All Posts Tagged With: "computers"
Prof. Pettigrew: grading is best left to real people
News broke last week of new software for grading essays that will, one supposes, revolutionize the way students are evaluated.
Let’s hope not.
The details so far are scant, but the idea is not new and typically machine grading involves algorithms that guess at the quality of the essay based on whether the essay looks like a good essay, not whether it really is or not. This is an enormous problem, of course, because it is quite common to see essays that are superficially strong — good grammar, rich vocabulary — but lack any real insight (this is common among first year students who, presumably, sailed through high school by bamboozling their teachers). Similarly some very strong essays—with striking originality and deep insight—have a surprising number of technical errors that would likely lead a computer algorithm to conclude it was bad.
A machine cannot recognize the more subtle aspects of writing well. Can the software recognize wit or daring? Can it tell when phrasing is especially apt or clever?
Prof. Pettigrew on how some students can’t use computers
There’s a lot of talk about how today’s student is a “digital native” and how educators have to adjust to their mad high tech skills. Born and raised with electronic technology, the high tech world is as natural to today’s students as a first language.
Of course, what exactly that implies, is anyone’s guess, and some commentators have begun to point out that maybe this whole digital native thing isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Maybe being raised with technology doesn’t mean students have the skills we think they do. Mary Beth Hertz, for example, has noted that just because students know how to use computers doesn’t mean that they know how to use them well.
My experiences this year have begun to make me think Beth Hertz is right. Maybe more right than even she imagined.
Strange as it sounds, I’m worried that this generation of students increasingly doesn’t know how to use computers. Before you scoff and say “Ridiculous: today’s students are all about technology. They grew up with it. The eat, breathe and sleep technology” consider the following, admittedly anecdotal, evidence.
Exhibit A: A student who is required to submit her paper in Word format comes to me and says she doesn’t have Word on her computer. I tell her that she can create Word files for free in Google Docs, or she can download Open Office for free and save her files in Word format that way. She can’t manage to do either. Later, she drops the class.
Police will criminally charge Keith Horwood
Keith Horwood, a Western University alumnus, admitted to being behind the hacking of the student union’s elections website earlier this week.
Shortly after online voting began Tuesday, students noticed references to Justin Bieber’s haircut, Selena Gomez and the “university erection.”
Horwood will be charged criminally, a campus police official told the Western Gazette.
Police said they had suspected Horwood before he released this video apology on YouTube.
Nearly 300,000 have signed up so far
On Monday nearly 300,000 people received an e-mail containing their first free lesson in computer coding from New York based Codeacademy.
The course is part of their “Code Year” initiative where anybody and everybody is encouraged to make their New Year’s resolution to learn computer programming in 2012. By the end of it, students will be able to build their own apps.
Coding is a valuable skill in today’s economy. The federal government reports that Computer Programmers and Interactive Media Developers are in high demand in some Canadian cities, such as Montreal, where their average wage is $34.50 per hour, and Winnipeg where their average wage is $25.47.
Free trials come with a price
I stupidly signed up for a 30 day free trial back in December. It seemed like a good idea at the time- when I was studying in the library, I couldn’t connect to my school’s network until I downloaded some sort of antivirus software, and a 30 day trial was just long enough to get me through exams. And I wouldn’t have to pay anything.
30 days later, my anti-virus software transformed into a virus. It’s waiting for me every time I turn on my laptop, popping up on my screen to remind me that “Your computer is unprotected! Without McAffee VirusScan, you’re susceptible to annoying pop up messages that cover half your computer screen and refuse to go away!”
Every time the message pops up, there are only two options for me to click on: “Renew subscription now,” and “Remind me later.”
There isn’t a choice for, “I’m not interested. Buzz off. Don’t make me get a restraining order.”
I think McAffee is misunderstanding our relationship. It was a one time thing. Now the 30 free days are up, and it’s time for me to move on.
It’s not you, McAffee. It’s me.
Will help form the ‘front line of defense’
According to a news release from Florida State University, there is a “critical national shortage” of cybersecurity professionals, despite the fact that the internet is playing an increasingly important role in our everyday lives (the SFU news release mentions banking, power grid and stock exchange operations).
Apparently, the National Science Foundation (NSF) is trying to help fix the problem. They recently awarded a $1.85 million grant to FSU’s Department of Computer Science, providing scholarships for almost 60 FSU computer science graduates as part of a “Scholarship for Service” program.
Students who receive the scholarship will be required to work for the government for a minimum period of time, forming the “front line of defense in protecting the nation’s information infrastructure from cyberterrorism.”
-Photo courtesy of Don Hankins
Microsoft Excel used to be just a button on my taskbar. Or one I sometimes accidentally clicked.
Before starting my biology lab this semester, “Microsoft Excel” was just a button on my taskbar. A button that I sometimes accidentally clicked on instead of Internet Explorer. But recently, with a lab report due the next day, it suddenly became something I had to master overnight.
The thing is, I’m not the kind of person who enjoys the learning curve involved with computer software. I don’t get some sort of satisfaction out of learning all the different hot keys. You know, those shortcuts that collectively save you 0.334 seconds over a ten-year period.
It’s hard to learn from your mistakes on a computer when you don’t, well, know what your mistakes were. Maybe computer nerds make little purring noises when a message pops up on the screen saying, “macro.shift exe function error,” or, “LSA [EXPORT RAM] has encountered a runtime error. Do you wish to debug?”
Unfortunately, “de-bug” isn’t a type of computer-savvy insect that knows how to make a graph on Excel.