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Adolescent Diary Weblogs and the Unseen Audience

Conversations in the Blogosphere: An Analysis "from the Bottom Up". Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS-38) Best Paper Nominee.

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The Performativity of Naming: Adolescent Weblog Names as Metaphor

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Last Updated November 22, 2005.

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New books are added but reading status is rarely accurate.

December 16, 2005

Gonzo teaching at it’s best

I just love this can I use it next semester? Welcome to Class. Just a snip follows:

On the class wiki I have provided a set of 250 homework problems of varying complexity and difficulty. These are your assignments for the semester. These problems are what you are graded on.

Some of these problems can be answered with a quick and simple Google search and some writing. Some would make good Masters Thesis projects. Some have one right answer; some have no right answer; some have many. Some require explanation, some require programming, some require mathematics, some require historical background, some require number crunching, some require experimentation, some require intuition, some require asking the right person, some require advanced domain skills from outside our department. Some are trick questions; some are so obvious you'll imagine they're trick questions; some are inherently time-consuming; some have hard and easy ways to solve them. Many are ill-posed, and need clarification. Some are problems you should already know how to answer. Some are problems you might not be able to answer by yourself when we arrive at the final exam.

All of them are important. None are throwaway, or filler, or make-work. I want you to answer each and every one of them.

No, not smiling now. Buck up. It's not that bad.

You yourself -- the individual you -- you are not responsible for doing any problem at all. Frankly I don't care if you do no work whatsoever, as long as you show up for class. You do need to come to class.

I will not grade your personal contribution to any answer, ever. Indeed, no matter how the questions get answered, I personally will not care one whit whether you, Jane Q Student, did the lion's share of the work, or looked it up and copied it out of the encyclopedia, or took that week off and went to Florida.

But some of the problems must be answered, on the website. On time. Correctly.

I see there are 30 of you in the class today. There are what? Twelve weeks in the semester? 250 questions, worth I believe a total of 7200 points. And then the final exam.

You see, that's a lot of problems.

Every Thursday at noon I will select the problems that are most important for you to complete in the next week. I'll publish this list on the wiki.

In Friday's class we will spend the entire session negotiating the assignment. I will stand up here and tell you I want all of it done, and why. And then you will sit there and (because you've prepared for the class ahead of time) tell me it's impossible for you to do all that in one week. And you'll ask me questions about what I'm looking for, and you will talk to each other, and you will propose which problems you think can be done by the noon the next Thursday. I may have some problems I really want you to answer that week, and I may try to force them onto your list by cajoling you, or by teaching you cool stuff, or by giving you hints, or by making them worth more points. I may even add new questions to the main list, and delete questions from the main list, now and then.

By the end of class each Friday, we will have finalized what problems need to be done, and how many points they're worth. You will have, collectively, promised that you'll try to get them done.

In order for the problems we choose to be answered correctly, you will have to "cheat". You are not only allowed to search the Internet, you'll have to. You are not "encouraged to work in teams", you'll have to. You will have to ask professors in other classes, and students who took the class before, and go to the library, and talk to each other, and share notes, and make reports, and read things in foreign languages, and write simulations. You will need to do background reading, and express your opinion to one another. You'll need to edit each other's writing, and depend on each other's authority.

These are the things that are prohibited in your other classes. Some of them are even explicitly prohibited by the "honor code", that rag we use to mask our educational laziness and our own unquestioning buy-in of the status quo. If you prefer the other approach, then I suggest you withdraw from this class early on and go back to the status quo, before it makes your head hurt.

One hard and fast rule: your answers cannot include any plagiarized material. In case you do not know what plagiarism is by now, I have provided a handy and very explicit definition on the class wiki. If any answer on any of a week's problem set is plagiarized from an outside source, the score for the entire problem set is zero, and that week's questions will appear on your final exam. You may, however, cite the work of others all you want. You may even quote it, so long as fair credit is given where it's due.

You may (by whatever mechanism you want to work out) decide not to answer some of the questions that week. For each answer, there is a "commit" button, and only when a majority of the class members have pushed that button will the answer count for the week's assignment. Whenever a substantive change is made to the answer, the "commitment" is reset, though the people who pressed it before will get an email alert. All your (committed) answers must be posted in the class wiki in order to be graded. At exactly noon on Thursday, an archive of the Answers section for that week will be saved for grading. The committed answers will be graded; the rest of the problems will return to the pool to be attempted again later.

Some of these questions are very hard, and some are off-topic. Given a cogent argument to that effect, provided as a committed answer, I will consider eliminating such questions from the roster before the final exam comes around. Such arguments to dismiss work will have to be robust and skilled, not petulant or confrontational. That said, even such questions will be considered answered, and your argument will be graded like any answer would, on all five scales. It may appear on the midterms, too.

So. How will you coordinate? How will you divide up the problems? How will you check each other's work? How will you find out who knows what? How will you compose your answers?

Posted by prolurkr at December 16, 2005 06:55 PM

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