensics, advocacy, public affairs, the arts, technology, and academia. This resource does have an academic slant – it’s from Stanford, after all – but it’s useful for any writer or editor who seeks to be up to speed with the highest and most current standards of research and documentation, persuasion, oral communication, and learning. Particularly engaging is the website’s “Writing Matters” video series: interviews with Stanford professors describing “writing’s connection with academic and personal success.” Below Margot Gerritsen, Professor of Energy Resources Engineering, explains that “Writing stories is absolutely pivotal. If I can’t write a good story, sell what I’m doing, make cases and arguments for continued funding, I’m nowhere.”

Gerritsen_Stanford

https://undergrad.stanford.edu/programs/pwr/resources