News Update :: Tuesday, October 17, 2006

News

Plagiarism or Peer Review: Anti-Cheating Tool Stirs Debate

Less than 20 percent of the faculty at Georgetown University take advantage of Turnitin.com, a Web-based subscription plagiarism-flagging service the university has used since 2002, according to Sonia Jacobsen, director of the university’s honor council. Jacobson spoke to the Bloomberg News Service, which reported on a debate heating up on college campuses on the merits of anti-plagiarism tools. Detractors say it harms classroom trust and privacy. Defenders consider it a potential teaching and peer review tool.

In addition to flagging copying, Turnitin enables students to check, comment, and rate each other’s work via a campus course management system. It can also be used by faculty to grade papers online. In a press release from Turnitin.com developer iParadigms LLC, Sharon Primm-Dayot, who works at the federal TriO training program at the University of Washington, said Turnitin, “plays an extremely important role in helping our students understand intellectual honesty.” Along with the “teaching moments” that result from Turnitin’s reports, she added, “we are seeing significantly less plagiarism within student work.”

Others are not so sanguine. Several top schools – including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale – do not use the service because they feel it would undermine trust between students and faculty. “I would rather create a culture of integrity and honesty and expect the best,” Yale college dean Peter Salovey told Bloomberg...

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Blackboard Hitches to Google’s Wagon

Blackboard Inc. said last week it would integrate Google Inc.’s search technology into its campus management systems. Blackboard joined Google’s Enterprise Professional Program. The move will provide “a tremendous value to people across a campus community, allowing them to develop greater search literacy to find information within academic departments, across disciplines, and even on campuses in other locations,” said Blackboard president Michael Chasen.

A first priority of the deal will be to integrate the Blackboard Learning System and Google Scholar, the firms said. Google Scholar provides a way to search for scholarly literature, including peer-reviewed papers and articles, from academic publishers and universities. The integration through the Blackboard Building Block for Google Scholar will provide access to these scholarly references from courses within the Blackboard environment.

Blackboard will also offer a set of Google OneBox for Enterprise modules through a Blackboard Building Block for Google OneBox. The integration will enable targeted searches of an institution’s course catalogue, organization catalogue, and learning objects repository.

Google OneBox for Enterprise is a feature of the Google Search Appliance which allows users to retrieve real-time content from various data sources across their institution...

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High Ed Federated ID Management Group Gaining Clout

Ten universities and four academic service providers recently joined InCommon, which calls itself the first nationwide U.S. identity management federation for higher education. By grouping together, the federation members aim to build a “trust community” over which they can do business, move information, and authenticate the identities of members involved in such transactions.

Universities that have recently joined InCommon include: Miami University; Ohio University; Stanford University; University of Alabama at Birmingham; University of California, Merced; University of California, Riverside; the University of Chicago; University of Maryland, Baltimore; University of Maryland Baltimore County; and the University of Virginia.

The service providers who joined the federation are the Houston Academy of Medicine - Texas Medical Center Library; Turnitin Inc., which offers an online plagiarism prevention service; Symplicity Inc., a provider of career management and recruiting tools; and Cdigix, Inc., which markets digital entertainment and educational content to higher ed.

The University of Washington uses InCommon to offer students and faculty digital media content provided by Cdigix, for instance. Using the service, the university can ensure appropriate access to Cdigix resources to students without unnecessarily revealing their personal information.

“InCommon’s growth signals the continuing adoption of this approach by more leading universities and forward-thinking service providers who see immediate value in participating in a scalable and secure trust community.” said Tracy Mitrano, director of Information Technology Policy, Cornell University and chair of the InCommon Steering Committee. He noted that the research and education community has been at the “forefront of using the federated identity management approach.”...

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U. Illinois Installs Wireless System for VR Experiments

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has installed an inertial-acoustic IS-900 wireless tracking system – a wireless virtual reality system – at the Beckman Institute Cube. The Cube is an immersive chamber in which subjects can experience a completely unwired 3-D visualization. It is operated by the Integrated Systems Lab at the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology, an institute devoted to basic research in the physical sciences, computation, engineering, biology, behavior, and cognition.

The tracking system is currently being used for experiments by the university’s Psychology department, including testing focused on the nature of object memory, special memory across changes in viewpoint, and mental processes used to divide objects into categories. Illinois researchers chose the IS-900 system, developed by InterSense, Inc., based on a successful motion tracking installation of a six-sided immersive visualization environment at Duke University last year.

The InterSense IS-900 system enables the Cube to render six channels of stereo images projected on its walls, providing the correct viewing perspective for a subject in real time. This is accomplished via the InterSense head tracker, which updates the Cube’s visualization software with precise, fast motion tracking measurements. The InterSense system also provides a wireless, tracked wand input device that enables subjects to interact and control features of this immersive environment.

Jim Crowell, the main programmer of psychology applications for the Cube, called it IS-900 “the best virtual reality tracking system I have ever used for psychological research.”...

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Temple to Open a Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center

With the help of a two-year, $3.5 million National Science Foundation grant, Temple University will open the Spatial Intelligence and Learning Center. The SILC will be home to a consortium of researchers who will focus on spatial thinking from their respective fields of cognitive science, psychology, computer science, engineering, geoscience, education, and neuroscience, as well as teachers in the Chicago public schools.

According to the researchers’ proposal to NSF, “the overarching goal of the proposed Center is to understand spatial learning and to use this knowledge to develop programs and technologies that will transform educational practice and support the capability of all children and adolescents to develop the skills required to compete in a global economy.”

The researchers will examine such basic questions as how to measure spatial learning. Spatial learning is becoming increasingly important to a technological society as many people work with data and must manipulate images mentally in order to understand the workings of tools and instruments.

“We believe that there’s an important type of learning – spatial learning – that’s being neglected,” said Nora Newcombe, the principal investigator on the grant and a professor of psychology at Temple. “We pay a lot of attention to teaching reading and mathematics, but spatial learning is really important in mathematics, science and engineering, especially in technological disciplines.”...

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