Thursday, March 22, 2007

On "Going to School"

I really don't understand the thinking behind this story.
Just read the headline and reflect.
"Learning Drop Outs Could be Fined"

In fact the more I think the more bemused I become.
If this legislation becomes law we can only hope that the National Assembly will see sense and not follow the DES example.

Yes, we should be providing our young people with opportunities for education, learning and training, but surely forced participation is not the way.

I note from Wikipedia that Alan Johnson left school aged 15, worked in Tesco and then joined the Post Office.
How can a man with his background come to believe that youngsters should be obliged to be in school or training until their 18th birthday?
You can lead a horse to water.......

How right he is when he says
"There are issues around how we enforce this and what obligations we place on it"

Was there no one in his Department that could stand and say Minister I'm not sure this is such a clever idea?

Apparently a simple £50 fine would be used to enforce attendance, if not paid then the young person could be prosecuted in the youth courts and issued with a referral order, ignoring that would lead the young person further into the youth offending system, then what?

Our youth justice system barely copes, our Education Welfare Officers (truant officers) struggle, and in Higher Education student retention is an emerging and important issue.

The criminalisation of youngsters who for what ever reason fail to remain in the education system is just wrong, wrong, wrong

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Counting Academics

Dysg points to statistics about Higher Education in Wales.
Readers of this blog might be interested to note that:-

"In 2005/06 there were 17,705 staff at Welsh publicly funded HEIs, 525 more than in 2004/05.

Cardiff University employed most staff (5,685), more than double the next largest - the University of Glamorgan (2,065), University of Wales Aberystwyth (2,015), University of Wales Bangor (1,830) and University of Wales Swansea (1,640).

Less than a half - 8,150 staff - were recorded as academic professionals."

Interesting, for every academic post there is at least one non academic.
I wonder would it be worth making such a comparison for FE, secondary or primary education.

On Twitter, Twittering and Twits

Any one who spends any serious time on line will have noticed the buzz or conversation about Twitter.

Twitter describes itself as a global community of friends and strangers answering one simple question: What are you doing?

As if I care, as if I want to know, as if it matters. I have to confess I don't get it but I can't help watching it, and it stops me doing other stuff. Too much information!

I suppose its a sort of instant blogging, for those of us that don't have time or the inclination to blog properly. I can see that it could be useful, but right now its not for me.

From the outside it's a sort of instant stalking by consent.
I'm not that connected to want to provide a running dialogue for friends and strangers about my day. Surely what I'm doing doesn't matter to any one else and I shouldn't presume that it does.

Some of my web heroes have twitter accounts and enthuse about its use, others are not so sure.

Educationally, it could have potential in bringing together a group of students / researchers collaborating on a project, but instant messaging could do the same more effectively. I guess its something to watch.

Here's what's happening now, and here are twitters displayed on a map of the world (mesmerising)!

Here are some links to interesting observations about twitter.

Jason Kottke's a fan, I think.
  • "For people with little time, Twitter functions like an extremely stripped-down version of MySpace."
Danah Boyd is not so sure.
  • "It is primarily micro-blogging or group IMing or push away messaging. You write whatever you damn well please and it spams all of the people who agreed to be your friends"
Kathy Sierra wasn't that keen but can't help reading it.
  • "We've all been at the brain bandwidth breaking point for the last five years. Email is out of control. IM'ing sucks up half the day. And how can we not read our RSS feeds, post to our blogs, and check our stats? If my Cingular cell phone sends me a MySpace alert and I'm not there to get it, do I exist? But email, IMs, social networking, and blogs are nothing compared to the thing that may finally cause time as we know it to cease. I'm talking, of course, about Twitter."
Nicholas Carr as ever makes us laugh, but makes such sense.
  • "Like so many other Web 2.0 services, Twitter wraps itself and its users in an infantile language. We're not adults having conversations, or even people sending messages. We're tweeters twittering tweets. We're twitters tweetering twits. We're twits tweeting twitters. We're Tweety Birds."

Like I said at the beginning, I don't get it!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

On Ucas, Plagiarism and Pyjamas

The BBC carried an interesting story yesterday that brings together someof the issues facing those of us interested in Higher Education and Web 2.o.

Ucas commissioned research from CFL software development, a company who describe themselves as "specialists in finding similarities between documents and the detection and prevention of collusion and plagiarism"

CFL were asked to analyse the application forms of 50,000 prospective Oxbridge students of veterinary science, medicine and dentistry. The results are fascinating but I'm not sure what they tell us or what is to be done.

5% of these forms carried personal statements containing material copied / material from the web; that's 2500 forms! Of those nearly 800 drew on exemplar material to be found on a free advisory website, which carries advice on "Writing a Personal Statement"

Within this guidance can be found the following sentences.

"From looking at example personal statements you have probably found some language which you like or think works well. The first thing to remember is don't directly copy any of it - not even a single sentence! The reason is, copying statements is plagiarism, and if an admissions tutor sees a statement they recognise they will probably reject you instantly. You should also not copy single sentences for the same reason, sentences which stick out in your mind, may stick out in the examiners also. It is ok to find a sentence or paragraph which is saying what you want to say and adapt it to fit yourself though."

Despite that "CFL found :-
  • 370 sentences contained a statement beginning: "a fascination for how the human body works..."
  • 234 contained a statement relating a dramatic incident involving "burning a hole in pyjamas at age eight"
  • 175 contained a statement which involved "an elderly or infirm grandfather"."
You can read the originals here!

It appears that Ucas does not intend to take any action against the applicants caught copying. One can only hope that university admission tutors are aware of this work and can make their own judgements when reviewing this years' applicants for places at Oxbridge Schools of medical, veterinary and dental science!

Higher Education admission tutors, prospective students and parents can learn from this story. Children in pyjamas should not be allowed to play with chemicals or surf the net unsupervised!

CFL point to the same story being reported by the Evening Standard and the Telegraph.