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Comment My 2c (Score 1) 804

I ban laptops in the college classes I teach, in physics.

For me the turning point was sitting in the back row of a large lecture taught by a colleague and seeing dozens of laptops open, and students reading CNN, Facebook, Travelocity, Gmail but none actually taking notes. Even if it was not distracting for the students themselves, it has to be distracting those around and behind them.

I offer an exemption for anyone who uses a laptop for notetaking. And in this case the student was kind enough to give me a copy at the end of the semester. So far I guess I have had around 500 student-classes, and precisely one exemption has been requested (and granted) -- and that was in a small class with a dozen students where cyberloafing is typically much less of a problem.

The policy is in my syllabus, and announced on Day One.

Comment Another professor... (Score 1) 870

I am a professor, and for large "entry level" classes, I let students bring their own notes and print-outs of model answers on the homework. But absolutely no electronica of any sort.

If asked, I would permit a hard-copy dictionary between English and a student's native language. So far, no-one has requested this (we have a good number of international students, but usually with superb English).

I set questions that can be answered without a calculator, and I will accept an unevaluated cosine or similar function, even if it is primarily a numerical question.

My original plan was to permit open book, until I realized that some students had only on-line PDF versions of the text, so that idea went out the window.

I am not really worried about students trying to learn the subject on wikipedia in the course of a three hour exam -- if you don't know it coming into the room, you are hard put to learn it while you take the exam. But since net capable devices can also facilitate messaging, I have no choice but to ban them, if I am to maintain the integrity of the exam.

Homework counts for a big chunk of the grade -- and there I encourage collaboration. The exams are there to make sure that the collaboration does not get out o hand :-) (And I warn the students of my policy early in the semester)

Comment Re:Sometimes? (Score 1) 1051

One way or another, Ars has to make its payroll or go out of business. I am sure they would love to get by with a couple of graceful text ads for worthy products at the bottom of each page, but it would seem that in the real world the people who work there can't make their mortgage and feed their kids that way.

But if it really bugs you, you can just not visit sites whose advertising content annoys you. And doesn't Ars sell subscriptions, which I assume are ad-free?

Part of the death-spiral of our local newspaper seems to have been a rise in hard-to-block pop-ups on its website. I could have beefed up my pop-up blocker, or I could just delete it from my list of bookmarks / feeds. I deleted it. (And I realized that almost all of the information it offers is actually available elsewhere, partly because our town has an experimental "hyperlocal" news site with original reporting)

This argument is as old as the net, but the answer to intrusive ads seems to be easier than a pop-up blocker. As they used to say in the days of TV, if you don't like it, just turn it off.

[Suspect I might burn some karma on this one]

Comment Observations... (Score 4, Informative) 505

As it happens, my students and I are about to release a fairly specialized code - we discussed license terms, and eventually settled on the BSD (and explicitly avoided the GPL), which requires "citation" but otherwise leaves anyone free to use it.

That said, writing a scientific code can involve a good deal of work, but the "payoff" usually comes in the form of results and conclusions, rather than the code itself. In those circumstances, there is a sound argument for delaying any code release until you have published the results you hoped to obtain when you initiated the project, even if these form a sequence of papers (rather than insisting on code release with the first published results)

Thirdly, in many cases scientists will share code with colleagues when asked politely, even if they are not in the public domain.

Fourthly, I fairly regularly spot minor errors in numerical calculations performed by other groups (either because I do have access to the source, or because I can't reproduce their results) -- in almost all cases these do not have an impact on their conclusions, so while the "error count" can be fairly high, the number of "wrong" results coming from bad code is overestimated by this accounting.

The Internet

New Zealand Halts Internet Copyright Law Changes 216

phobonetik writes "The New Zealand Prime Minister announced his Government will throw out the controversial Section 92A of the Copyright Amendment (New Technologies) Act and start again. The proposed law changes contained 'guilty upon accusation, without appeal' clauses and heavy compliance costs to ISPs and businesses. The changes were hours away from being signed but a series of online protests, a petition on Government grounds, as well as public rebuttal by a large ISP and by Google contributed to the Government changing course and respecting the wishes of the IT industry."
The Internet

How To Supplement Election Coverage? 241

An anonymous reader asks "What information sources and social networking sites will you be using to supplement the election coverage on TV next Tuesday? I am ready with a big HDTV with Comcast, a Mac mini, and and an Xbox 360. I also have two laptops (one good for websites and one for streaming video), an old-school Blackberry, a 'regular' cell phone, a Nokia N810, a Squeezebox, and finally Sirius Satellite Radio. Which websites should I watch for live county results? I already know about the Twitter Vote Report for tracking and reporting voting issues and I already watch 'CNN Reporters' on Friendfeed for the national flair. What other Twitter accounts should I follow? Which urgent ones should I send to my phones? Which YouTube accounts or keywords I should subscribe to in Miro? What are the most popular sites for posting 'on-scene' videos — iReport, Flickr, something else? I know most local Fox affiliates are great about streaming, but is there a page that lists all of the streams, in case I need to quickly focus on one city or area? Basically, how would you configure all those gadgets?" This reader might find some guidance in what to focus on from a video produced by reader (and data modeler) Bruce Nash that lays out a predicted timeline for when the media will call each state, depending on when the polls close and how tight each race is expected to be.
The Internet

ICANN Proposes New Way To Buy Top-Level Domains 198

narramissic writes "Late last week, ICANN put up for comment a new top-level domain (TLD) proposal that would open up the market for generic TLDs on the Internet, basically allowing anyone with $185,000 to buy a new TLD. ICANN has based the cost of a generic TLD on what it believes will be the cost to evaluate applications and protect the organization against risk, said Paul Levins, ICANN's executive officer and vice president for corporate affairs. Any excess money would be redistributed based on the wishes of the Internet community, he said. As of late Tuesday, there were only a couple of comments on the proposal."
The Courts

Submission + - In Alabama, Sex Toys are Just Like Prostitution

An anonymous reader writes: A federal appeals court has upheld an Alabama law banning the sale of sex toys against a claim that the law conflicted with the Supreme Court's prior holding that private sexuality is protected by the Constitution. The court reasoned that, because sex toys are bought and sold in "public" transactions, selling them is just like prostitution, and therefore it could be banned.
Education

Submission + - Hacks no longer joking matter at MIT

ecklesweb writes: The Boston Globe reprots that Hacks are no longer a joke at MIT. Three students tripped an alarm while "exploring" the Faculty Club under the cover of dark. Instead of fines or community service, the three students face up to 20 years in prison on charges of felony breaking and entering and trespassing. Of course, maybe it's just *botched* hacks that are no joke at MIT...

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