Originality Reports Sounds Rather Orwellian


blank dossier flickr photo by theilr shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

I don’t blame Google for adding a plagiarism detector into its Google Classroom suite. I suspect teachers have been asking for such a tool, given the ease of cut/paste from outside sources and from each other, and the cost of other service that do the same job.

In fact, last year, a colleague of mine in an earlier grade was worried about some students with the exact same language in an essay for a public safety project. One had shared with the other, via a Google Doc, and some text lifting had occurred, apparently. Perhaps it was an act of friendship more than theft.

I have mixed feelings about the use of plagiarism tools, from an educational standpoint, even though I use Google Classroom regularly with my sixth grade students (but not exclusively Google Classroom … it’s good not to have everything run through Google, for privacy reasons and for experiential reasons). I also realize that high school teachers might have a different approach than I have, given the grade level I teach.

First, the Originality Reports function that Google will be rolling out with Google Classroom in the near future (see Google’s info page) has this Orwellian vibe to the language of its name, doesn’t it? But it’s catchy, too. I give them that. Originality Report.

According to the company, students will be able to check their own work three times against the search database, before submitting a piece of writing, and then teachers can do a check, too. There apparently will be also be a future option to create an internal database of student writing, to be used as a database.

Student work that has been scanned with the tool is not retained or owned by Google. We search for what’s publicly available on the web. In the future, we plan to add an option for schools to have a private repository of student submissions – that they own – so instructors can see peer-to-peer matches. — https://edu.google.com/products/originality/?modal_active=none

Despite Google’s public statement of who owns the student work in the database, I worry about this gathering up of student writing and wonder (again) who owns the words that young people write in a school-sponsored online space like Google Classroom. This issue of ownership of material surfaced with Turnitin, right? And it just sold for $1.75 billion dollars. Plagiarism detection and gathering student work is big business.

As a teacher, I often thoughtlessly assume that whatever my students write, the writing is theirs. They own it. Perhaps I am naive. In fact, I know I am. Anything a student writes for me in a school online space is, in fact, now part of the school’s technology infrastructure, and I suspect those words written, either for assignments or for pleasure, are now owned by the school district. It’s probably in the terms of service. And, well, there’s something unsettling about that, even though I don’t worry about my specific school district. At least, I don’t worry right now, under this school/technology administration.

Is that good enough? Or is that just convenient for me, the teacher?

This also reminds us, as teachers, that we need to be explicitly teaching our students about the use of text, of original ideas and borrowed work, of plagiarism in a Digital Age. We can’t let a technology tool replace the actual teaching, and in this age of accessible text, it’s never been more important to advocate for originality of ideas and writing.

Google’s move towards Originality Report project has surfaced some questions that I have probably avoided with myself in adopting Google Classroom, in terms of student ownership of their writing, and I’ll continue to grapple with it.

I suspect students, living as they do in the Age of Everyday Privacy Invasion, don’t even give this kind of thing a second thought. Which is sad and frustrating. And this reality makes me even more aware of my role as the adult teacher in the room of children, the educator bringing them into an online space for school. I have an obligation to be vigilant in protecting their privacy.

What do you think? Am I making too much of this?

Peace (thinking),
Kevin

Visual Reflection: Park in Every Classroom Retreat

Visual Reflection: Park in Every Classroom RetreatI was lucky to be invited to join a gathering of National Park Service sites from the northeast for a week-long retreat to learn more and to think more about how to connect park spaces with schools and students as authentic learning experiences. I came away from nearly a week of sharing, presentations and discussions with a head full of ideas that my partners at the Springfield Armory Historic Site and I will be mulling over in the weeks ahead.

I used a new tool at Visual Thinkery called Storyline to get some basic “aha” take-away moments down before I forgot … particularly with school about to start … but also, with the free Write Out project coming soon in October, where park and public spaces are seen as resources for learning for schools and educational organizations. I layered some basic-takeaways with photos I took while at the Delaware River Gap Recreation Area, where the PEC retreat took place.

Peace (in the sharing),
Kevin

 

Why The End Is So Important (or, sitting through the movie credits with kids)

The last few years, I’ve noticed a clear trend with my sons when we go to watch movies, on the big screen in the theater or even on video. There’s a heightened interest in the post-credit video teasers. I’ve sat through more endless credit texts than ever (which, I suppose, is a good thing, to acknowledge how many people are working on so many aspects of a movie) just to see 30 seconds or so of video.

The other night, my son and I watched the Wolverine movie, Logan, and he was determined to see if there was a post-scene video on the disc, and then searched online afterwards, even though the movie is a few years old now and any post-credit scene would have already unfolded and long been outdated (perhaps this is what intrigued him most .. making the connections between what is teased and what really unfolds).

It was the Marvel universe who ramped up this phenomenon (see this listing of post-credit scenes in Marvel Universe), but now, I notice that my sons and my students often expect something on the screen, after the story has ended and the credits are rolling. They chat among themselves — in person and on social media — more about those small videos than about the larger movie, sometimes. There’s even a full website devoted to this concept (well, of course there is … probably many of them).

Which had me wondering about the draw of this.

First of all, from a movie production standpoint, this trend has to be viewed as a success. The movie companies get us to sit through the credits, and they get to promo some upcoming movie. Of course, they have to it with style and inference, and that “What?” quality to pique the interest.

From a viewer/fan standpoint, the viewing of the post-credit videos gives some cultural cache (I stayed to watch, did you?) and has some of the Easter Egg qualities that are dug deep into the modern digital media world (I found it, did you?).

It used to be that my boys (who have made their own films) and students all wanted to make bloopers whenever we made videos — in fact, they wanted to elevate the blooper to the forefront, right from the start, scripting blooper moments instead of capturing mistakes as they happened. Now, these post-credit scenes seems to have mostly replaced the blooper reel.

I guess what I find intriguing about all of this is the elevation of these scenes to equal status of the movie itself. Perhaps it speaks more to our attention spans (the videos are short, although you do need to sit for some time to get to them) than anything else, and feeds nicely into the YouTube viewing habits.

Peace (following the credits),
Kevin

Book Review: Memes to Movements (How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power)

I was expecting an academic examination of social media and memes with this book — first mentioned by my friend, Christina, at a National Writing Project retreat during a meme writing activity– and it was that … and so much more, too. Memes to Movements (How the World’s Most Viral Media Is Changing Social Protest and Power) by An Xiao Mina shines a light and lens on the ways that image and words, and messages, being shared over vast social networking spaces are impacting politics and more.

First, what is a meme? “Memes are pieces of content that travel from person to person and change along the way …” according to Amanda Brennan, a meme librarian, and Mina’s own definition runs parallel to Brennan’s idea. Mina makes the case, too, that memes are not just digital pieces but can have a life outside of technology.

Mina, in her book, also repeats an important assertion time and again that memes, by themselves, are not forcing cultural and social change, but that the combination of image, message, remix and virality are echoing and enhancing changes already afoot, through amplification of messaging.

Mina examines Black Lives Matter (and its oppositional movements, such as Blue Lives Matter) and the pink pussy hats (as physical memes) of the Women’s March in the United States, the Arab Spring, the Umbrella Movement in Hong Kong (now suddenly back in the news), the subversive use of memes in China, and the ways the Chinese government is countering such attempts, and more, all with a close look at how memes (digital and physical) are created, spread, have impact, and — for some — have long-lasting effects.

She also explores the popular conceptions of cats as the source for memes on social networking spaces, balancing a historical approach to how memes — remixable, shareable, riffable media — tap into something rich in people’s sense of storytelling. The intersections between art, culture and politics, along with an easy way to share, have made memes a powerful messaging platform, even if memes can also be untrustworthy (see Know Your Meme for where memes originally spring from)

Some of the more fascinating sections in this book involve China (where Mina has worked and done advocacy), in which activists often use memes to get around censorship through imagery and symbolism (the llama, or grass mud horse, has political meaning, for example) and support for those imprisoned by the government.

Just as you start to think, memes might be another tool for political change, Mina shifts her focus, showing governments — autocratic and otherwise — have started to reverse course on trying to block memes and now floods the networks with its own social media, in an effort to overwhelm users and create doubt about truth and veracity in the minds of users.

The writing here in this book is lively, and researched, and global on scale. If you have interest in social media and literacy, and the way viral messaging seems to be overwhelming the way people share news, jokes and information, then this book is well worth your time.

Peace (no meme necessary),
Kevin

Uncovering Stories and Spaces with Write Out (in October)

Write Out sign 2019 smallThis coming October, in conjunction with the National Day on Writing, the National Writing Project and the National Park Service are once again joining collaborative forces to offer Write Out — a free, open, online, connected learning experience to explore public spaces (not just national parks and not just rural wild spaces) for teachers and students.

As the updated Write Out website explains, the central theme of this year is all about stories and spaces:

Making Stories of People, Place, and Perspectives

Beginning October 13, 2019 Write Out will be a free two-week series of activities where educators, National Park Service Rangers, and youth they work with, are invited to:

  • explore national parks and other public spaces, including rural and urban settings, whether on-site or online
  • create using a variety of media, including text, image, video and others
  • connect to learn about using place-based learning as a critical cultural and environmental lens

Bookending the October 20th National Day on Writing, Write Out consists of activity cycles that include prompts that invite participants to write across a variety of media and curricular areas, facilitated online meet-ups, curated resources, and Twitter chats. Participants take part in as many or as few activities as fit their schedule. Additionally, through collaborative online possibilities, participants will be invited to share their creations, write, learn, and connect with the larger community.

You can sign up for information about this free event at the Write Out site and look for more details and activities on Twitter with the #writeout hashtag.

In case you are wondering, I am part of an amazing team of Write Out facilitators — from writing project and classroom teachers to National Park Service rangers — working to develop all sorts of activities and sharing possibilities for students and teachers, all in hopes of surfacing place-based learning and uncovering the stories of those spaces.

I hope you will join us with Write Out this October!

Peace (in open spaces and beyond),
Kevin

Yap.Net: An Invitation to Join a Community of Writers and Artists

YapNet SocialMediaAn experiment of sorts is underway. It’s a new online space for adult writers and teachers and artists and others to come together, in a safe and closed environment, to share work and connect, and support, each other in their endeavors.

Yap.Net is the brainchild of Geoff G., whose work with young writers through the Young Writers Project, based in Vermont but with a global reach, has opened up many possibilities for emerging authors. Now, with Yap.Net (tagline: A community of creative people who share unfinished work and ideas for feedback), Geoff hopes to extend the same invitation to adults.

Yap.Net is free, and closed, and designed for members to share drafts of works in progress, but also to serve as a publishing and sharing space. You can register here, but know that Geoff approves all members, as another barrier to the online riff-raff that sometimes filters into spaces.

Even if you have your own blogging space, as I do, the addition of Yap.Net opens up other possibilities. In just a few months time, there are already hundreds of posts and hundreds of supportive comments for the first wave of participants. There are themed challenges as options and a variety of different media on display. Geoff envisions an active and supportive network, and you are invited in, too.

Come join Yap.Net and see for yourself. See you there!

Peace (in writing it down),
Kevin

Reversing the Telescope: A Feldgang of Feldgangs of Feldgangs

CLMOOC Feldgang Feldgang CollageI’ve spent the month of July, letting my eye wander to the world for the CLMOOC Feldgang Variations — an invitation to explore the world and ideas closer, with detail. (See the prompts we released via CLMOOC at the Daily Connector). The Feldgang concept is an exploration of the previously known world, but seen closer, deeper, with attention to what is often missed.

Mostly, I’ve been creating image-themed collages — of the front and back yard of my home, of the sky, of my saxophone, of the beach, etc. —  with an eye to paying closer attention to the world I am walking through. I also had this notion in the back of my mind that I wanted to do something with all of the collages, but what?

I decided to go meta — to make a collage, each with multiple images, of the nine collages that I had created (above) and then to go one step further and make art from the collage collection by filtering nine copies of the master collage, and then pulling those into yet another collage. Layer upon layer upon layer.

The result? An interesting weaving of themes and images, which get lost in the final art remix but I found that I was OK with that — something new surfaces there, I think, a fuzzy, beautiful world of worlds, all connected to the original impulse to lean in a little closer and see things with more detail. The art collage project reverses the telescope of the Feldgang moments, giving me yet another lens to think about.

CLMOOC Feldgang Feldgang Collage Art Remix

What did you find in your explorations?

Peace (in seeing),
Kevin