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Comment: Re:Throw out the cookie cutter (Score 2) 284

by Troy (#41981011) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Catch Photoshop Plagiarism?

All of these suggestions for how to identify plagiarism through technological measures are missing the point. The problem isn't "how to catch a cheat", but "how to give students an assignment that they will have a reason to bother doing in the first place".

This is a great idea, unfortunately it falls flat in the face of reality. I used to teach computers, and spent a lot of time coming up with (what I thought was) neat assignments. Students would photoshop themselves into historical photos. They would create 3 models and landscapes. They created powerpoints on their favorite books or movies or band or whatever. I spent a lot of time trying to come up with assignments I felt were neat and creative.

Some students really responded to this, but I quickly found out that on an average day, and average student would rather spend 10 minutes putting together something that barely passed, and waste the rest of the time doing anything but working. It's silly. It makes no sense, but it's how it is (in my experience). Maybe I'm just a crappy teacher though...

Comment: Re:Throw out the cookie cutter (Score 1) 284

by Troy (#41980889) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Catch Photoshop Plagiarism?

This is a great idea for an end project, but as the OP explains, this is something that is done while students are learning the material (ie. going through the chapter).

In a large class, there's quite a bit of utility is keeping everyone on the same page (and working with the same material). For starters, it makes it much easier for the teacher to troubleshoot hiccups and gives students a basis of comparison with their classmates.

Once they've learned the material, that's the time to let them go wild on something fun and creative.

Comment: Re:Misleading title? (Score 1) 285

by Troy (#41302739) Attached to: The Problems With Online Math Classes

Sorry, I was unclear. I work 50-60 hours a week total, that includes 40 hours/week of regularly scheduled job. So the extra 10-20 hours is time spent grading/improving/etc.

I like to throw in that factoid, just because people think "teaching is so easy because you get the summer off." Yeah, I do (sort of, not really), but if you add up all of the hours I work during a 9 month school year, it's comparable to working 40 hours/week year round (with some vacation time). I just do a year's worth of work in 9 months.

Comment: Re:Misleading title? (Score 4, Interesting) 285

by Troy (#41288019) Attached to: The Problems With Online Math Classes

This is very true, but his conclusion at the very bottom is what struck me as the true problem

Obviously, Sebastian Thrun is not just a teacher-by-online-video; he's also a Google Vice-President and Fellow, a Research Professor of Computer Science at Stanford, former director of the Stanford AI Laboratory, head of teams competing in DARPA challenges, and leads the development of Google's self-driving car program. How much time or focus would we expect him to have for a freshman-level introductory math course? ... Some of these shortcomings may be overcome by a more dedicated teacher.

or to put it another way

Teaching isn't as easy as it looks.

I'm a high school math teacher (currently on lunch break :) ), and I'm always struck by the number of people who assume that what I do (minus classroom management and discipline) is just standing up and sayin' stuff. Good lessons and good assessments take time to create and deliver. You have to screw up for a few lessons (or years) before you figure out how to do it right, and "right" is whatever works best for your personality and your students' needs. Teacher education helps a little, but it's really just practice.

It also explains why experienced teachers are sometimes hesitant to draw up something new: it isn't necessarily laziness; good lessons are a lot of work. Every year, I work 50-60 hours a week trying to improve what I already have. This year, I've decided to try flipping my classroom, and I'm working harder than I did as a newbie teacher recording/editing/uploading my lessons to the intertubes. I'm also unmarried with no kids (ie. soul-crushingly lonely), so I have that kind of time to put into it. When you have 2 kids that need to be taxied to 5 places after school, time is short.

Comment: Re:As much as I like Penn and Teller (Score 1) 296

by Troy (#39728285) Attached to: Magician Suing For Copyright Over Magic Trick

Jokes are fairly difficult to copyright. According to the linked piece you can copyright the "delivery", but not the joke itself. You could technically go out, repeat Louis CK's act verbatim, and suffer no legal consequences**. In the comedy world, most of the consequences are social -- you hurt your reputation and damage your chances of booking well-paying gigs.

Magic is a different medium, but it appears that Teller is using the same idea of protecting "delivery," rather than the premise of the illusion itself.

**Ok, in real life, if you recreate an entire 90 minute act, chances are there will be something in there somewhere that could be found to be infringing on delivery.

Comment: Re:Won't someone think of the children? (Score 2) 557

by Troy (#39153147) Attached to: NYC To Release Teacher Evaluation Data Over Union Protests

I feel like you've already made up your mind about this issue, and I'm just wasting time typing. Still, I guess it doesn't hurt to try.

What, prey tell, is the "existing system" - the ability to turn oxygen into CO2 year after year appears to be the only system in place once a teacher makes tenure.

It's really not that easy. Criteria for "continuing contract" vary from state to state and district to district, but it is usually some combination of

1) Years experience in total and in the district
2) Level of education, frequently a masters
3) Approval by administration

I received a continuing contract by completing my masters and undergoing several evaluations. At any point, the administration could have decided to NOT offer me continuing contract. As an alternative, they could have chosen to fire me. The only thing the law prohibits them from doing to stringing me along year after year, which I think is fair.

I think its fair, because continuing contract (mislabeled "tenure"), is not a "guarantee of lifetime employment." I can easily think of several things I could do to get fired and/or laid off, and I personally know of several teachers (new and old) who were let go for various reasons. Continuing contract merely means that I can't be fired without some due process. I can't be fired just because a new principal doesn't like me, or a student claims I screamed "fuck" in class, or a handful of parents have it in for me. If you think about that, that's also tremendously fair. Some kind of "paperwork trail" is required in dismissal at many jobs, and if you don't have that at your job, maybe you ought to look in to forming a union!

Since I've gotten continuing contract, I work just as hard now as I did before I got my "magical firing shield". Ditto for all of my colleagues. In fact, I'm hard pressed to think of a colleague who isn't putting in whatever it takes to help their students succeed. The only people that I can think of who didn't put in their best are people who got fired.

Then explain charter schools where student success is either the same or better with a student population choosen by random chance and the schools have fewer resources than public schools?

The data is charter schools is far more mixed than you suggest. Yes, there are success stories, as there should be. Charter schools were initially intended as "test tubes" where innovators were free to try new ideas, and filter the good ones back into public schools. There are also charter schools that are very successful, but also spend a tremendous amount of money per pupil and offer a battery of services in addition to education (see Harlem Children's Zone). I would personally LOVE to see that kind holistic of model spread, but I don't think we have the political will to spend a minimum of 15k per student to offer all those services.

Unfortunately, there is a sizable number of charter schools that operate simply as money-making ventures, and the results show

Comment: Is direct democracy a good thing? (Score 1) 308

by Troy (#37796650) Attached to: A Digital Direct Democracy For the Modern Age

I'm profoundly unconvinced.

While heeding the "will of the people" is one of the fundamentals of any "democratic" (all variations) government, I think we have plenty of examples where groups of people aren't necessarily smarter or more moral than individuals. For example, consider California's initiative system, which has created a mess of conflicting and impossible mandates.

Additional influences like the Dunning-Kruger effect only muddy the waters further. Everybody seems to think that direct democracy would be good for them, but bad for everyone else.

Comment: Re:Second purpose of my dance (Score 4, Interesting) 215

by Troy (#33510480) Attached to: Researchers Discover Irresistible Dance Moves

It's important to remember that flailing != movement. The 2nd guy is moving his arms a lot more, but everything that he does is connected to movement in his torso (either playing out a movement that started in his torso or moving in opposition to it). As a result, his movements look more fluid and "connected" to what he's doing with the rest on his body.

The first guy is a poor example of flailing, because he's hardly moving anything at all. Nevertheless, if the arms aren't working in concert with the torso, then whatever the arms do looks disconnected (and creates a look of flailing).

I think this is part of the "hard to quantify" difference between an expert dancer and a beginner. Beginners are usually replicating what the see, without any understanding of what muscle groups need to be involved in the movement. This makes what they do appear very flat and mechanical. Expert dancers have the experience to know which muscles to engage when, making their movements look dynamic and fluid.

Comment: Re:Fifth Amendement Right (Score 1) 367

by Troy (#31874592) Attached to: Lower Merion School District Update

It seems like a good time to point to this video:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4097602514885833865#

It was recorded a few years ago by a law professor at Regent University. Founded by Pat Robertson (700 club), Regent gained some notoriety over the Bush years as being the alma matar of a disproportionately large number of folks in the Bush administration (specifically the Justice Department).

I think it pretty thoroughly debunks the interferences you make about invoking the 5th amendment.

Comment: Password Recovery/Reset (Score 1) 497

by Troy (#31835686) Attached to: Please Do Not Change Your Password

Let's not forget password recovery/reset either. If you have very restrictive password requirements, but very liberal recovery requirements, you've created a false sense of security.

My bank has all sorts of requirements on passwords: mixed case, numbers, punctuation, length, had to change every ___ time, couldn't reuse your last ____ passwords, etc. The password recovery page, however, amounted to something along the lines of "What is your father's middle name?", and even let you change the password right then (instead of being emailed a random password).

I guess enough techie folks complained, since they've recently made password recovery a little harder (you need to also add an account number and part of your SSN).

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