Phong Le, Assignment 2

(1) Read the article: “In Defense of Cheating” by Don Norman: do you agree or disagree with Norman’s position? Why?

Norman believes that the current curricula design relies too much on individual isolated work to the detriment of cooperation. And current assessment tools focus on getting the right answers instead of teaching the process of how to arrive at the answer (especially info searching and using social neework to find relevant info). Norman believes that flawed curriculum design and assessment methods stem from a limited conception of learning that does not encourage the development of skills that will used when students enter the workforce. Thus the mismatch between the skills that students know will be used in the workplace and the skills demanded by the curriculum creates incentives to cheat. He believes that the curriculum and student assessment tools need to change to reduce cheating.

I agree that students may be tempted to cheat when they believe that what they are learning, regardless of whether via rote memorization, is not relevant to their life or their future career. If students view their reading and homework assignments as busy work, they have little motivation to complete the work and will look for ways to skirt these requirements. So educators need to address relevancy in the curriculum. But effective curriculum required educators to address the multiple dimension of relevancy. Norman addressed some of them such as developing and appropriately evaluating students who may excel as being generalist vs. specialist; as knowledge originator vs. knowledge integrator; and as organizers and participants. But the other dimension is whether educator can draw a link between the skills and knowledge being taught and how students will use these them. For example, undergraduate computer science curriculum often require students to take linear algebra. Most students view this requirement as a waste of time until they take classes in areas such as artificial intelligence, computer graphics, or algorithm. So one of the main challenge for educator is how to make the material feel relevant by making connections between different topics in the curriculum earlier in the educational processes.

In my own experience, lower division undergraduate education rewards students for rote memorization and competitive learning. In my Calculus 1 class CU Boulder, the instructor evaluated student performance via two midterms, a final, and a series of homework assignments. Our professor encouraged students to work together on homework assignments. However, students must complete test on their own. Furthermore, the professors often teach to exams by indicating what students need to know to do well on exams. Like most students in the class I tailored my learning effort toward what I needed to know to do well on exams. However, as I began to take upper division classes discussion rather than lecture and group projects rather than test became more prevalent. For example, last semester I took an Object-Oriented Programming a group project accounted for 50% of our final grade. Our group ended up spending more time on the project than we had anticipated but I felt that learned a tremendous amount from that project because it: (1) forced us to apply what were learning (in most cases I felt that my learning was enhanced when I encounter an applied problem need force me to search for a solution) and (2) developed our skills for the soft skills (e.g. dealing with people) and hard skills (e.g. how to use source code control, etc). Overall, I find that classes that encouraged discussion and questions and well-constructed group projects motivated me better.

In addition, there are other ways of evaluation that works. I attended the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) as an undergraduate. Instead of a letter grade, UCSC used a narrative evaluation process where instructors write a narrative evaluation for each student in the class. Instructors can take the opportunity to discuss how each students are evaluated and how the student did in the class. For example, for a sociology class on conversation analysis my professor wrote a one page evaluation describing the topic of my research paper, how I did on each deliverables during the quarter, and the results of my research. She also took the opportunity to comment on the level of my commitment to the classroom and other motivational dimension that would not have been captured by a letter grade. As a student I felt that the evaluation captured a holistic view of my efforts. As a result of the narrative evaluation system I didn't feel a lot of competitive pressure. Instead, the pressure to excel stemmed from the desire to excel for myself rather than a grade point average.

(2)(3) Visit one of the following websites and explore it as a medium for collaboration:

I visited the Expert-exchange website. Expert-exchange is a collaborative site where anyone with a question on information technology can post questions. Any member can answer the questions. Each question is presented in its own thread; that is, any answers or follow up question are appended below the original question. The site also provide incentives for members to answer each other's question by keeping tracks of points for each correct questions that each user answers. The user who posted the original question can award points to the user that she feels helped her the most. There is a standard point amount for each question and points can be split among different answers. Members gain recognition among the community of users for the most points that earned for answering questions usefully. Finally the site also build a knowledge base by archiving question their solutions for later searching by other members. These capabilities enhance collaboration by allowing folks who are separated by geography, time differences, and different expertise to help each other. The only caveat is that this site charges a fee for participation. However, I find that Google does index some of the answer pages and I have been able to use Google to search for answer and go directly to a relevant page (in some cases) without having to sign up (although this is not quite "collaboration").

This system is similar to a swiki in that anyone can contribute to the content of the site once she has signed up. However, unlike a swiki the site restrict content creation to specific areas of website. So a user of this site does not have the full sense of ownership that swiki system provide. In addition, the expert-exchange site provide a definite format for collaboration: the question and answers are organized in threads. While this format can be replicated within a swiki it does require more work on the basis of the user (at least for the standard swiki that I have used). Finally, a swiki supports uploading of files while this site does not. However the idea of ownership is the key difference for me. I believe that all things being equal having a full sense of ownership provide user with better motivation to participate.

(4) which is your favorite website / system in support of collaboration (briefly justify your opinion)!

I don't use a single system exclusively for working with other people. I use a combination of systems to accomplish joint tasks. As a senior in computer science I'm currently taking a year long software engineering classes that require groups of four or five student to work together on a software development project. Our group uses several different systems to communicate and produce joint work.

(a) a bulletin board system: we currently set up a private bulletin board system to help us keep track of basic common information and help with discussion where we cannot meet face to face. We had set up this system to help us with the tremendous number of e-mails that our group generated. Most of us used CU's web mail system and it currently does not support mail subject threading. As a result we found that it was difficult to follow multiple mail threads simultaneously. PHPbb allows each of us to post information that we need to refer to as "stickies" on the forum. It allows each of us to create a topic and post questions and replies under each of the topics. Once we log in the system highlight the topics that has new postings so that we can check them. The system was really useful in helping us to follow and manage the multiple topics threads that our project generated. What PHPbb lacks is the capability to post and associate files with each of these topics.

(b) source code control system: Subversion. As we started coding we found that we needed a source code control system to manage the work of multiple developers. The system allows us to post our most recent code, download the codes the latest version of codes written by other developers, and the ability to ensure that in the case where two or more of us work on the same section of code that we do not have conflict. We found that a source code control system is much better than emailing codes between developers.

(c) email: to communicate when we are not face to face. When email get too confusing due to too many replies emails on many different topics we switch to the PHPbb bulletin board / forum. But we find that emails allows us to actually send files back and forth.

(d) project code documentation: javadoc. With multiple developer working on different components we need to understand the interfaces provided by each of our components. We use the javadoc capability to generate HTML formatted Java class, member data, and methods and post them on the web for all of us to reference. This javadoc generated documentation is updated every 1/2 hour from the source code depository.

These systems together allow us to work together effectively despite our schedules, workload, and other life commitments. Sometimes I do wish that they are one integrated system. If I had to pick one system from the list above I would choose email. Email allows me to interact with folks virtually and exchanged needed files. Email can substitute for the other systems but the other systems would be hard pressed to replace email's functionality.

(5) have you ever read a book(s) / article(s) (or books) about collaboration?

I have had lectures on collaboration but have not read any specific articles.