Survey suggests web plagiarism remains a huge problem

Nearly half of students admitted to plagiarism in a poll carried out by a students’ newspaper at the University of Cambridge, reports the BBC News–underscoring how hard it is for educational institutions worldwide to clamp down on the problem. The Varsity newspaper reported that students admitted to copying material found on the internet and submitting it as their own. The survey also claimed that only one in 20 students had been caught. The University of Cambridge says it has policies in place to prevent this serious disciplinary offense. But the university also says that "in spite of these provisions, we acknowledge that plagiarism is a significant issue and an increasingly complex one in the new internet era, for all universities to deal with." The survey from the Cambridge newspaper examines what has proved a difficult problem for higher education, particularly with the accessibility of material from the internet and the growth of commercial essay writing services. The online student survey found that 49 percent of respondents had admitted to a range of different types of plagiarism, including handing in someone else’s work, copying and pasting from the internet, buying an essay, or else paying someone else to edit work. Among the concerns from the survey was an overreliance on sources such as the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, with 82 percent of plagiarists admitting to taking material from the web site. Cambridge says it is working with faculty and the students’ union to make sure all students understand that plagiarism is unacceptable. It also uses software to detect plagiarism in submitted work.
But the survey, based on anonymous admissions, shows just how imperfect these methods are in combating the problem…

Click here for the full story


Education IT chiefs debate open source

The concept of open-source software seems so firmly entrenched in higher education that it comes as almost a shock to realize there’s actually a debate over it. But debate there was, civilized and trenchant, this week during the annual EDUCAUSE conference on technology in higher education in Orlando, Fla., Network World reports. "It’s really tough to take [commercial software] systems built for a corporate world and stick them into an education world," said Bradley Wheeler, vice president for IT at Indiana University, adding that one recent book estimated education globally would spent $5.5 billion installing ERP software–much of it in modifying commercial software to meet institutional needs. "We spend so much money trying to hard-fit those things in." Countered Adrian Sannier, university technology officer and professor of computing studies at Arizona State University: "I don’t think there’s any reason to believe that we will substantially match our business [with a community-source project] any better than a commercial system. The CIOs of oil companies don’t say ‘our business is so different from everyone else’s [that] we have to write our own financial applications.’ They’re doing everything they can to get out of that business." Colleges and universities have launched several high-profile "community source" projects to develop large-scale education applications. These include the Sakai learning-management system, and more recently, the Kuali project, which is creating such education-focused enterprise applications as financial accounting, and expanding to develop student information systems and even middleware to tie them all together…

Click here for the full story


Lenovo targets new netbook at students

Lenovo this week unveiled a netbook PC designed to be the primary mobile PC for K-12 students and a "secondary device" for college students, Network World reports. Netbooks are smaller, lighter, and much less expensive than full-blown notebook PCs. The Lenovo IdeaPad S10e gives institutions the option of using the latest version of Novell’s SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop instead of Windows XP or XP Pro2, and the opportunity to dress the slate-gray finish in the school’s official colors. Lenovo also offers packages of educational applications, including software from Adobe and VitalSource Technologies. Warranties can extend to three years, but school systems can make an array of repairs and changes themselves if they wish, said Michael Schmedlen, Lenovo’s director of worldwide education marketing. Schools are a hotly contested market for netbook makers, which already are making their pitch partly with price cuts. The S10e model is very similar to the S10 model introduced earlier this year for the consumer market. Powered by Intel’s Atom processors, the S10e has a built-in webcam with 10-inch display, a 4GB solid-state drive, or a 160Gb hard drive. It has an Ethernet port and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi , with optional Bluetooth. A cellular card can be plugged into the standard ExpressCard 34 slot. A feature called Quick Start1 lets users quickly run such programs as checking eMail or videoconferencing without having to wait for a full boot of the operating system. The S10e is expected to be available at the end of November. Pricing, which varies based on software, memory, and other options, starts at just over $400, with volume discounts…

Click here for the full story


Candidates’ positions on student loans reflect experience, market views

While both presidential nominees say they are sensitive to the economic crisis that is crimping the college plans of American families, Barack Obama portrays himself as the candidate who has endured the same heartburn over student loans as many voters, and he is offering more direct help to students and parents than is John McCain, reports the New York Times. Barack and Michelle Obama paid off their last student loan on Jan. 17, 2004, a date they sometimes share with voters to commiserate over rising tuitions and the fact that the average graduating senior carries $21,000 in college debt. Obama personally took out $42,753 in loans for Harvard Law School, on top of several thousand dollars for his undergraduate education at Columbia University. McCain graduated from the United States Naval Academy debt-free, because the public military academies charge no tuition. Yet Obama’s proposals also come with some asterisks attached. He is calling for a $4,000 tax credit for tuition, which would mostly benefit middle-class families rather than low-income students who struggle the most with tuition increases and loan repayment. Recipients of the tax credit would have to perform 100 hours of community service. And it is not clear if Congress, in the current economy, would have the desire to enact the tuition tax credit, which would cost the Treasury an estimated $10 billion. McCain, on the other hand, would take a bully-pulpit approach to student aid, aides say. Rather than propose any new federal money, he would jawbone and publicly try to coax colleges to slow their rate of tuition increases, using the federal tax exemptions they receive as leverage. He also would press for a more robust student loan market, with flexible payment options and more competition in the hope of lowering interest rates, and he is calling for the Pell Grant, which assists low-income students, to be high enough to cover in-state undergraduate tuition. The maximum Pell Grant award is $4,731 a year; average in-state tuition and required fees in 2007-8 was $5,749…

Click here for the full story


PC makers recall 100,000 Sony laptop battery packs

The Associated Press reports that computer makers are recalling 100,000 laptop battery packs made by Sony Corp. after 40 reports of overheating, according to an Oct. 30 notice from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. The voluntary recall applies to certain Sony 2.15Ah lithium-ion cell batteries made in Japan and sold around the world in laptops made by Hewlett-Packard Co., Dell Inc., and Toshiba Corp. Some incidents involved smoke or flames, according to Sony. Twenty-one of the reports claimed minor property damage, and small burns were reported in four cases. Sony blamed two factors for the defects: adjustments on its manufacturing line from October 2004 to June 2005, which might have affected the quality of cells in certain production lots; and a possible flaw in the metal foil for electrodes. The company said no reports have been filed for batteries made after 2006, and it noted that the recalled units are a small fraction of the more than 260 million it has shipped over six years. The bulk of the 35,000 affected computers in the United States were sold by HP between December 2004 and June 2006, according to the safety commission, including HP Pavilion, HP Compaq, and Compaq Presario models. Some Dell Latitude and Inspiron models shipped between November 2004 and November 2005 are also covered by the recall, as well as some Toshiba Satellite and Tecra laptops sold from April 2005 to October 2005…

Click here for the full story


Officials huddle on use of athletes’ images

Should video-game makers and organizers of fantasy sports leagues be allowed to profit from the use or likeness of college athletes? And if so, should the athletes themselves stand to benefit?

These questions were the subject of an Oct. 27 forum by the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics, whose members warned of the importance of protecting student athletes from commercial exploitation–especially as technology allows for the proliferation of new forms of media.

Some former college athletes who attended the forum argued that students should be free to decide how their name and likeness would be used–mostly because of the "coolness factor."

"I would be excited to see my likeness and playing abilities in an EA Sports game," said Marvin Lewis, associate athletics director at Georgia State University and former basketball player at Georgia Tech. He said many of his former teammates would feel the same way.

But commission members, as well as a panel of lawyers and media experts, said colleges could have a case to prevent media companies from creating fantasy leagues using their athletes’ names and likenesses.

"College athletes in fantasy games and video games may seem trivial to some, but these and other forms of new media pose new challenges to the long-held distinction between commercial activity featuring teams and that which focuses on individual athletes," said R. Gerald Turner, Knight Commission co-chairman and president of Southern Methodist University.

"We continue to believe that universities need to treat athletes fairly and equitably," Turner said, "and for third parties to use them in commercial products and advertisements violates that principle."

Panelist Jeffrey Mishkin, a partner with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher, and Flom LLP and Affiliates, and former executive vice president and chief legal officer for the National Basketball Association, said a recent court case found that while the use of a professional athlete’s name and likeness was a violation of the player’s privacy rights, it didn’t outweigh the First Amendment rights of publishers to free speech.

Mishkin said that even though he doesn’t agree with the court’s ruling, he thinks student athletes should be examined differently.

He explained that a fantasy league can pay a publicity licensing fee to professional athletes, because in most cases professional athletes are looking for ways to maximize their earnings. However, student athletes are not allowed to accept a publicity licensing fee.

Legal experts and former college athletes agreed that while students should not be paid for playing a college sport, there could be other ways to support student athletes.

"The No. 1 monopoly in the United States is the NCAA," said Jeremy Bloom, a former football player for the University of Colorado and a world champion and Olympic snow skier. "College athletics is not amateur anymore."

Bloom, who sat on a panel of former athletes, said everyone knows that intercollegiate sports–especially football and basketball–are a for-profit entity. He said the money not only should be used to fund scholarships, but also could help pay for year-round medical insurance or be put toward graduate school tuition.

Commission member Len Elmore, who is an analyst for ESPN and a partner at Dreier LLP, said the link between commercialism and intercollegiate athletics might be inevitable, "given new technologies that are intersecting with consumer demand for interactivity and reality-based gaming."

"If college athletes’ names and likenesses are to be used in commercial products, advertisements, or fantasy sports games, there must be a way to balance the inequities by providing some sort of benefit to athletes through mechanisms other than ‘pay for play,’" Elmore said.

Panelist Wallace Renfro, vice president and senior advisor to the president of the NCAA, said the purpose of intercollegiate athletics is to provide an education–and the entertainment value assigned to a sport should not undermine that. While commercialism will always be part of intercollegiate athletics, Renfro said, the less commercialism that is seen, the better.

Renfro acknowledged that with technology constantly changing, it’s hard to create guidelines for the NCAA.

"We can’t rely on rules and regulations to harness the potential of new technologies and applications. We have to learn to depend on commonly held principles that guide rational application at national and campus levels," he said. "There needs to be a reaffirmation that a student’s likeness or name can’t be used for financial gain."


Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics

Note to readers:

Don’t forget to visit the “ Creating the 21 st Century Classroom ”resource center. Preparing today’s youth to succeed in the digital economy requires a new kind of teaching and learning. Skills such as global literacy, computer literacy, problem solving, critical thinking, creativity, and innovation have become critical in today’s increasingly interconnected workforce and society–and technology is the catalyst for bringing these changes into the classroom. Go to Creating-the-21st-century-classroom


MEAF Inclusion Champion Award

The MEAF Inclusion Champion Award honors individuals who have made significant efforts to promote the full inclusion of youth with disabilities in society. The focus of the efforts may include, but is not limited to, helping to create a culture of inclusion within an organization or community or developing innovative strategies for inclusive programming in: school activities, after-school programs, community service, and leadership development.


Music Matters Grants

Music Matters Grants for 2009 will focus on educational reform in school music programs and independent music programs. Grants will be awarded in April 2009 to schools and music programs throughout the United States.


Being an American: 2008-2009 Essay Contest

Teachers and students can win cash and other prizes for submitting an essay on which civic value they believe is most essential to being an American.  In their essay, applicants are asked to trace the enduring importance of this value throughout the American story by discussing: a Founding document that reflects this value; a figure from American history who embodies this value; and ways the applicant can personally put this value into practice.


Teachers in Space Program

The Pathfinder program aims to help the first astronaut teachers fly in space and return to the classroom.  These Pathfinders will also help design the three-week training course for the large number of teachers who follow. We hope that Pathfinders also may have the opportunity to return each summer to help teach the course.  Currently, two positions for Pathfinders are open, for Pathfinders with strengths in STEM, and lesson plan development, with more slots to follow.  Applicants for the STEM Pathfinder slot are asked to submit a proposal for an experiment that could be performed on a suborbital flight.  Lesson plan development applications are asked to submit a lesson plan or curriculum module based on any aspect of human spaceflight. Teachers from all subject areas, STEM and non-STEM, are encouraged to apply.